Northeast Dairy Farm Forage Demonstration Project
Principal Investigator: Joan Sinclair
Performing Institution: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Parkside Drive, Elicottville, NY 14731


The Northeast Dairy Farm Forage Demonstration Project will determine the cost saving benefits of a year round forage management program including the use of intensive rotational grazing systems to small and mid-sized dairy farms. Throughout the region sloping, poorly drained, low pH soils prevail. Farms with these resources are challenged by the conservation compliance requirements of the 1985 Food Security Act. Adoption of intensive rotational grazing practices would help producers to meet compliance regulations and continue to be able to participate in government cost sharing, deficiency payment and loan programs.

Feeding Management is of key concern to progressive producers. Our work with the few farms that have experience with grazing systems finds that their feed consultants and dealers lack experience with grazing systems. Frequently feeding recommendations for up to ten pounds more supplement, that is higher in protein by up to 4% than may be required, are made. Guidelines for balancing rations for cows on intensive rotational grazing systems will be published through this project. Feed representatives are a target audience for the educational and demonstration aspects of this project.

A quick accurate method of fresh forage analysis is the key to successful implementation of feeding guidelines. Near Infrared (NIR) forage analysis provides timely results. Presently, NIR for fresh forage samples is limited by the lack of an accurate database and calibration equations. Northeast Dairy Herd Improvement Cooperative will, as part of this project, develop a database and calibration equations for fresh forage analysis. Seneca Trail Resource Conservation and Development will perfect a pasture sampling technique that is practical for producers to use so that accurate results are assured.

The project will enable farms with marginal soil resources to implement forage management practices that allow them to be competitive with larger farms on more desirable resources. Soil and water quality will be enhanced because fewer acres of corn silage will be required. Reduced tillage will also lead to fuel and machinery repair cost savings. Pasture systems rely heavily in fertilization from the manure left in the field and therefore require less commercial fertilizer. Weed control is accomplished by harvest management rather than the use of chemical pesticides.

The Northeast Dairy Farm Forage Demonstration Project takes a whole farm approach to analyzing the benefits to dairy farmers of low cost forage systems capitalizing on intensive rotational grazing. It teaches farmers and agribusiness to exploit environmentally sound, low cost forage and feeding management practices. These low input practices will enhance farm income.