USDA-ARS scientists in three states are beginning an intensive grazing research and demonstration project aimed at helping family dairy farms.

The studies will take place at the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center in Madison, WI; the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit at University Park, PA; the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed in Coshocton, OH; and at Ohio State University.

The scientists will determine how various forage species hold up under intensive grazing, the volume and quality of milk produced by pastured cows, etc. Manure runoff and water quality will be monitored.

The researchers hope to show that grazing can make small dairy farms more profitable by increasing the per-cow profit margin. It may help alleviate economic pressures on farmers to convert to big confinement dairies with 1,000 or more cows. Grazing may also reduce pollution risks by spreading manure more evenly in fields.