More Research Units
- Alternative Swine Production
- Farming Systems
- Organic Research
- Pasture-Based Beef
- Pasture-Based Dairy
- Pasture-Based Meat Goat
- Small Farm
Pasture-Based Dairy Unit Contacts
Steve Washburn, Ph.D.
Dairy Unit Coordinator
North Carolina State University
Phone: (919) 515-7726
Superintendent, Cherry Research Farm
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services
Phone: (919) 731-3270
Dairy Unit Overview Video on YouTube (7/2012)
Calf Feeding Video (1/2012): This short video from the CEFS Diary Unit illustrates how milk is fed to roughly 20 calves at a time using a trough.
SSAWG Natural Farming Systems in the South Video Series
2006 Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference Proceedings
Click here to visit the conference proceedings page, where you will find more than 20 downloadable .pdf files on various topics.
For a printable .pdf version of this page, please click here.
Pasture-Based Dairy Unit
- To examine grazing strategies and other herd management techniques that provide environmentally sound and economical milk production while also generating an acceptable level of family income and quality of life.
- To evaluate and disseminate practical results among farmers, farm advisors, service industry personnel, students, and others.
Eastern North Carolina has potential advantages for pasture-based dairy production systems: productive land; a long growing season; a need for diversification; and less urban pressure compared to other parts of the state. Lower-investment pasture systems may provide a competitive advantage for new or relocating dairy farm businesses. The Southeastern U.S. is deficient in fluid milk products and economic, pasture-based dairying may be one way to help stabilize local milk supplies.
The CEFS dairy is different from most dairy farms in NC and the US for several reasons:
- Approximately 170 cows and associated young stock do most of forage harvesting via grazing although supplemental concentrates and stored forages are available as needed.
- Pasture-based also means that there is minimal manure storage and cattle also recycle nutrients from urine and feces back to the fields.
- The milking facilities are a “swing-type” with 14 units that allow for cows to be milked efficiently within 2 to 3 hours each milking rather than long shifts of 5 to 7 hours.
- Cows are seasonally calved so that animals can be managed efficiently in groups.
- Crossbreeding is studied in comparison to pure Jerseys and pure Holsteins.
- New-born calves are started on pasture in small groups at about 10-14 days of age and fed milk once a day in a trough.
- There is no free-stall housing; however, shade paddocks are used in summer and supplemental forage is provided in designated winter lounging areas.
Projects and Activities
- Examine seasonal dairy calf, heifer and cow management with fall-calving cows.
- Demonstrate economical milking facility designed for rapid milking.
- Compare Holstein and Jersey cows to Jersey-Holstein crosses in production and reproductive efficiency.
- Examine optimal stocking rates for dairy pasture systems and develop strategies for optimal supplementation of pasture with grains and stored forages.
- Examine alternative strategies for parasite control and control of mastitis.
- Encourage dung beetles and other beneficial organisms.
- Monitor nutrient inputs and outputs and optimize economic and environmental goals.
- Explore opportunities for pasture-finished dairy beef and organic dairy production in the region.
- Examine differences in milk composition from various feeding regimens.
- Studies on organic dairy practices for support of a growing organic dairy industry in the Southeast.
- Conduct pasture management training schools and internships for farmers, agricultural advisors, and students.
Results of studies at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems could increase the competitive position of North Carolina’s dairy industry. New and more profitable dairy farm businesses boost the economies of rural communities and enhance the survival of local businesses. A shift to pasture-based systems would make dairy production more efficient and reduce energy use for pesticides, fertilizer, and field operations. Pasture-based systems also may improve animal health, reduce cow turnover rates, improve some aspects of milk quality, and enhance the image of dairy farms. Pasture-based systems are expected to have less erosion, reduced use of farm chemicals, and to effectively recycle manure nutrients.