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Pasture-Based Dairy Unit Contacts

Steve Washburn, Ph.D.
Dairy Unit Coordinator
North Carolina State University
Phone: (919) 515-7726

Andrew Meier
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
(.wmv files)

Pasture-Based Dairy Farming (320x240) or (720x480)

Artisan Cheese Production & Marketing (320x240) or (720x480)


2012 Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference and Organic Field Day Proceedings

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.

2008 Mid-Atlantic Dairy Grazing Conference Proceedings


For a printable .pdf version of this page, please click here.

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Pasture-Based Dairy Unit



dairy cows 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.

Dairy Facilities

The CEFS dairy is different from most dairy farms in NC and the US for several reasons:

  1. Approximately 170 cows and associated young stock do most of forage harvesting via grazing although supplemental concentrates and stored forages are available as needed.
  2. Pasture-based also means that there is minimal manure storage and cattle also recycle nutrients from urine and feces back to the fields.
  3. 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.
  4. Cows are seasonally calved so that animals can be managed efficiently in groups.
  5. Crossbreeding is studied in comparison to pure Jerseys and pure Holsteins.
  6. 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.
  7. 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


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.

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