Tenn. — Over the years, organic dairy producers have expressed frustration over
a lack of available information on forage production. Research-based
information regarding forage for their herds has been difficult to come by,
which in turn, may have led to decreased profitability for their operations.
Recently, researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
received funding from the USDA to conduct research that may address this issue.
primary focus of the $1.8 million grant is on forage production for organic
dairy herds in the southeastern United States. UTIA’s Dr. Gina Pighetti will
lead a team of researchers from Tennessee and the University of Kentucky looking to help these producers select forages that will increase
efficiency and productivity. In addition, Pighetti’s team also will address the
need to develop practical, research-based recommendations for organic forage
management to help producers maximize their operations potential.
organic industry represents a strong alternative market for dairy producers,” said
Pighetti. “To help producers, our research seeks to identify forage
combinations in pastures to promote productivity, animal health, fertility and
economic efficiency,” she said.
organic dairy producers face a number of challenges when it comes to forage
production. First, they must find suitable forage combinations that will work in
the southeast over an extended growing season. Then, they must be able to grow
that forage without the use of pesticides. Finally, the available forage
combinations must sustain a lactating animal, which requires high levels of
energy and protein with a balancing amount of fiber. The resulting milk must then be transported to an organic dairy processing facility that pasteurizes the milk according to FDA regulations.
on recent news reports, demand for organic milk continues to rise but supplies
are not keeping pace with demand. The USDA Economic Research Service estimates
the sales of organic dairy products have increased from $2.14 billion to $5.071
billion. In Tennessee, there is an increasing interest among dairy farmers to
transition to organic milk production to help increase the viability of smaller
the research is aimed primarily at organic dairy production, the results may
also be applied to non-organic dairy operations. “We also plan to use the
knowledge gained and the tools developed to aid our dairy producers who use
pasture as part of a more conventional dairy management system,” said Pighetti.
project spans four years and will be conducted in collaboration with
researchers from the University of Kentucky. In addition to providing needed
research-based information to organic dairy producers, the findings will also
provide additional data for the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative study, which
launched in 2013.
its mission of teaching, research and extension, the University of Tennessee
Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) touches lives and provides Real.Life.Solutions.
Dr. Gina Pighetti, UTIA Animal Science,