Wednesday, November 2, 2011

UNH Project Set to Boost Northeast Organic Dairy Industry

The University of New Hampshire is leading a multi-state project focused on helping organic farmers produce and sell their milk.  By expressing the needs of local farmers, the project aims to increase profits for organic dairy farmers in the northeast, but the information they will compile should be useful for farmers, organic or not, outside of the region.  A new federal standard dictates that organic dairy cows must feed at pasture for at least 120 days per year, and pasture feed must be at least 30% of total consumption.  This has many farmers in the northeast concerned, as their pasture's growing season is not only shorter than in other parts of the country due to longer winters, but many of the plants often grown in pasture also go through a dormant period during the dryer high summer season.  Another major concern voiced by farmers relates to the quality of organic milk.  Cows on pasture produce milk rich with omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), molecules sought after for their human health benefits. For Northeast organic dairy farmers to tap the added value of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, however, they need to ensure high levels of these throughout the year, not just when cows are on pasture.

In response to these concerns, the UDSA has issued a grant to 12 researchers from the universities of Maine, Vermont, Cornell, and the USDA, well as UNH, to explore how organic dairy farmers in the Northeast can enhance farm profitability by extending the grazing season and adding value to milk through flaxseed supplementation.  Because extending the grazing season means keeping cows on pasture longer, researchers will conduct plot trials of various combinations of forage species, including perennial ryegrass, white clover, sorghum-sudan grass, brassicas, and small grains.  Additionally, the researchers hypothesize that supplementing cows' winter forage with flaxseed will sustain omega-3 fatty acids and CLA concentrations, meeting year-round market demands for milk with improved fatty acid profile, and possibly commanding higher prices in the marketplace in the future.

You can read the full article here.

Have a great day!

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