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In your own words... What makes a grazing dairy producer progressive and not regressive?

Published on 23 December 2010

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At the 2010 World Dairy Expo, three early career Wisconsin dairy farmers participated in a panel discussion, where they shared how they got started. Progressive Dairyman asked these producers, "What makes a grazing dairy progressive and not regressive?"

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Click here to see these producers' farm profiles and view more comments about grazing systems.

Tim and Heidi Vosberg

There are obvious advantages to grazing, such as improved cow health and longevity, as well as the fact that the cows do some of their own harvesting and manure spreading. But most importantly, it is what today’s health-conscious consumer wants.

Like it or not, today’s consumer wants to know where their food comes from and how it was produced. This is where a well-managed grass-based dairy farm really shines.

It seems like “Going Green” is the progressive thing to do these days… what’s more green than cows on fresh grass every day?

Blue Collar Holsteins
Cuba City, Wisconsin
Grazing 75 cows

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Photo provided by Therese Klaas.

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Matt and Tabitha Hartwig

“Grazing” in and of itself is regressive, in fact prehistoric. Grazing becomes progressive, however, when a producer employs management-intensive grazing.

For periods last summer, our cows were moved to new pasture as many as four times per day, along with two fresh feedings of TMR in the yard to supplement forage and grain. That’s the equivalent of feeding our cows six times per day.

Some traditional “progressive” dairies don’t even offer their cows fresh feed that often.

Management-intensive grazing also allows us to greatly reduce our manure hauling, feed harvest and feed storage costs for seven months of the year.

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It also allows us to greatly reduce supplemental protein and corn. Yes, we might sacrifice a bit of milk per cow, but in the spring, with the cows eating 200 relative feed value (RFV) pasture, that’s debatable.

Grazing has allowed us to reduce our input costs enough to remain progressive even through low milk price swings.

Green Acres Dairy
Athens, Wisconsin
Grazing 160 cows

Photo provided by Joel McNair, Graze Magazine .

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Ryan and Cheri Klussendorf

Managed grazing is progressive: We have all the modern technologies that confinement dairies do, with half the expense.

We are the owners, and our employees (cows) work for us, which in turn reduces our expenses and returns more profit. We choose to optimize, not maximize.

Today’s dairy market is global and tied to rising energy costs. We don’t depend on a low fuel and corn market to produce a profitable product.

As in any successful business, the more uncertainty you remove from the equation, the easier it will be to solve. In this case, we are one step ahead of confinement dairies and progressively moving forward. PD

Klussendorf Dairy
Medford, Wisconsin
Grazing 140 cows

Photo provided by Cheri Klussendorf.

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