Research Will Fund Study of Pasture Management in Dairy Production
Organic Valley, the nation’s largest and oldest cooperative of organic family farmers, has awarded a $40,000 grant to the Research Foundation at California State University, Chico through their Farmers Advocating for Organics grant program. The money will be used by CSU, Chico’s College of Agriculture organic dairy to help fund a two-year study focused on improving net profit by improving pasture management.
In the spring of 2007, the University’s farm transitioned to an all-organic dairy program and celebrated an alliance as a full-fledged member of Organic Valley Family of Farms, which is a cooperative owned by more than 1,300 independent, organic farmers. The campus herd of 80 milking cows thrives on a pasture-based program with 45 acres of irrigated pasture and 40 acres of crop ground. They raise all of their own replacement animals and have sponsored four senior-level research projects in organic livestock production practices.
"This research project is designed to benefit all organic dairy producers and bottlers by providing a better understanding of the economics of organic pasture management and milk production," said George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and CEO of Organic Valley Family of Farms. "Indirectly, it also will promote effective pasture use to maintain consumer confidence and enhance milk quality."
"Skyrocketing feed costs are one of the biggest issues facing the organic dairy industry today," said Dr. Cynthia Daley, professor of animal science at CSU, Chico. "Little is known about the economic viability of low grain/high forage organic dairy systems in today’s agricultural economy in the U.S., particularly in the western region where total mixed rations (TRMs) tend to be status quo in the dairy industry."
In addition to assessing and promoting more sustainable feeding systems, the project will host "grazing schools" for beginning and advanced dairy farmers to encourage and support efficient pasture use. The research will also assess organically approved soil amendments to establish profitability resulting from changes in forage quality and quantity.
The research grant is funded through Farmers Advocating for Organics, a grant program of Organic Valley, which is maintained solely through voluntary contributions from Organic Valley and Organic Prairie farmer-owners. The grant program invests in projects dedicated to protecting and safeguarding the organic marketplace, including organic research, education and advocacy. Matching funding is being provided by CSU’s Applied Agriculture Research Initiative.
With a mission to serve as a site for education and applied researchin organic livestock production practices, the CSU, Chico organic dairy is run by a team of 20 students with faculty oversight and instruction. A number of classes use the facility for laboratory exercises in pasture management, milking hygiene, organic livestock management, ration formulations and intensive grazing management. Annually, the campus dairy hostshundreds of elementary school children, 4H groups and Future Farmers of America (FFA) clubs.
Organic Valley Family of Farms: Independent and Farmer-Owned
Organic Valley is America's largest cooperative of organic farmers and is one of the nation's leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents 1,322 farmers in 34 states and one Canadian province, and achieved $432.5 million in 2007 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs, produce and juice, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. The same farmers who produce for Organic Valley also produce a full range of delicious organic meat under the Organic Prairie Family of Farms label. For further information, call 1-888-444-MILK or visit www.organicvalley.coop, www.organicprairie.coop and the cooperative's farmer website, www.farmers.coop.