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Pasture Mixtures to Improve Sustainability of Organic Pasture-Based Dairy: Nutritive Quality and Dry Matter Intake

Presenter: Dr. Blair Waldron, USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Lab, Logan, UT

Brief overview: Organic and grazing-based dairy continues to make up a larger share of the Western region dairy sector. However, grazing-based dairy is not without it challenges. In fact, some information suggests that the greater the use of pasture forage, the greater the reduction in milk production. This is in part due to reduced dry-matter intake, especially by finicky grazing dairy breeds. To address this and other challenges, researchers at Utah State University, the University of Idaho, and the USDA-ARS are working with producers and extension educators to improve the economic and environmental sustainability of pasture-based organic dairies by examining the effects of grass-legume mixtures on dairy cattle performance and heifer development. 

Specifically, the team is using university and on-farm trials to assess dairy heifer dry matter intake, growth performance, reproductive health, heifer-replacement economics, and impact on nitrogen cycling in response to grazing grass-birdsfoot trefoil mixtures. The mixtures were formulated to have different levels of protein, energy, preference, and tannins. Dr. Waldron, one of the project leaders, will introduce the team’s research objectives and give the first in a series of webinars. This first webinar will report how various grass-legume mixtures affect the herbage nutritive value and dry-matter intake by dairy heifers.

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This technology is supported in part by New Technologies for Ag Extension (funding opportunity no. USDA-NIFA-OP-010186), grant no. 2023-41595-41325 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Extension Foundation. For more information, please visit You can view the terms of useat

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