Methods of Change and Financial Performance of Dairy Farms Before and After a Switch to Management Intensive Grazing
Interest in Management Intensive Grazing (MIG) of dairy cattle has increased during the last 2 decades. Most dairy producers utilizing MIG were former confinement or non-intensive pasture operations while the others started their operation with MIG. While research publications tout the financial and other benefits of MIG, often comparing them to non-MIG dairies, and anecdotal evidence in popular farm press has shown MIG in a favorable light, comparing a MIG dairy farm to itself before and after the management switch has not been a subject of research scrutiny. Knowing the potential impact of a switch to MIG prior to making a management decision to do so would be a significant piece of information for a dairy farm to understand if contemplating such a management change. Which farms are candidates for success following a switch? What changes in labor, cost of production, and herd health might be expected? These and other questions were investigated by examining 29 MIG dairy farms in Michigan. These farms experienced similar milk production levels per cow, reduced feed and hired labor cost significantly, reduced the acres of row crops grown, and experienced improved herd health resulting in much lower herd health costs. They did not build farm acres, but rather grew cattle numbers and improved management of pasture forage. Research work remains to be done that will more accurately measure true economic progress and further find management techniques that prove successful for MIG farms.
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