Pasture is an alternative whose time has come.
Dairy Pipeline: April 1996
Charles C. Stallings
Extension Dairy Scientist
The technology associated with using pasture for the dairy herd has advanced to the point that pasture is a viable alternative for at least some milk producers. It, like all other new technologies, must be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some of the attributes are: 1) it supplies good nutrition, 2) is environmentally friendly, 3) is cow friendly, and 4) can reduce the need for some stored feed. Immature pasture has in excess of 20% protein and is high in energy. Milk production many times will improve when cows are first placed on pasture. The trick is to keep production after the spring growth. Pasture is both environmentally and cow friendly because it allows dispersal of manure over a relatively large area and gets cows off hard concrete surfaces. Also less stored feed would be needed in the spring, summer, and fall if conditions are favorable. Some obstacles to overcome are: 1) it takes a different type of management, 2) dry weather, 3) shade and water, and 4) cow movement. To manage pasture it is necessary to monitor growth on a daily basis and modify movement of cows accordingly. Dry weather can be a problem with keeping plants growing and in an immature state. Providing shade and water is critical for success. Travel lanes made of materials such as pug are possible to keep mud from being a major problem in movement of cows from the milking area to pastures. Pasture is not for everybody just as BST is not. However, it can have a place on many farms. Don't forget, dry cows and heifers can have much of their feed requirements met with pasture. --