Improving management strategies for organic dairy herds subject of three grants totaling $2.1 million.
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Organic dairy farmers will soon have additional resources for improving management strategies from the University of Minnesota’s certified organic dairy program located at the West Central Research & Outreach Center (WCROC) near Morris, Minn.

Dr. Bradley Heins, associate professor of dairy science at WCROC, was recently awarded three grants totaling $2.1 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture to further research the areas of disbudding alternatives for organic dairy calves, preweaned calf rearing options and the effect of high-legume diets on milk quality, WCROC said in an announcement.

Disbudding, or horn removal, presents a unique challenge in pain management for organic dairy producers, WCROC said, because they must use treatments and management practices approved for organic production while maintaining animal welfare. This research project will look at alternative methods for disbudding and pain management and provide scientific evidence to producers.

Heins and his research team will also evaluate various calf rearing options in the context of calf health, welfare and well-being. Specifically, they will look at individual housing, group housing, pair housing and raising calves with cows on pasture, WCROC said. Ultimately, the team will provide recommendations on the best calf rearing options for organic producers.

Finally, using a multiregional approach, the University of Minnesota will partner with the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine to look at how farmers can utilize nutrient-rich legumes on pasture to positively influence milk production and herd health.

The research projects began Sept. 1 and will continue through 2023.

As a University of Minnesota entity, WCROC is positioned as a land-grant organic dairy research facility. Previous organic dairy research projects have evaluated herd health, forages and feed, pest and fly management and outwintering.

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