Dr. Steve Washburn, in conjunction with several NCSU professors, the University of Arkansas and several dairy producers was awarded a $250,000 grant for 3 years. The purpose of this project is to provide research and educational support for organic or transitioning dairy farms in the South.
The price of organic milk paid to producers remains stable throughout the year, and the stability of organic pricing also is important in that it allows for greater financial planning compared to conventional milk which has wide fluctuations in prices. Because of the price stability with organic milk, it is expected that additional dairy producers will consider entering the organic market. Overall, organic dairy farming has potential to have an economic impact of greater than $1 billion peryear across several southern states.
Challenges facing producers during transition from conventional to organic dairying include maintaining cash flow during transition, costs and availability of organic feed, alternative control of parasitic and premise flies, management of forage pests and fertility, control of “weeds”, learning how to treat cows without antibiotics, and getting cows pregnant without use of hormonal treatments.
Specifically, evaluation of herds that have successfully transitioned from conventional dairy production to organic dairying will help define current needs as well as identify factors that allowed those producers to be successful. Controlled studies will also be conducted to determine efficacy of alternative approaches to control external parasites, treat or prevent mastitis, enhance reproductive efficiency, and to evaluate pasture composition and management practices applicable to current and prospective organic dairy farms in the South.