Computer model bolsters sustainability, production for dairy farms

By IAN WENDROW

Capital News Service

LANSING — Researchers at Michigan State University are creating a computer model to help make pasture dairy farming more sustainable.

The project draws upon several research papers released in the past three months that discuss the environmental impact of livestock farms and how climate change affects them.

They also address the challenges of moving cows from barns to pastures.

Mecosta, Sanilac and Hillsdale counties have more than 100 dairy farms each, according to the United Dairy Industry of Michigan. Allegan and Huron counties have between 76 and 100, while Gladwin, Missaukee, Newaygo, Montcalm, Ionia, Clinton and Isabella counties have between 51 and 75 each.

Pasture-based livestock graze year round or seasonally. That’s different than in confined systems where the cows are housed and fed indoors for the majority of the year, said Melissa Rojas-Downing, an MSU doctoral student and a co-author of the research papers. Continue reading

‘Survival Mode’ for many dairy farmers

BY EDITH ZHOU

Capital News Service

LANSING – Despite recent rains, the 2012 drought — the most destructive in 50 years — has driven many Michigan dairy farmers into “survival mode”.

The dry weather reduced crop yields and tightened the feed supply, increasing the costs to farmers.

“The low crop yields make this fall truly a change in seasons for Michigan’s dairy farmers,” said Staci Garcia, the executive director of communications at United Dairy Industry of Michigan in Okemos.

Michigan had 5,164 licensed dairy farms in 1992. Today, the number stands at 2,100, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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