NC2042: Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises.

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC2042: Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises.

Duration: 10/01/2018 to 09/30/2023

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Statement of Issues and Justification

According to the last national census (USDA, 2014), the United States was home to 64,098 dairy farms and 9.25 million cows in 2012. However, in 1997 there were 125,041 dairy farms and 9.14 million cows. While the number of cows in the United States has been fairly constant, more than 4,000 dairy farms per year left the industry during the 15-year period. The decreasing number of dairy farms clearly reflects the challenges dairy farmers have in sustaining and improving their businesses.

The profitability and economic sustainability of dairy farming depends on efficient management practices. Thus, research on maximizing profitability, while ensuring animal welfare and environmental sustainability, is paramount for long-term success of the milking and growing replacements farming systems.The aim of thismultistate research project NC-2042 is to provide holistic collaborative research leading to dairy management strategies and systems that facilitate increased economic and environmental sustainability of milking cow and growing calf and heiferenterprises. 

Dairy farming systems are diverse throughout the country, and range from confined housing to grazing systems, conventional to organic systems, and human-operated to automated systems. In light of this diversity, and knowing dairying is a multifactorial business, no single land grant experiment station has the resources to evaluate all the different factors affecting dairy profitability and sustainability. As a means to synergize research and outreach efforts, the multistate research project NC-2042 has been crucial to providing multiple actions to optimize calf and heifer performance (Objective 1), to improve dairy cow management (Objective 2), and providing decision-support tools and educational programsto improve efficiency, enhance profitability, and ensure environmental sustainability (Objective 3) in dairy farming systems.

Outcomes from these collaborative efforts have provided, and will continue to provide, dairy farmers utilizing different farming systems with the necessary knowledge and tools to help ensure economic, social, and environmental sustainability.As many members of this multistate research project dedicate a substantial proportion of their appointments to extension programing, this holistic project directly impacts many stakeholders through quick and efficient outreach programs.

Related, Current and Previous Work

Dairy cow feeding programs are a major determinant of the profitability of dairy farms. Despite this, the sustainability of the dairy enterprise is beyond just cow nutrition. Raising calves and heifers in an efficient manner, growing crops to maximize the yield and quality of forages, reducing the negative environmental impact of dairy farming systems, and securing a proficient and stable labor force are some components of a whole system that need to be integrated to secure the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the dairy enterprise. For almost 50 years, the NC-2042 project has been addressing most of these components as individual research units and in integrated ways. Following are some of the recent advancements during the last five years and some of the future plans for our project.  


Under Objective 1. Optimize calf and heifer growth and development by improving feeding strategies, management systems, well-being, new technologies, and environmental impacts for productivity and profitability.

Overall research from members of this multi-state project under objective 1 has helped and will continue to provide dairy producers with basic knowledge and increased understanding on management, nutrition, and health of growing replacement calves and heifers. As a group, we have conducted research projects with newborn calves through gravid pre-fresh heifers. Even though some of these projects have occurred at individual stations, there is still communication and exchanging of ideas among project members on experimental methods and interpretation of findings. Much of this research is applied in nature and can be utilized directly by producers and nutritionist to improve their operations and performance of growing dairy cattle. The first two years of life for a dairy replacement heifer represents a huge investment for producers in time, labor, money, and resources, and it is usually not until calving and start of lactation that any return on investment is received. Thus, it is critical to the success of the dairy industry that efficiencies be further improved and advancements continued to be made in replacement calf and heifer management.

Colostrum quality and management are known to be critical to reduce calf morbidity and mortality and may affect early life performance and development. Better colostrum management and gaining understanding of factors affecting colostrum quality have been of interest for several years in this project and continue to be a key research topic for several stations in the project. Studies from PAresearched improving colostrum quality and the absorption of immunoglobulins by newborn dairy calves and found that there is interference of bacteria on IgG absorption in the dairy calf (Gelsinger and Heinrichs, 2015). An experiment was conducted to compare immune responses between calves that received unheated or heat-treated colostrum. Results imply that calves fed heat-treated colostrum exhibit improved T-cell mediated but reduced innate and B-cell mediated immune response (Gelsinger and Heinrichs, 2017). Other research at NH developed an equation to predict quality based on information of the cow’s previous lactation records and environmental conditions (Cabral et al., 2016).

To find alternatives to feeding antibiotics, studies from NH are evaluating the use of essential oils on growth and performance of young calves. Results from these studies indicated that cinnamaldehyde does not stimulate dry matter intake and that neither supplemental cinnamaldehyde nor monensin were beneficial in diets of weaned heifers (Chapman et al., 2016; 2017). Other studies from NH indicated there were no growth benefits supplementing of supplementing 1 mg/kg lasalocid or 22 mg/kg chlortetracycline for 12 weeks (Cabral et al., 2013). Another study from NH evaluated the supplementation of sodium butyrate at either 0, 0.25, 0.50, or 0.75 mg/kg for 12 weeks and reported that sodium butyrate increased body weight and tended to increase feed efficiency. Heifers fed the 0.25 mg/kg treatment also had the lowest coccidian count of all treatments (Rice, 2017).

Research from MN and PA evaluated relationships between heifer growth rate and production performance during the first lactation. Specifically,a meta-analysis of the effects of ADG on first lactation production showed the importance of grain feeding and rumen development in the calf on subsequent performance(Gelsinger et al., 2016) and was further supported by MNresearchers (Chester-Jones et al., 2017). Maximizing nutrient utilization, and therefore minimizing nutrient release to the environment, also requires more precise feeding programs. Work from PA looked at various ways to improve rumen development in calves with various feeds and feeding systems (Suarez-Mena et al., 2015; 2016). Reducing feed costs and improving feed efficiency are paramount to ensure profitability when raising dairy heifers.To better understand these issues, studies comparing ad-libitum versus precision-fed or limit-feddiets have been performed (Zanton and Heinrichs, 2016; Lascano et al., 2016). Parameters observed in the heifer studies include evaluating rumen fermentation, diet digestibility and feed efficiency. Studies documented improved feed efficiency with limit-feeding systems. Experiments were conducted at SC and PA looking at rumen protein degradability (High Rumen Degradable Protein and High Rumen Undegradable Protein) and sources coming from true protein or non-protein nitrogen highlighted an opportunity to improve nitrogen utilization depending on the forage to concentrate ratio and the level of dietary fiber in precision fed dairy heifers (Ranasinghe et al., 2015; Lascano et al., 2016; Koch et al., 2017). Additionally research in WI found that feed efficiency for dairy heifers is related to genomic predicted residual feed intake when fed for optimal weight gain with better efficiency for heifers with low genomic residual feed intake (Williams et al., 2016; Akins et al., 2017).

Utilizing less costly, lower quality forages and alternative forages as feedstuffs for growing heifers is another tool to maximize profitability and economic sustainability of rearing heifer systems.Work at WI with feeding dairy heifers diets with high fiber, lower energy forages (warm season grasses, alfalfa stems) has showed more adequate heifer growth than when fed ad libitum diets containing corn silage and alfalfa silage (Coblentz et al., 2015; Su et al., 2017). Evaluation of sorghum forage yield and quality with varying harvest strategies, fertilizer rates, and irrigation levels has revealed similar or better yield than corn silage and quality that will better meet dairy heifer nutrient needs (Remick et al., 2017; Grisham et al., 2017). Additional work at PA fed sorghum forage to heifers and found it very satisfactory for heifers (Pino and Heinrichs, 2017).  Other research conducted by IN found the use of neutral detergent soluble fiber (NDF) sources to replace corn was evaluated during the post-weaning period of dairy calves. Even though performance was acceptable, corn sources resulted in better performance and the NDF sources (Dennis et al., 2017).

Research has been done in SD related to feeding alternative concentrate ingredients including co-products of the biofuels industry, which are more economical sources of protein and energy for concentrate mixes compared to traditional feeds such as soybean meal. Anderson et al. (2015a; 2015b; 2015c) fed dairy heifers full-fat dried distillers grains versus low-fat distiller grains and found that growth performance and subsequent lactation performance was similar, but that heifers fed more fat attained puberty earlier and had shifts in metabolic profile. Distillers grains were also evaluated for use in limit-feeding strategies based on initial recommendations developed by PA.Manthey et al. (2016; 2017) and Manthey and Anderson (2017) found that heifers could be limit-fed diets containing 30, 40, or 50% as dried distiller grains with maintained growth performance and subsequent lactation performance and improved feed efficiency with some changes in metabolic profile. Lawrence et al. (2016) found that camelina meal and Rodriguez-Hernandez and Anderson (2018) found that carinata meal are viable alternative protein source compared to linseed meal, soybean meal, or DDGS.  Camelina and carinata meals are from developing oilseed crops that are showing potential as feedstock for biodiesel production.


Under Objective 2. Optimize dairy cow performance and well-being by improving nutrition, forage utilization, technology, and management.

Overall research under objective 2 has provided, and continues to provide, producers and nutritionists ways to advance and make better decisions in the nutritional management of dairy herds. Research has ranged from improvements in forage management and quality, alternative protein and energy sources, to increased understanding of laboratory methods to evaluate nutrient utilization. It also represents advancements in the nutritional management of lactating cows in both organic and conventional dairy farming systems from different regions of the country. As lactating cows represent the largest sector of the dairy industry and feed cost is a large part of the overall farm budget, this research is also critical to the future success of dairy producers.

Corn silage is a major feed ingredient in diets for dairy cows. Even though abiotic stresses can affect corn silage yields substantially, information about how drought and heat stress affects cell wall composition and digestibility is limited, confusing, and very much needed. The negative effects of drought stress on the dairy industry are multiple, diverse and interrelated. The immediate effect of drought stress is an increase in grain prices and a reduction in net farm income due to increased feed costs. The mid-term effect of drought stress is reduction of forage yields and stocks. Poor forage quality is another consequence of drought stress (Ferreira et al., 2014). While the reproducibility of drought stress treatments is difficult (Farooq et al., 2009), obtaining sufficient quantity of drought-stressed forages may impede performing controlled feeding trials. To overcome these challenges, a collaborative effort is being performed between stations from VA and ID. In this collaborative effort, the VA station is providing knowledge and expertise on cell wall analysis and digestibility techniques, while the ID station is growing experimental plots under drought stress conditions. In addition to the on-going preliminary plot studies, the long-term goal is to perform controlled in vivo studies that will help us understand how drought stress actually affects nutrient utilization and cow production performance.

Cereal grains, such as corn, sorghum, barley, wheat, and oats, are commonly included in rations for lactating dairy cows as an energy source. Herrera-Saldana et al. (1990) reported different starch disappearance rates among cereal grains, being faster for wheat, and barley and slower for corn and sorghum. This observation is also supported by in vivo studies (Ferraretto et al., 2013). Feeding rations containing readily fermentable starch can increase the production of lactic acid, therefore reducing ruminal pH. Reduced ruminal pH can alter the pathways of fatty acid biohydrogenation by the microbes within the rumen, which may lead to milk fat depression through a reduction of de novo fatty acid synthesis within the mammary gland (Bauman and Griinari, 2003). As fibrous components ferment slower than non-fibrous carbohydrates, a minimum concentration of dietary NDF is recommended to sustain ruminal and cow health (Mertens, 1997; NRC, 2001). Current recommendations from NRC (2001) suggest that dietary NDF should be increased when readily available starch sources, such as barley, replace dry ground corn in the diet (Beauchemin, 1991). Yang et al. (2017) evaluated the use of hulless or “naked” barley (Thomason et al., 2009; Griffey et al., 2010) as a grain source for feeding high-producing cows. Although the dietary NDF concentration was lower than recommended for diets containing barley grain (30 vs. 34% NDF; Beauchemin, 1991; NRC, 2001), milk yield and milk fat concentration were similar between diets containing 100% corn grain or 100% hull-less barley as the grain source. Contrary to expectations, the concentration of de novo fatty acids was also not affected by grain source. In another study, Yang et al. (2018) evaluated the lactation performance and nutrient utilization of high-producing dairy cows by feeding hulled or hull-less barley grain-based diets with different forage-to-concentrate ratios. Cows fed hulled or hull-less barley-based diets with different forage-to-concentrate ratios resulted in similar lactation performances. As milk fatty acid composition was marginally affected by the diets, it was concluded that a substantial or dramatic milk fat depression should not be expected when feeding diets containing 30% hulless barley, or less, as the grain source. Additional research from VA (Ferreira et al., 2018) further evaluated ruminal starch digestion rates of hulless barley grains and showed that, even though starch from hulless barley ferments faster than starch from corn grain, corn grain can ferment as fast as barley grains depending on the genotypes. When put together, these studies suggest that: 1) barley-based diets might not be as dangerous as frequently considered (NRC, 2001) and can be fed to high-producing dairy cows without major drawbacks, and 2) feeding strategies utilizing cereal grains alternative to corn need to be reevaluated, aiming to increase the resiliency of feeding programs and dairy production systems.

Additional barley research was done on feeding hydroponically grown barley sprouts by both MN and SD. It is thought that the sprouted barley may be beneficial and better utilized and by dairy animals because of conversion of the starches to water soluble carbohydrates, phytonutrients in the feed, and slightly increase crude protein on dry matter basis compared to traditional barley or corn. Research at MN found that in organic dairy feeding systems there were no advantages in cow performance compared to the control group. Researcher at SD conducted a feeding study with 20 mid lactation dairy cows in a conventional feeding system and evaluated the effects of feeding hydroponically grown barley sprouts included at 8% of diet dry matter. No differences were found for dry matter intake, feed efficiency, milk production or composition including milk fatty acid profile between cows fed the control diet and the barley sprout diet (Lawrence et al., 2017).

Diets containing starch sources with high rates of degradability in the rumen, such as high-moisture corn, have been linked to lower fat concentration in milk from dairy cows compared to feeding conventional dry corn. SC is also investigating the effects of carbohydrates on the ruminal metabolism of fatty acids.One experiment showed that replacing unprocessed corn with processed corn having high rates of starch degradability in continuous cultures increased the daily production of bioactive trans fatty acids, including the trans-10, cis-12 conjugated linoleic acid isomer known to cause milk fat depression (Lascano et a., 2016). Milk fat concentration can be recovered to normal after 10-14 days by altering the rumen degradability of starch in the diet (Rico et al., 2013). Another experiment from SC reported that given adequate diet NDF, UFA, and starch concentration, corn sources with starch degradabilities of up to 75% (7h) can still be utilized to feed cows recovering from MFD ,with caution, during the first 16 d of recovery (Koch et al. 2017). Evaluating starch degradability (ShD) in combination with starch level can be used as a better predictor for a diet to have a high milk fat depression potential. Adding sugar to a ration is common, but little is known about its effects in conjunction with a high or low ShD diet. Research from SC observed that addition of sugar to continuous cultures altered fermentation profiles, pH, and protozoal populations. These responses could be due to the level of sugar. This study showed that replacing dry, unprocessed corn and processed corn having high rates of starch degradability in continuous cultures with different sources of sugar affect CLA isomer concentration in the rumen (Koch et al., 2107). Moreover, another experiment from the same experiment station reported that substituting starch with beet pulp to continuous cultures modified culture pH, LCFA outflow, and production of isomers. These results suggest that in some scenarios beet pulp can reduced accumulation of isomers responsible for milk fat depression (Koch et al., 2017).Adding precision to diet formulation and revising feeding programs including diverse cereal grains will allow more resilient feeding programs. Therefore, as it will add economic sustainability to dairy farming systems, research from SC and VA on carbohydrate metabolism will substantially impact on to the dairy industry.

Milk fat concentration is the major determinant of milk prices in most regions across the nation, and milk prices might be the most important determinant of economic sustainability of dairy farming systems. Dietary changes can alter the rumen environment and provoke shifts in microbial communities leading to an incomplete biohydrogenation (BH) that can result in milk fat depression.Research from SC compared bacterial diversity in diets previously shown to cause shifts in BH intermediates. High levels of unsaturated fatty acids reduced operational taxonomic unit (OTU) counts and bacterial richness in continuous cultures. Starch degradability modified bacteria communities further by extensively affecting taxa distribution. Unsaturated fatty acids affect bacteria communities and increasing starch digestion rates modifies diversity and bacteria species with known rumen functions (Richards et al., 2017). The addition of buffers such as K2COhave been investigated in how they alter ruminal fermentation and reduce accumulation of milk fat inhibitors (MFI). Thus, a study from SC hypothesized that prilled saturated free fatty acids (FFA; C16:0 and C18:0; supplement A) combined with K2CO3 (supplement b) would provide a slower, more prolonged release of K2CO3 than feeding it alone in reducing production of MFI. Adding K2CO3 tended to decrease biohydrogenation of C18:2 and C18:3. A combination of supplement A and B spent the least amount of time below pH 6, suggesting a continual buffering effect with combinations of supplements A and B. These results indicate that combinations of prilled fatty acids with K2CO3 can alter rumen fermentation of fatty acids and pH (Koch et al. 2017).

Research from NH and MN has been focused on organic and conventional dairy farming systems. Currently, organic milk prices are below historic averages and are exerting additional pressure on the economic sustainability of the industry in the nation. Organic dairies are looking for forage-based strategies to reduce feed costs while improving productivity and nutrient utilization to mitigate environmental impacts. Future research at NH will address the use of canola as grazing herbage during late fall, so that farmers can extend the grazing season and capitalize on high-yield forage to mitigate feed costs. Preliminary in vitro work using continuous culture systems revealed that forage brassicas, including canola, reduced methane emissions and maintained or improved microbial protein synthesis compared with orchard grass herbage. In addition to brassicas, agronomic and feeding trials are being conducted looking at different cool-season legume-grass mixtures to balance the supply of rumen-degradable protein and energy in forage crops harvested for silage and baleage. This research expect that legume-grass mixtures designed to optimize nutrient utilization at the cow level can reduce the reliance on high-energy grains ultimately decreasing feed costs and improving or maintaining herd productivity. Also specific to organic dairy systems, a needs assessment of the northeastern organic dairy industry conducted via surveys by NH revealed that obtaining a steady, fair price for milk (85% respondents), determining dry matter intake (DMI) for cows on pasture (76% respondents), and controlling nuisance flies (89% respondents) were among the greatest challenges identified by producers (Pereira et al., 2013). Needs for additional research included organic treatments for mastitis (92% respondents), growing forages and developing profitable supplementation strategies for organic production (84% respondents), and developing value-added products (84% respondents) (Pereira et al., 2013). Based on this needs assessment, several studies were conducted particularly targeting supplementation strategies and value-added milk through improvement of bioactive compounds. Research from NH demonstrated that compared with diets supplemented with ground corn and soybean meal, those supplemented with liquid molasses and flaxseed meal increased the milk concentrations of n-3 fatty acids (FA) and the mammalian lignan enterolactone, a bioactive compound derived from the metabolism of flaxseed meal-secoisolariciresinol diglucoside by the ruminal microbes (Brito et al., 2015). In a subsequent study, the concentration of milk enterolactone tended to increase cubically when ground corn was replaced by incremental amounts of liquid molasses in diets of dairy cows (Ghedini et al., 2018). However, DMI and yields of milk and milk components decreased linearly with replacing ground corn with liquid molasses (Ghedini et al., 2018). NH is also investigating different feeds (e.g., liquid molasses, ground flaxseed) as supplemental energy sources for grazing dairy cows. Energy is the major limiting factor for increasing milk production in pasture-based diets. Our data demonstrated that both liquid molasses (Brito et al., 2017) and ground flaxseed (Isenberg et al., 2014) can replace ground corn without negative effects on DMI and milk yield in grazing dairy cows. Furthermore, ground flaxseed increased the concentration of n-3 FA and conjugated linoleic acids when supplemented to cows during the grazing (Isenberg et al., 2014) and winter (Resende et al., 2015) seasons. The effects of ground or cracked corn, with or without flaxseed oil, on milk yield, milk FA profile, and nutrient digestibility in Jersey cows fed diets formulated to contain similar starch concentrations were evaluated in a recent study (Brossillon et al., 2018). Significant flaxseed oil × corn grain particle size interactions were observed for some variables including milk concentration of lactose and proportion of cis-9, cis-12, cis-15 18:3 in milk. Milk yield increased in cows fed flaxseed oil, but no dietary effects were observed for DMI. In addition to energy feeds, we have conducted research investigating the impact of kelp meal, a mineral source rich in iodine, on production and health of early- to mid-lactation dairy cows (Antaya et al., 2015). According to our survey, kelp meal is used by more than 50% organic dairy farmers in the Northeast (Antaya et al., 2015). Our results showed that cows fed incremental amounts of kelp meal did not change yields of milk and milk components or milk FA profile. In contrast, the concentration of milk iodine increased linearly in response to increasing amounts of kelp meal, whereas that of plasma non-esterified FA and cortisol decreased linearly, respectively.

Future AA research at NH includes the use of the plasma free AA dose-response technique to test the bioavailability of rumen-protected histidine (RP-His). There is growing evidence that His may be the third-limiting AA after Met and Lys in dairy diets low in metabolizable protein and high in corn silage. Infusion and feeding trials in which cows will receive incremental amounts of His are underway. It is also aim to better understand the metabolism of RP-His in lactating dairy cows. Histidine is unique because it relies on endogenous pools (i.e., muscle carnosine and anserine, hemoglobin) to mitigate short-term deficiencies. There is scarce information about the tradeoffs between RP-His supplementation and the use of His-endogenous pools in dairy cows fed low metabolizable protein and high corn silage diets. Research is also lacking regarding processes underpinning the relationships between RP-AA and dietary energy levels, and the consequent impact on yields of milk and milk protein in cows fed low metabolizable protein diets. These knowledge gaps has been, and will be, addressed by NH research in the upcoming years. Conventional dairy research at NH have been focused primarily on rumen-protected (RP) lysine (Lys) and methionine (Met). Pereira et al. (2017) showed that compared with urea, ground field peas (25% of diet dry matter) improved milk yield and N utilization due to increased DMI, nutrient digestibility, and microbial protein synthesis. It was demonstrated that milk yield and milk protein synthesis were similar in cows fed a diet consisting of ground corn-soybean meal supplemented with RP-Lys-Met vs. a diet containing ground field peas supplemented with RP-Lys-Met, thereby confirming our hypothesis that amino acids (AA) supplementation may be needed for high-producing dairy cows fed field peas. However, milk protein concentration, but not yield was increased in cows fed ground field supplemented with RP-Lys-Met vs. field peas without AA supplementation. Further research is needed to better understand the metabolic factors involved in the reduction of histidine, leucine, and phenylalanine concentrations in plasma when feeding 25% of ground field peas supplemented with RP-Lys and RP-Met supplements to high-producing dairy cows. We are also working in determining the bioavailability of RP-Lys supplements. Estimates of Lys bioavailability of RP-Lys supplements are often obtained using in vitro or 2-step in situ techniques, with little to no data determining efficacy and bioavailability in vivo. Whitehouse et al. (2017) aimed to further evaluate and refine the use of the plasma free AA dose-response technique as a method for determining Lys bioavailability of RP-Lys supplements in lactating dairy cows. Thirteen dose-response Latin square studies using 87 lactating, ruminally cannulated multiparous Holstein cows (days in milk from 55 to 315 and milk yield from 12 to 62 kg/d at the start of the studies) were conducted to measure the bioavailability of RP-Lys supplements. The bioavailability of evaluated RP-Lys supplements using the plasma free AA dose-response technique ranged from 5 to 87%. It was concluded that plasma free Lys increases in a linear fashion to increasing amounts of absorbed Lys and that the dose-response technique is an appropriate technique for evaluating RP-Lys supplements. 

Other research on protein utilization was conducted by SD, where two studies on digestibility of alternative protein sources using ruminal degradation and intestinal digestibility procedures (Gargallo et al., 2006) were performed.Wild et al. (2015) found the sorghum distillers dried grains was not as rumen degradable or intestinally digestible as corn co-products, such as corn distillers dried grains and corn gluten meal. Lawrence and Anderson (2018) found that two new oilseed meals, carinata and camelina meal, have high rumen degradable protein concentrations and are comparable to linseed and soybean meals for total digestible protein concentration. Additionally, these two developing oilseed meals have more total digestible protein content than distillers dried grains and canola meal.

Additionally, multiple in vitro methods to assess forage digestibility have been developed, but little is known regarding apparent dry matter digestibility (DMD) results among them. Research from SC compared four different in vitro methods for forage ruminal digestibility assessment (“DaisyII, Batch Culture, Ankom Gas Production System and dual-flow Continuous Fermenters). Different methods yield different results, especially at longer times of incubation. It also shows that digestibility assessed with dual-flow continuous fermenters is similar to that obtained with other methods at 24 h of incubation. These differences do not impede ranking of feedstuffs based on digestibility within methods, but caution should be exercised when comparing digestibility data obtained by different methods (Alende et al., 2018). 

Nutritional management of dairy cattle during the transition period has been the major focus of work conducted from Cornell (NY). Research conducted has been a combination of controlled work and commercial-farm based projects spanning NY and VT.  One specific area of focus has been nutritional strategies to minimize subclinical hypocalcemia and improve macromineral metabolism in the periparturient period.  Leno et al. (2017a) determined that decreasing the dietary cation anion difference (DCAD) in cows fed low potassium diets during the prepartum period linearly increased postpartum plasma Ca concentrations and increased feed intake and milk yield during the postpartum period. Furthermore, decreasing the DCAD decreased subclinical hypocalcemia, particularly in older cows.  Subsequent research (Leno et al., 2017b) focused on the inclusion of a commercial dietary Ca and Mg source in diets both prepartum and postpartum and varying the level of Ca and Mg during the postpartum period. Effects of treatment on plasma Ca concentrations were minimal, but feeding the commercial source of Ca and Mg increased feed intake prepartum and during several weeks postpartum, and improved overall energy status. 

A second specific area of focus in the research on transition cow nutrition led by NY has been carbohydrate nutrition during the immediate postfresh period, with particular focus on physically effective NDF (peNDF) and undigested NDF (uNDF) levels to facilitate ruminal adaptation to the postpartum diet.  Previous case-study work suggested that increasing the peNDF and uNDF content of the immediate postfresh diet might facilitate ruminal adaptation and increase feed intakes during that period.  In a controlled experiment (Williams et al., 2016; LaCount et al., 2017) determined that increasing peNDF and uNDF in excess of the targeted levels decreased feed intake and milk yield, increased blood nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) and ketones (BHBA), and overall resulted in a greater degree of negative energy balance.

Multistate work in Northeast (NY and VT) was undertaken to determine relationships of nutritional and non-nutritional factors on health and productive outcomes on commercial dairy farms (Lawton et al, 2016). Descriptive characterization of herd management practices and outcomes was conducted in a cross-sectional study of 72 commercial dairy farms averaging 935 milking cows (range 345 to 2900). Results to date indicate that the majority (~ 90%) of these farms utilize two-group management systems for both dry cows (far-off and close-up) and early lactation (fresh and high) cows. Comparisons with previously conducted work on transition management conducted by the NY group suggested that overall stocking densities in close-up cows had decreased over time, clinical health disorders had decreased over time, and concentrations of metabolites related to energy metabolism in prepartum (NEFA) and postpartum (NEFA and BHBA) were lower than those determined in previous work. 


Under Objective 3. Evaluate whole farm system components and integrate information and technology to improve efficiency, profitability, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.

Overall, research and outreach programing efforts under objective 3 have provided, and continue to provide, the dairy industry with holistic tools that enhance or ensure economic, social and environmental sustainability of dairy farming systems. The development of decision-making tools and the delivery educational programs on management tackle the need to sustain the dairy business in a more progressive and competitive industry. Being progressive, the dairy industry has increasing demands for ensuring land stewardship. Also, under the context of a more progressive dairy industry, challenges are compounded with a shrinking labor force, the use of automated equipment. Thus, the training of scarce personnel is becoming a critical aspect of dairy management to ensure the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of dairy farming systems.

Surveys and observational studies are primary methods of researching and understanding the needs of dairy producers. It is well known, for example, that dairy producers continue to operate in a highly competitive economic environment. All commodity feed prices have increased significantly in recent years. In the future, as producers attempt to develop new management strategies to cope with the economic realities, development and analysis of financial, production, and management record databases will be necessary to determine the most efficient and sustainable systems. Various approaches are being implemented, such as new cropping and feeding strategies, alternative dairy production systems (grazing and organic), new technologies to improve reproduction, use of whole farm profitability assessment tools, use of precision dairy technology for monitoring behavior and health, new management practices to improve cow comfort, and use of modern calf and heifer raising systems. Robotic milking or automated milking systems (AMS) continue to grow in the U.S., but further research is needed on how to optimize the management and efficiency of production to improve dairy farm profitability. Real-time data used for monitoring animals may be incorporated into decision support systems designed to facilitate decision making for issues that require compilation of multiple sources of data. Technologies for physiological monitoring of dairy cows have great potential to supplement the observational activities of skilled herdspersons, which is especially critical as fewer skilled workers manage more cows. Moreover, data provided by these technologies may be incorporated into genetic evaluations for non-production traits aimed at improving animal health, well-being, and longevity. Research on technologies and practices to improve dairy profitability and sustainability is being conducted by ID, MN, PA, VA, and WI.

In a collaborative effort between ID, MS, NC, NE, and VA, educational workshops about holistic management and risk assessment in dairy enterprise have been delivered, and continue to be delivered, to dairy farmers, dairy consultants, extension educators, and financial lenders from ID, MS, NC, NE, and VA. These workshops are interactive, with short presentations and hands-on exercises using spreadsheets with real examples. The impacts of this project can be viewed from its quantitative metrics and its qualitative evaluations. From its quantitative metrics, >90% of the attendants actually interpreted balance sheets and income statements and calculated solvency, liquidity, and return over assets, among other financial ratios. Also, >90% of the attendants prepared, analyzed, and interpreted partial budgets and capital investments. Attendants also discussed strategic business plans, including concepts like vision, mission, and goal statements, as well as the importance of building a transition plan for their operations. The qualitative evaluations were very positive and included comments such as “I wish I would have attended this workshop in 2013” (dairy farmer from Franklin County, VA), “The best workshop I ever attended in my 18 years as a farmer” (dairy farmer from Mississippi), or “This is real-world stuff and should be in the curriculum of every ag education program” (dairy farmer from Nebraska). Based on the success of and the demand for these workshops, collaborative efforts are being made to obtain funding for outreach programing activities across the nation. More specifically, VA and ID recently obtained funding from the Extension Risk Management Education program (NIFA) for 2 outreach projects. Being management-oriented programs, curriculum development for these outreach programs relies heavily on information generated by the NC-2042 group. 

A signature trait of the NC-2042 project during the past five years has been the development and deployment of a vast number of relevant decision-support tools for practical use at the farm level and for teaching applications. Research on decision support tools is being conducted by ID, MN, VA, and WI.These tools covered almost all areas of decision-making and management in dairy farming, including price risk management (Valvekar et al., 2010; 2011); profitability and IOFC (; precision dairy farming (Bewley et al., 2010a, b, c, d) and robotic milking systems (Salfer et al., 2017) ; modernization and expansion (Cabrera and Janowski, 2011); dairy business analysis (De Vries et al., 2008; Ely et al., 2009); herd structure and replacement needs (De Vries, 2009b; Kalantari et al., 2010; Cabrera, 2010; 2012), reproductive assessments (De Vries, 2009a; Giordano et al., 2011; 2012; Kalantari et al., 2012); mastitis and health management (Pinzón-Sánchez et al., 2011); genetic management (De Vries et al., 2011); genomic decision-making (Cabrera and Weigel, 2014); grouping strategies for feeding lactating dairy cattle (Contreras-Govea et al., 2015; Kalantari et al., 2016); and characteristics of organic, grazing, and small conventional dairy farms (Dutreuil et al., 2014; Hardie et al., 2014); and other general management tools such as the use of rbST, milking frequency, feed supplements, and accelerated calf feeding systems. Many of these tools are available at members university websites such as: KY (; PA (; WI (; MN (htttp://

 The group is currently working on developing a “virtual dairy farm brain.” It is expected that this will become the state-of-the-art suite of real-time integrated dairy farm management decision support tools. It will mimic actual farm management and will learn as it goes by applying complex machine learning pipelines and exploiting the interdependencies of the complex integrated biological, physical, and informational dimensions of dairy farm systems. The project led by WI will determine if a dairy farm can substantially improve its economic and environmental performance by interacting, adopting and applying integrated, databased analytics, expert systems, and artificial intelligence contained in whole farm decision support tools through the "virtual dairy farm brain." This innovative project is anticipated to transform how dairy farms will operate in the future and likely become the next big leap in dairy farm management. Dairy farms have embraced technological innovations and procured vast amounts of permanent data streams, but the problem is that they have not been able to integrate all this information to improve whole farm-based management and decision-making. It is imperative to develop a system that can collect, integrate, manage, and analyze on-farm and off-farm data in real-time for practical and relevant actions. This project's main assets include using existing data - cow, herd, farm, market, weather, crops, and soils - and integrating these data streams to produce new knowledge and optimized decision-support tools.

Other educational materials to help farmers and other stakeholders from the dairy industry to improve their management skills were developed over the last few years. Specifically, a spreadsheet tool accompanied by a peer-reviewed extension article (Ferreira and McGilliard, 2014) that addresses a user-friendly way to determine the feasibility of purchasing Milk Commission Base (MCB) was developed. The MCB is a milk pricing system used in the Mid-Atlantic region. Through the use of this tool, farmers realized that it takes more than 10 years to payoff such an investment, therefore concluding that it is not worth the financial effort. Also, a peer-reviewed extension article explaining the methodology to calculate income over feed costs, a key performance indicator of financial management in dairy farming systems, was developed (Ferreira, 2016).

Previous work within the multi-state group within Objectives 1 and 2 has resulted in increased feed efficiency of heifers and cows, and consequently the impact of dairy production on the environment has been reduced. The effects of these improvements on whole herd environmental impact have not been fully quantified. Specifically, differences in feed efficiency affect optimal decision-making regarding reproduction and replacement. A recent review of the literature by WI and FL has resulted in identification of gaps in existing knowledge regarding the impact of improvements in reproduction on greenhouse gas emissions. The agricultural industry consumes an immense amount of fossil-fuel in the production of food, feed, fiber, and energy. From the electricity that cools milk, to the fuel that is burned in combines and tractors in grain fields, to the trucks that bring goods to market, and to the nitrogen fertilizer that nourishes plants; the agricultural industry is captive to large and constant supplies of a wide range of fossil energy. Nutrient removal, in particular nitrogen and phosphorus, from wastewater is a growing regulatory need and the use of algae may create a unique amalgamation between dairy wastewater treatment and livestock feed production. Agriculture’s dependence and thirst for fossil-fuel carries significant economic, environmental, and social risks for the nation and world.On-going collaborating research between VA and ID is also addressing the effects of agronomic practices on phosphorus concentrations in forages and in nutrient management plans.

Do farmers know that certain things can be done differently? Do employers teach or train their employees how to perform? Learning by doing, learning by seeing, or a combination of both are much more important than learning by hearing to improve managerial skills.

An innovative aspect of NC-2042 is developing educational videos and delivering educational programs to improve and accelerate the training process of dairy farmers and their employees. For this, as part of outreach programing, several educational videos have been produced in collaboration between VA and ID under the scope of labor management.These videos include trainings related to adequate silo face management using low-technology equipment (Ferreira, 2014), newborn calf management (Bladen and Ferreira, 2015), management of compost-bedded pack barns (Ferreira, 2016), determining harvesting time for ensiling forages (Ferreira, 2016), using winter (cover) crops as feed ingredients for dairy cattle (Ferreira, 2016), and preventing silage-related injuries and fatalities among farm workers (Ferreira and Teets, 2017). A peculiar aspect of several of these videos is that they are narrated in Spanish with scripts in English, therefore intending to help accelerating the learning process for Hispanic labor in dairy farms, as well as helping US employees to better communicate with their labor force. These efforts are still progressing as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOHS) funded 2 outreach projects to VA. These projects will specifically develop educational videos to increase personnel safety awareness during the ensiling process when working at dairy farms.



  1. Optimize calf and heifer growth and development by improving feeding strategies, management systems, well-being, new technologies, and environmental impacts for productivity and profitability.
  2. Optimize dairy cow performance and well-being by improving nutrition, forage utilization, technology, and management.
  3. Evaluate whole farm system components and integrate information and technology to improve efficiency, profitability, environmental sustainability and social responsibility.


Objective 1. Optimize calf and heifer growth and development by improving feeding strategies, management systems, well-being, new technologies, and environmental impacts for productivity and profitability.

To continue to advance the management and performance of growing replacement heifers research will be conducted both at individual and a by collaboration include ID, LA, MN, MO, NC, NH, PA, SC, SD, and WI. As mentioned previously dairy replacement heifers represent a huge investment of resources for producers and additionally must be grown to reach optimal performance as a lactating cow. Several challenges are universal among producers raising replacement calves and heifers such as increasing nutrient utilization and efficiency, improving implication and understanding of how to use new technologies, and issues with decreasing resources are national in scope.Standard procedures for measurements and data collection will be used by researchers on the project to allow for integration of data and results among stations and allow us to make use of larger impact recommendations for dairy producers. More specifically, measurementsof passive immunity transfer in postnatal calves will be documented where possible, as well as calf morbidity and mortality. Calf and heifer performance, feed intake, housing and health management will be documented. Water intake and quality will be documented wherever feasible. Additional measurements may include blood metabolites and nutrient digestibility parameters. Where possible, heifer performance will be followed through first lactation. Efforts will be made to integrate animal welfare, environmental impact and economic comparisons to be included across collaborating states. Relationships of dietary energy and protein will be described. Pre-partum dry cow management strategies to improve colostrum quality, immunoglobulin absorption, calf health and growth. NH will lead, in collaboration with PA, MN, and SD, research with focus on pre-partum dry cow nutritional strategies and their effects on colostrum quality and absorption in newborn calves in both conventional and organic grazing systems. Optimizing IgG intake through manipulation of colostrum and colostrum feeding management will be addressed. PA plans further work on consistency of heat-treated colostrum and effects on calf health. Best management practices will be evaluated for milk (whole milk and milk replacers) and starter feeding and the impact on growth, gastrointestinal development, economic efficiencies and well-being under varying environmental conditions (LA, MN, NC, NH, PA, SD, WI). Refinement and impact of feeding strategies of conventional, moderate, and intensive milk replacers and on-farm processed milk will be addressed by all states under different environmental stressors. MN will lead efforts in collaboration with SD and WI, to refine calf starter formulations and impact on calf performance. Efforts across all states will be to evaluate alternative supplements in place of antibiotics for disease and pathogen control in dairy calves and heifers. Some research will be conducted evaluating calves with different milk feeding systems, i.e., automatic calf feeding units versus more traditional feeding systems. Work will continue on aspects of calf feeding programs that impact gastrointestinal development (IN, LA, MS, NH, PA, SD). Assessment of nutrient utilization, metabolism, microbiome, development and growth in calves and heifers to determine measures of increased efficiency and performance under different feeding systems will also be conducted (ID, MN, NC, NH, PA, SC, SD, WI). Precision feeding of heifers will be a continuing emphasis in conventional systems that optimize feed efficiency and productivity, and minimize nutrient (i.e., N and P) excretion (NH, PA, SC, SD, WI). WI and MN, will be lead states in evaluating efficiency of grazing systems. Evaluation of feed ingredients and feed management strategies on calf and heifer growth, nutrient excretion, and subsequent effects on lactation performance (ID, MN, NH, PA, SD, WI). Specifically evaluating utilization of high- and low-quality forages, co-products or alternative feed ingredients from the biofuels and other industries and feeding fat to heifers will be assessed (ID, MN, NH, PA, SC, SD, WI). Cost effective feed ingredients will be prioritized. In the next five years methods will be evaluated on incorporating genomic data into design of nutritional studies and management practices. In addition, we will evaluate correlations of genomic data and actual performance data of heifers (ID, MN, SD, WI).  


Objective 2. Optimize dairy cow performance and well-being by improving nutrition, forage utilization, technology, and management.

Lactating dairy cows still represent the largest sector of animals in the dairy industry and are the heart of dairy production systems. Despite huge advancements in the last few decades, to meet the nutritional demands of growing human population in the next 50 years we must continue to make substantial advancements in management and efficiency of milk production by dairy cows. As these issues with lactating cow management are often universal among different production systems and largely national (or even international) it is vital that we maintain a platform through this multi-state project to foster collaborative research, along with communication and interpretation of findings among project members from across the country.Research conducted in CA, IL, NE, NH, SC, SD, VA and WI will investigate the relationship between diet and nutrient utilization on milk composition. Studies are designed to track specific nutrients such as bioactive peptides and fatty acids that correlate to animal, human health and environmental impact. The aims of these experiments will be to improve animal performance and reduce the incidence of metabolic syndromes while increasing nutrient utilization efficiency in lactating dairy cows. Research in NH and VA will also evaluate the use of supplemental vitamins on cow health. Led by NH, and NY, biomarkers such as cortisol, haptoglobin, related to stress and inflammation during critical physiological stages will be evaluated.

The US dairy and feed industries use diverse ingredients across geographic regions. We have strategically planned studies to investigate regionally important feed related questions. In IL, NE, NH, SC, SD and WI feeding studies will investigate the benefits of new and emerging by- and waste-products when fed to lactating dairy cows. Understanding microbial fermentation in the rumen is essential to manipulating the digestibility of news feeds and to regulating nutrient supply to metabolically active tissues to promote production, reproduction, and health of the lactating dairy cow.

Research in IL, NE, NH, SC and WI will conduct studies to understand the relationship among diet, the rumen microbiome, and host metabolism as it related to milk composition. Research will attempt to establish how changes in concentration and physical form of fiber influences the rumen environment (PA, VA, WI). Production of methane, a greenhouse gas linked to animal production systems, will be measured in response to changes in diet formulations or through the addition of feed additives that impact the rumen microbial population (NE, NH, SC, WI). Studies in CA, NE, SD, and VA will study nutrient utilization of feeds under conventional dairy production systems while work in NH and MN will do complimentary work under an organic dairy production system.

Evaluating forage production and nutrient utilization in dairy farming systems under different environmental conditions and management practices will be undertaken in IL, NE, MN, NH, SC, VA, and WI. The nutritional value of forages to improve nutrient utilization in diets of lactating dairy cows will be studied through the use of alternative forages, low lignin alfalfa, BMR varieties, among others.

Researchers in IL, MN, SC and WI will investigate milking, feeding and behavior monitoring systems as strategies to improve health and efficiency of production. Studies will be conducted to evaluate how to improve management of primiparous cows in robotic milking systems. Precision feeding of lactating dairy cows based on productivity will be evaluated when using specific supplements and digestion modifiers.

Work on nutritional and non-nutritional management of the transition cow (NY lead) will continue under this objective.  Analysis of the relationships of prepartum and postpartum nutritional strategies employed by the 72 commercial dairy farms with health and productive outcomes will be conducted as a herd-level cohort study. Relationships of non-nutritional factors (e.g., stocking densities, segregation of primiparous and multiparous cows, pen moves) with health and productive outcomes will be determined. Prepartum nutritional strategies to prevent hypocalcemia in postpartum cows will continue to receive focus, and new infrared milk analysis technologies will be extended in order to determine whether milk Ca concentrations or other components of the milk spectra can be used to determine Ca status of the cow, with the eventual possibility of using this technology in real time to assess hypocalcemia and related disorders.


Objective 3. Evaluate whole farm system components and integrate information and technology to improve efficiency, profitability, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.

With the advancement in technologies there are huge quantities of data and rapidly developing new devices to help with collection of data. It is difficult for one individual to learn, comprehend, and help implement these technologies and management tools effectively on-farm. This multi-state project will allow for testing of technologies and management tools in a larger variety of settings. To accurately evaluate effectiveness it is often necessary to collect data on large scale from a national cross section, which is more feasible for researchers through collaboration in this multi-state project. 

Dairy producers need to make daily decisions about whether and when to treat, inseminate, cull, dry-off, raise, or purchase dairy cows. They need to simultaneously consider a cow’s future biological performance, milk, and cow prices, and herd constraints such nutrient balance or availability of labor to make the best decisions day after day. The computer programs developed in this project will enable evaluation of financial implications of the direct and indirect effects of various management options and assist dairy producers with making effective decisions. Robotic milking or automated milking systems continue to grow in the U.S., but further research is needed on how to optimize the management and efficiency of production to improve dairy farm profitability. Moreover, data provided by these technologies may be incorporated into genetic evaluations for non-production traits aimed at improving animal health, well-being, and longevity.

Several diverse methods have been used and will continue to be the signature for the creation of useful and practical decision support tools. We will use the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM, Rotz et al., 2011). The IFSM is a process-based farm simulation model that integrates major components between biological and physical responses providing a robust research and extension tool for assessing whole dairy farm impacts of management strategies. The use of the IFSM will allow different NC-2042 locations to replicate assessments and study differences among diverse systems. Importantly, it will give new dimensions to the analyses because it will include other components of the dairy farm system and their interactions such as crops, grazing and organic operations, environmental impacts, among many others, which have not been used before.

The proposed methods include extensions of the dairy herd models developed earlier by the group members with greenhouse gas emissions of individual animals. By penalizing total herd greenhouse gas emissions, the dairy herd models will be used to optimize insemination and replacement decisions considering the environmental impact. Group members will use the same dairy herd models to calculate the environmental impact of improvements in feed efficiency in dairy heifers and cows.

We will evaluate actual energy consumption data for commercial dairy production systems. The data will be invaluable to our group and other researchers that seek to improve the energy efficiency of dairy production systems. We will monitor the energy consumption of operating, commercial dairy production systems for two years. Five dairy farms will be used for monitoring. The farms will include one small grazing based or tie-stall facility, 1 robotic dairy facility, and other mid-sized dairy farms.

We will clean the dairy waste stream through algae production before it moves to farm fields and streams instead of applying the dairy waste directly to the land. This will reduce the environmental impact of dairy waste from entering streams and watersheds. This project will develop and demonstrate an integrated facility to utilize and recycle nutrients from dairy farm wastewater, as well as carbon dioxide emissions on-site to simultaneously produce “green” energy, clean water, food, and livestock feed. Dairy producers will learn about the remediation of dairy farm wastewater through research, demonstration, and outreach experiences.

Several members of this project have extension/outreach appointments. This project is centralized in the development of educational programs and audio-visual materials that will increase the awareness of occupational safety (i.e., injuries and fatalities risks) among employees working at dairy farms. In addition to this, educational programs and audio-visual materials related to milk quality, feeding management, and compliance with environmental stewardship, among others, will be developed and delivered.

Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Objective 1: Peer-reviewed scientific publications. Comments: Several manuscripts relevant to this objective (i.e., colostrum quality and management, calf and heifer growth performance, calf and heifer housing and comfort, etc) will be prepared and submitted for publication to Journal of Dairy Science, the Professional Animal Scientist, or similar scientific journals.
  • Objective 2: Peer-reviewed scientific publications. Comments: Several manuscripts relevant to this objective (i.e., feeding strategies on cow performance and health, feeding strategies on transition cow management, feeding strategies on rumen metabolism and microbiome, feeding strategies on nutrient utilization and output to the environment, etc) will be prepared and submitted for publication to Journal of Dairy Science, Journal of Nutrition, the Professional Animal Scientist, or similar scientific journals.
  • Objective 3: Peer-reviewed scientific publications. Comments: Several manuscripts relevant to this objective (i.e., economic, social and environmental sustainability of dairy farming systems) will be prepared and submitted for publication to Journal of Dairy Science, the Professional Animal Scientist, or similar scientific journals.
  • Objective 3: Dairy management and risk assessment educational workshops. Comments: Holistic dairy management and risk assessment workshops for dairy farmers will be delivered across the US.
  • Objectives 1, 2, and 3: Educational webinars. Comments: Several webinars relevant to the 3 objectives will be delivered to outreach stakeholders.
  • Objectives 1, 2, and 3: Educational videos. Comments: Several videos relevant to the 3 objectives will be produced and published to outreach stakeholders.
  • Objectives 1, 2, and 3: Decision-making tools. Comments: Decision support tools and accompanying user guides will be published online for dairy producers and their advisors to access.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Objective 1: Healthier calves and heifers. Due to improved colostrum management, enhanced feeding strategies, and alternative treatment of diseases, research from this project will result in healthier calves and heifers.
  • Objective 1: Economic sustainability of dairy farming systems. Healthy and productive heifers are critical for ensuring the economical sustainability of dairy farming systems. Also, rearing calves and heifers results in one of the largest expenses in dairy farming systems. Best management practices that increase production performance, reduce operative expenses, or both will ensure the economical sustainability of dairy farming systems.
  • Objective 2: Economic sustainability of dairy farming systems. Research from this project will ensure economic sustainability of dairy farming systems (conventional and organic, confined and grazing, etc) through increased milk production, reduced feed costs, enhanced milk quality, improved feed efficiency, improved animal health and well-being, or their combinations.
  • Objetive 2: Environmental sustainability of dairy farming systems. Research from this project will ensure environmental sustainability of dairy farming systems through increased nutrient utilization (i.e., digestibility), reduced green-house gas emissions, and reduced N and P release to the environment.
  • Objective 3: Social sustainability of dairy farming systems. Through the development and delivery of educational tools and programs, outcomes of this project will enhance social responsibility in dairy farming systems. Specifically, these programs will ensure better training of the labor capital in dairy farming systems.
  • Objective 3: Economic sustainability of dairy farming systems. Through the development and delivery of educational tools and programs, outcomes of this project will enhance economic sustainability in dairy farming systems. Specifically, these programs will ensure dairy farmers, dairy consultants, extension educators, lenders, etc, have adequate financial management skills.


(2019):Objectives 1, 2, and 3. Design, conduct, analyze, and begin to publish specific research projects. Present individual study findings at regional and national meetings of the American Dairy Science Association and/or American Societies of Animal Science to convey findings to a broader scientific community. Individual and collaborative research projects will also be used in the research training programs for both undergraduate and graduate students under the advisement of members of this group.

(2020):Objectives 1, 2, and 3. Compile information from across stations and researchers to develop and deliver more detailed educational programs.

(2020):Organize and deliver a national symposium for the 2024 National Conference of the American Dairy Science Association to convey compiled findings.

(2023):Review and analyze overall outcomes and impacts on the dairy industry and complete final report.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Most of the NC-2042 members have an Extension appointments, which is envisioned to be the primary channel of information dissemination. Annual project meetings and additional small group virtual meetings are to be used to share developments and results and promote diffusion of innovations to those who need them the most. Additional means of outreach will be through national eXtension webinars and publications, Hoard's magazine articles and webinars, and factsheets and brochures targeted to the dairy industry providers and dairy industry farm consultants. Results will be presented at scientific meetings and published in scientific journals. Spreadsheets, software programs and decision support models will be made available as apps for smartphones, tablets and online. Some additional specifics means of dissemination are outlined below:

  • Validate and refine existing models of nutrient requirements of calves and heifers and present study results at scientific meetings and published in scientific journals, extension fact sheets and popular press
  • Present symposium at the ADSA Midwest Section meetings to facilitate information transfer and obtain input for future research directions and to attract outstanding graduate students to research programs.
  • Participate in applied workshops within states and organize regional and national workshops
  • Distribute spreadsheets, software programs and decision support models based on outcomes for risk assessment and potential management actions
  • Distribute all pertinent information through the national eXtension and other websites.


  • The Project Technical Committee shall consist of officially-designated representatives from each participating Agricultural Experiment Station and USDA group, regional administrative advisor (non-voting), and NIFA representative (non-voting).
  • Participating stations and groups are those written into the regional project or have an approved addendum.
  • Project officers shall be chairperson and secretary. A secretary shall be duly elected at the conclusion of the annual meeting of the Technical Committee, and automatically succeed to the position of chairperson one year later.
  • The Executive Committee shall consist of chairperson, secretary, and immediate past-chairperson. Executive committee, in conjunction with the Administrative Advisor, is authorized to function on behalf of the Technical Committee in all matters pertaining to the regional project requiring interim action.
  • The chairperson, in consultation with the Administrative Advisor, shall arrange the time and place of meetings, prepare the agenda, preside at meetings of the Technical Committee, and is responsible for preparation of the annual progress report.
  • The secretary records minutes, compiles station reports, and performs other duties as assigned by the Technical Committee or Administrative Advisor.
  • Subcommittees will be appointed by the chairperson to complete specific assignments and to monitor progress within each of the main objectives. Subcommittees will meet at least once prior to or during the annual Technical Committee meeting.

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Gelsinger, S. L., and A. J. Heinrichs. 2015. Effect of heat treatment and bacterial population of colostrum on passive transfer of IgG. J. Dairy Sci. 98:4640-4645.

Gelsinger, S. I., A. J,. Heinrichs. 2017. Comparison of immune responses in calves fed heat-treated or unheated colostrum. J. Dairy Sci. 100: 4090-4101Coblentz, W.K., Esser, N.M., Hoffman, P.C., Akins, M.S. 2015. Growth performance and sorting behavior of heifers offered diets with forage dilution. Journal of Dairy Science. 98:451.

Gelsinger, S. I., C. M.Jones and A. J,. Heinrichs. 2016. A meta-analysis of the effects of preweaned calf nutrition and growth on first-lactation performance. J. Dairy Sci. 99:6206-6214. 

Ghedini, C.P., D.C. Moura, R.A.V. Santana, A.S. Oliveira, and A.F. Brito. 2018. Replacing ground corn with incremental amounts of liquid molasses does not change milk enterolactone but decreases production in dairy cows fed flaxseed meal. J. Dairy Sci. (Accepted).

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Hardie, C., M. Wattiaux, M. Dutreuil, R. Gildersleeve, N. Keuler, and V. E. Cabrera. 2014. Feeding strategies on certified organic dairy farms in Wisconsin and their impact on milk production and income over feed costs. J. Dairy Sci. 97:4612-4623. 

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Kalantari A.S., L.E. Armentano, R.D. Shaver, and V.E. Cabrera. 2016. Economic impact of nutritional grouping in dairy herds. J. Dairy Sci. 99:1672–1692.

Koch, L.E., W. Bridges, T.C. Jenkins, and G.J. Lascano, 2016. Recovering lactating dairy cows from diet-induced milk fat depression using corn with different starch degradabilities. J. Dairy Sci. 99 (E-Suppl. 1).

Koch, L.E. N.A. Gomez, Bowyer, A., and G.J. Lascano, 2017. Precision-feeding dairy heifers a high rumen undegradable protein diet with different proportions of dietary fiber and forage to concentrate ratios. J Anim. Sci. In press.

Koch, L.E., B. Koch, S. Hussein, V. Murphree, T.C, Jenkins, J. Linn, C. Soderholm, J. Albrecht, and G.J. Lascano, 2017. Effects of combinations of prilled fatty acids with or without potassium carbonate on fermentation and biohydrogenation intermediates in continuous culture fermenters. J. Dairy Sci. 100 (E-Suppl. 2).

Koch, L.E., B. Koch, R. Klopp, S. Hussein, V. Murphree, and G.J. Lascano, 2017. Starch degradability in combination with sugar alter fermentation in continuous culture. J. Dairy Sci. 100 (E-Suppl. 2).

Koch, L.E., B. Koch, R. Klopp, S. Hussein, V. Murphree, and G.J. Lascano, 2017. Effects of replacing corn with different levels of starch degradability with beet pulp as a source of soluble fiber on fermentation in continuous culture. J. Dairy Sci. 100 (E-Suppl. 2).

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Lascano, G.J., Alende, M., Koch, L.E., and T.C. Jenkins. 2016. Changes in fermentation and biohydrogenation intermediates in continuous cultures fed corn grains differing in rates of starch degradability. J Dairy Sci. 99: 6334-6341.

Lascano, G.J., Koch, L.E., and A.J. Heinrichs. 2016. Precision-feeding dairy heifers different levels of dietary fiber and high rumen degradable protein diet and differing levels of dietary fiber: Effects on nutrient utilization and N efficiency. J Dairy Sci. 99: 7175-7190.

Lawrence, R. D., and J. L. Anderson. 2018. Ruminal degradation and intestinal digestibility of camelina meal and carinata meal compared to other protein sources. Prof. Anim. Sci. (Accepted).

Lawrence, R. D., J. L. Anderson, and J. A. Clapper. 2016. Evaluation of camelina meal as a feedstuff for growing dairy heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 99: 6215–6228.

Lawrence, R.D., J. L. Anderson, S. I. Martinez Monteagudo, and L. Metzger. 2017. Milk production and composition of dairy cows fed hydroponic barley sprouts. J. Dairy Sci. 100: Suppl. 2: 400.

Lawton, A. B., W. S. Burhans, D. Nydam, and T. R. Overton. 2016. Transition cow management and outcomes in Northeast herds. Proceedings, Cornell Nutrition Conference for Feed Manufacturers, Syracuse, NY.

Leno, B. M., S. E. LaCount, C. M. Ryan, D. Briggs, M. Crombie, and T. R. Overton. 2017a. The effect of source of supplemental dietary calcium and magnesium in the peripartum period, and level of dietary magnesium postpartum, on mineral status, performance, and energy metabolites in multiparous Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 100:7183-7197.

Leno, B. M., C. M. Ryan, T. Stokol, D. Kirk, K. Zanzalari, J. D. Chapman, and T. R. Overton. 2017b. Effects of prepartum dietary cation-anion difference on aspects of peripartum mineral and energy metabolism and performance of multiparous Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 100:4604-4622.

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Manthey, A. K., J. L. Anderson, and G.A. Perry. 2016. Feeding distillers dried grains in replacement of forage in limit-fed dairy heifer rations: Effects on growth performance, rumen fermentation, and total tract digestibility of nutrients. J. Dairy Sci. 99:7206–7215.

Manthey, A. K., J. L. Anderson,  G.A. Perry and D.H. Keisler. 2017. Feeding distillers dried grains in replacement of forage in limit-fed dairy heifer rations: Effects on metabolic profile and onset of puberty. J. Dairy Sci.100:2591-2602.

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Pereira, A.B.D., N.L. Whitehouse, K.M. Aragona, C.G. Schwab, S.F. Reis, and A.F. Brito. 2017. Production and nitrogen utilization in lactating dairy cows fed ground field peas with or without ruminally protected lysine and methionine. J. Dairy Sci. 100:6239-6255.

Pino, F. H., A. J. Heinrichs. 2017. Sorghum forage in precision-fed dairy heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 100:224-235.

Ranasinghe, P., Gomes N.A., Rowland K., Caprio A., and G.J. Lascano. 2015. The Effects of Substituting True Protein with Non-Protein Nitrogen in Holstein Dairy Heifers. J Dairy Sci. Sci. 93. E-Suppl 2.

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Resende, T.L., J. Kraft, K.J. Soder, A.B.D. Pereira, D.E. Woitschach, R.B. Reis, and A.F. Brito. 2015. Incremental amounts of ground flaxseed decrease milk yield but increase n-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids in dairy cows fed high-forage diets. J. Dairy Sci. 98:4785-4799.

Rice, E. 2017. Effects of sodium butyrate on growth of post-weaned heifers. M.S. Thesis. University of New Hampshire.

Richards V.P., T.C Jenkins, L.E. Koch and G.J. Lascano. 2017. Changes in rumen bacteria communities in continuous cultures fed high and low levels of unsaturated fatty acids with increasing rates of starch degradability. J. Dairy Sci. 100 (E-Suppl. 2).

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Rodriguez-Hernandez, K. and J. L. Anderson. 2018. Evaluation of carinata meal as a feedstuff for growing dairy heifers: Effects on growth performance, rumen fermentation, and total tract digestibility o nutritients. J. Dairy Sci. 101:1206-1215.

Su, H., Akins, M.S., Esser, N.M., Ogden, R.K., Coblentz, W.K., Kalscheur, K., Hatfield, R.D. 2017. Effects of feeding alfalfa stemlage or wheat straw for dietary energy dilution on nutrient intake and digestibility, growth performance and feeding behavior of Holstein dairy heifers. Journal of Dairy Science. 100:7106-7115.

Suarez-Mena, F. X., A. J. Heinrichs, T. M. Hill, and J. D. Quigley. 2015. Digestive development in neonatal dairy calves with either whole or ground oats in the calf starter. J. Dairy Sci. 98:3417-3431.

Suarez-Mena,  F. X., A. J. Heinrichs, T. M. Hill, and J. D. Quigley. 2016. Straw particle size in calf starters: Effects on digestive system development and rumen fermentation.  J. Dairy Sci. 99:341-353.

Thomason, W.E., W.S. Brooks, C.A. Griffey, and M.E. Vaughn. 2009. Hulless barley seeding rate effects on grain yield and yield components. Crop Sci. 49:342-346.

Whitehouse, N.L., C.G. Schwab, and A.F. Brito. 2017. The plasma free amino acid dose-response technique: A proposed methodology for determining lysine relative bioavailability of rumen-protected lysine supplements. J. Dairy Sci. 100:9585-9601.

Wild, B. J., J. L. Anderson, and A. D. Garcia. 2015. Ruminal degradability and intestinal digestibility of crude protein in sorghum distillers dried grains compared to soybean meal and corn co-products. J. Dairy Sci. 98: Suppl. 1:158.

Williams, K.T., Weigel, K.A., Coblentz, W.K., Esser, N.M., Schlesser, H., Hoffman, P.C., Hu, H., Akins, M.S. 2016. Effect of diet energy level and genomic residual feed intake on dairy heifer performance. Journal of Dairy Science. 99 (suppl. 2).

Williams, S. E., B. M. Leno, C. M. Ryan, and T. R. Overton. 2016. The effects of varying neutral detergent fiber and physically effective neutral detergent fiber content of fresh cow rations on dry matter intake, rumination, and milk yield in multiparous Holstein cows. J. Dairy Sci. 99(E. Suppl. 1):775-776.

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Zanton, G. I., and A. J. Heinrichs. 2016. Efficiency and rumen responses in younger and older Holstein heifers limit-fed diets of differing energy density. J. Dairy Sci. 99:2285-2836.


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Non Land Grant Participating States/Institutions

University of Wisconsin - River Falls, USDA-ARS-Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI
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