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Grass Based Diary: Low Input, High Value

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Pasture based dairy offers a low input, environmentally friendly means of producing milk and can provide a sustainable income for family scale farms.


July 19, 2012: Grass-Based Dairy

Livestock production has become a source of intense controversy in the United States. As our food system evolves toward sustainability, management intensive grazing offers a triple bottom line approach to meat and dairy production.

Pasture based dairy offers a low input, environmentally friendly means of producing milk. Moreover, it can provide a sustainable income for family scale farms, economic development opportunities for rural communities, and even yield a product with some uniquely desirable characteristics. 

We begin the webinar with some information about the basics of dairy grazing, its environmental performance, and the growing market for pasture based dairy. Then a replicable case study of a successful grass-based dairy business gets into some of the practical considerations of transitioning to a managed grazing operation. Finally we introduce you to the first in the nation Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program* designed to train beginning and transitioning dairy farmers and help them get established on their own farms.

*The Apprenticeship is an initiative of GrassWorks, Inc. and was developed with grant funding from USDA-NIFA's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.



Download the slides (PDF)


Presenter Bios

Laura Paine

Laura PaineLaura Paine has done grazing research, education, and market development for twenty years. She previously conducted on-farm grazing research for the University of Wisconsin and served as county Extension Agent in Columbia County, WI. Since 2006, she has served as Grazing & Organic Agriculture Specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, providing economic, business and market development research and education and one-on-one assistance to producers in developing and marketing organic and grass-fed products. Laura and her husband, Bill, raise and direct market grass-fed beef on their farm near Columbus, Wisconsin.

Joe Tomandl

Joe TomandlJoe Tomandl III and his wife Christy, own and operate a seasonal grass-based dairy in north central Wisconsin. The Tomandl’s purchased the original 35 cows and 80 acre farm in 1998 after short careers as agriculture instructors. It was their desire to raise their children in the country and Managed Grazing that lured them back to the farm. The past fourteen years have brought numerous changes in cow management and facilities. The current farm consists of 170 seasonal milking cows and young stock on 320 acres of pasture. In 2010 a second 200 acre 170 cow farm was added and is being operated by a long time employee. Joe has been involved in the dairy grazing movement since he began farming.  He is a past President of GrassWorks, involved in grazing networks, State planning committees and in efforts to add value to grass based milk products. He is genuinely committed to the education and success of other startup dairy farmers and managed grazing has proven to be the model that can put more farmers on the land.

 Joe is the Program Director of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, the first in the nation program that creates a pathway to farm ownership. Currently the apprenticeship is based in Wisconsin and after its first year has 10 formal apprentices and a waiting list of applicants. 

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