Algal blooms and other water quality concerns continue to challenge the Great Lakes, agriculture being a significant contributor to nutrient loading. At the same time, small-and medium-sized dairy farms in the Great Lakes region are heavily indebted, struggling to compete, and closing at an unprecedented rate. Their closures threaten further water quality and rural community decline as larger, concentrated dairy operations expand and smaller dairies close, reverting land to high-disturbance corn and soybean rotations.
This one-year planning project explores how low-overhead regenerative dairy grazing can reverse this trend by offering a scalable solution for farmers, the environment, and Great Lakes communities. Low-overhead regenerative dairy grazing cuts both variable and fixed costs of production which can allow farms to be profitable even at very low milk prices. Through the project, the Wallace Center team and agricultural economist Dr. Jon Winsten (Winrock International) will work with Food System 6, Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, and other partners to map out the barriers as well as the potential financial, social, and environmental impacts of this system.
Years Active: 2022 – 2023
Facilitating Low-Overhead Dairy Grazing for the Upper Midwest: Profitable, Environmental, and Prosocial Farming >>
Low-overhead dairy grazing can give farmers greater flexibility and profitability, as well as contribute to quantifiable environmental and social benefits. This document provides an overview of the context of dairy in the Upper Midwest and a brief description of the benefits of low-overhead dairy grazing.
Grazing: Economies of scale to lower overhead costs >>
This article, published in 2023 in Progressive Forage, describes Dr. Jon Winsten’s work on dairy grazing systems and the efficiencies of the large herd, low overhead model.