Because extending the grazing season means keeping cows on pasture longer, researchers will conduct plot trials of various combinations of forage species, including perennial ryegrass, white clover, sorghum-sudan grass, brassicas, and small grains. The challenge in the Northeast, says Brito, is not only the late start and early finish of the growing season but also the heat of the summer, when many forage species are less productive.
The second research question enhancing milk quality also concerns what cows eat. Cows on pasture produce milk rich with omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acids (CLA), molecules sought after for their human health benefits. For Northeast organic dairy farmers to tap the added value of omega-3 fatty acids and CLA, however, they need to ensure high levels of these throughout the year, not just when cows are on pasture.
In this project, the researchers hypothesize that supplementing cows' winter forage with flaxseed will sustain omega-3 fatty acids and CLA concentrations, meeting year-round market demands for milk with improved fatty acid profile, and possibly commanding higher prices in the marketplace in the future. Further, the researchers will explore how flaxseed enhances milk production and improves cow health and reproductive performance.
Because both research questions transcend dairy cows to embrace a wider agro-ecosystem from soils to pasture plants to nutrients available to cows and thus to humans the project is by its nature interdisciplinary, says Brito. His UNH colleagues on the project are assistant professor of agroecology Richard Smith, associate professor of reproductive physiology Dave Townson, and assistant professor of plant pathology Kirk Broders. A core team composed of animal scientists, economists, agronomis
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire