Irrigation of Rotational Grazed Dairy Pastures
Crockford, Alex B.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Dairy producer adoption of management intensive rotational grazing systems has grown to represent 25% of Wisconsin’s dairy farms. Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) continues to be among the most profitable dairy farming systems in Wisconsin. MIRG also offers high levels of producer satisfaction. Yet, a dry or drought year will decrease farm pasture production and increase management stress on the farm. These problems and the recent commercial appearance of pod-line irrigation systems, has increased producer interest in irrigation. These pod-line irrigation systems may offer benefits in risk abatement in drought conditions and bridge a gap in mid-summer quality forage production. An investigation into the use of pod-line irrigation technology on two northern Wisconsin dairy farms has increased basic knowledge of management and production potential. Summer production on both a drought prone sandy loam upland soil (6-12% slopes eroded) and a lowland sandy loam (2-6% slopes) provided adequate growth to support rotational dairy grazing with existing grass species and no added fertility. On the dairy farm with less drought prone soils, there were only minimal improvements numerically in overall forage yield and quality. Two indicators of forage quality, crude protein (CP) and Relative Feed Value (RFV) were also significantly higher (α = 0.05) with irrigated pasture on the farm with more drought prone soils.