The Context

Challenges of conventional dairy model

During the 1980s and 90s, when a lack of skilled people entering the dairy profession led to historic farm loss, some producers expanded their operations to meet industry needs by adding more cows on a single site. The “get big or get out” mentality was fostered by agricultural policy. However, the social, economic, and environmental consequences of these large confinement operations, initially unforeseen, have become increasingly evident and cannot be addressed within the same system of consolidation and expansion. It’s time for a new vision.

Food Industry Preferences

  • Large pool of milk that is easily accessible
  • Consistent and/or replaceable source of inexpensive labor
  • Feeding system for maximum milk production
  • Externalized/ subsidized costs to ensure profitability

Unintended Consequences

  • Consolidation, integration, and overproduction depresses milk prices
  • Fewer independent farmers, more vulnerable (migrant and immigrant) workers
  • Row crop production degrades natural resources, including water, soil, and habitat
  • Rural communities and taxpayers bear the economic, environmental, and health costs

What Is Industry Overlooking?

Markets for grazing-based dairy products that protect animal welfare, the environment, family farms, and consumer health are growing.

Management tools for grazing-based milk production already exist and managed grazing farms are proven sustainable, profitable, and replicable.

A model of strategically aligned grazing dairies maximizes value, optimizes local/ regional supply chains, and develops skilled people contributes to healthy and truly sustainable rural communities.