Sustainability of pasture-based dairy systems

Santiago Utsumi, PhD.

Assistant Professor of Animal Science

Michigan State University


Ingham partner with a network of leading ruminant nutritionists around the world.  We caught up with Santiago Utsumi on his visit to New Zealand. 

In recent years, Santiago has conducted applied research on agricultural ecology and the sustainability of pastoral farms. Currently, his focus is on the production efficiency and of grazing-based dairy operations in Southwestern Michigan, USA.

The folks from Ingham have had the good fortune to spend time with Santiago at the Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station, where he runs his grazing trials that include comparisons between US Holstein Friesians and NZ Friesians.  In March of this year he finally had the opportunity to join us on farm with Klass and Lisa Groen in the Waikato to see NZ Friesians in their natural environment.

In relation to pastoral farming, Santiago was able to highlight how important cow nutrition is in getting the cow’s metabolic state into a position that drives efficient milk production.  He also noted that among high producing cows (over 30kg of milk) there are individuals with superior metabolic efficiency that can produce the same or more milk with less grazing effort and intake. Compared to an average pasture intake in a herd (16kg) this can represent a saving of 2kg per cow for the same same or even better milk yield. Notice that this can represent a 17% decrease in requirements or even better, a 17% increase in stocking rates (without sacrificing yield), if superior cows are used.    

Santiago also discussed the key role of supplements in grazing diets.  A partial mixed ration (PMR) and properly formulated concentrates can aid the metabolic status of the grazing cow while helping farmers to keep control on stocking rates, utilisation of pasture, and grass intake. Importantly, his research also demonstrates that a well planned, targeted supplementation programme can drive improvements of production through better conversion of grass into milk.

The bottomline is that pasture-based dairy systems can further succeed when focusing on both per hectare and per cow production, and instead of forcing an unnecessary competition between the two. 

For in-depth findings from Santiago’s research, please see the article.

Santiago visit4 Santiago visit6

Santiago Utsumi meet Klass and Lisa Groen, along with Ingham, to discuss using concentrates to support pasture intake in New Zealand systems.

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