From artisan cheeses to ice cream, Americans consume a lot of dairy.

But all that dairy takes a toll. Cows and manure produce methane, a potent global-warming gas. And plowing the soil to grow corn to feed all those cows emits tons of carbon dioxide. But there are ways to reduce this impact, including a technique called managed grazing.

TOMANDL: “Basically for six to seven months out of the year, that cow is harvesting its own feed. They harvest it, they eat it themselves, they bring the milk back to the barn and they head back out for the next twelve hours.”

That’s Joe Tomandl, Wisconsin dairy farmer and executive director of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program. He says the size of the dairy is limited to how far the cows can walk. But managed grazing can be environmentally – and financially – sustainable for smaller dairies.

For example, no tilling is needed on most of the land on managed grazing dairies because it is planted with permanent grasses.

TOMANDL: “They sequester a lot of carbon. They’re not releasing it. They’re actually pulling it in and retaining it.”

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Now, with the technique being taught in several states across the nation by the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship Program, the next generation of dairy farmers is learning how to produce milk more sustainably.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship
Conservation Practices: Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Bridgett Ennis

Bridgett Ennis is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media (CBDM), an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. CBDM contributes original reporting, audio production,...