Refining dairy forage rotations with cool season annual grasses

PI: Jason Cavadini


Cavadini is an assistant superintendent, agronomist, and certified crop adviser with the Marshfield Ag Research Station, where he manages more than 60 field-research trials and 700 acres of crops annually. He grew up on his family’s farm in the Driftless Area region of Wisconsin where he developed a passion for soil and water conservation.

There is more attention than ever on the sustainability of dairy farming practices. The Wisconsin dairy community must prioritize land and water by identifying practices that are geographically appropriate and environmentally resilient. Alfalfa, a staple crop and dairy ration, is vulnerable to challenging environmental conditions in Wisconsin. Additionally, as milk production has been prioritized over crop and soil health, alfalfa has been placed under even greater stress. Farmers are beginning to replace alfalfa with crops that are more appropriate for their landscape and management goals. Many cool season annual grasses are more economical (than alfalfa) to establish and maintain while also exceeding in yield and quality. One of the most common annual grasses used is Italian ryegrass, which currently lacks consistent management recommendations. The current professional fertilizer and nitrogen recommendations negate the crops benefits. While Italian ryegrass provides great promise for the dairy industry, nutrient management standards that strike a balance between milk production and land and water stewardship must be identified to avoid unintended environmental consequences. The goal of this trial is to develop sound nitrogen recommendations for Italian ryegrass in dairy crop rotations. Matt Akins is collaborating on this research.