A New Report Breaks Down Dairy Farms, Comparing Organic and Conventional

Do you know where your milk stands?

Led by The Organic Center’s Dr. Benbrook, a new research report has been released, titled “A Dairy Farm’s Footprint: Evaluating the Impacts of Conventional and Organic Farming Systems.”

The report compares milk and meat production and revenue earned, feed intakes, the land and agricultural chemicals needed to produce feed, and the volume of wastes generated by representative conventional dairy farms and organic farms.

Here’s what they found:

  • The average cow on organic dairy farms provides milk through twice as many, markedly shorter lactations and lives 1.5 to 2 years longer than cows on high-production conventional dairies;

  • Because cows live and produce milk longer on organic farms, milking cow replacement rates are 30% to 46% lower, reducing the feed required and wastes generated by heifers raised as replacement animals;

  • Cows on organic farms require 1.8 to 2.3 breeding attempts per calf carried to term, compared to 3.5 attempts on conventional farms;

  • The enhanced nutritional quality of milk from cows on forage based diets, and in particular Jersey cows, significantly reduces the volume of wastes generated on organic dairy farms; and

  • The manure management systems common on most organic farms reduce manure methane emissions by 60% to 80%, and manure plus enteric methane emissions by 25% to 45%.