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Creating the Foundation for Dairy Farm Transitions to Low Overhead Regenerative Grazing

Year Awarded: 2022
Awarded: $150,000
Team Leader:  Wallace Center at Winrock International

This design effort will develop pathways for small and medium-sized farms to transition their conventional dairy operations to regenerative grazing (i.e. maintaining perennial pasture for dairy herds without tillage and with minimal synthetic inputs). Today, small and medium-sized dairy farms in the Great Lakes basin face unprecedented economic pressure that can force dairy farm operators to make the difficult decision to either become larger, capital-intensive operations with a heavy environmental footprint, or sell their herd and exit the industry. Low overhead regenerative dairy farming offers a compelling opportunity for small and medium-sized dairy farmers to enter into a profitable, ecologically friendly system. However, the transition to regenerative dairy grazing is a fundamental shift, requiring significant changes to a dairy farm’s infrastructure and management systems.

In this design project, the team will clarify the scale for outreach, technical assistance, and financial support needed to successfully move to this new system. Working with the New Dairy Concept farms and project partners, the team will analyze farm financial data and explore ways to finance dairy farm transformation. They will identify the financial risks for farms transitioning to regenerative dairy grazing and develop mitigation strategies.

At the end of this design phase, the team will have identified areas in the Great Lakes basin with the highest potential for economic and ecological benefits from adopting regenerative dairy grazing and will have developed transition pathways for small- and medium-sized dairy farms. If successful, this design work will be the foundation for an implementation proposal to the Fund for a demonstration of these transition pathways.