Pasture-Based Dairy Program History

Traditionally all Missouri dairies were pasture-based. In the 1970s, dairies in the parts of Missouri where corn silage was raised began moving towards confinement operations. In the Ozark region (where most of the state's dairies were located) however, dairies remained predominately pasture based. In an effort to raise production, Ozark dairies hauled more and more feed to the cows and made less and less use of pasture throughout the 1980's and 90's.

Declining profit margins forced hundreds of dairies out of business in Missouri and across the southeastern U.S. In the early 1990's, Missouri dairies began using new intensive rotational grazing technologies to improve profit margins and reduce barriers to entry and growth.

University of Missouri Extension has been actively involved in the evolution of pasture based dairying in Missouri.

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    • First grazing dairy demonstration was held in southwest Missouri.


    • First dairy grazing school was held.


    • MU Southwest Center established a seasonal rotational grazing dairy.
    • Established local grazing groups that hold monthly meetings to share ideas, experiences and tour other farmers' operations.
    • Taught educational sessions on financial management, pasture management, dairy nutrition, reproduction and other production issues.
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    • First edition of the dairy grazing manual was published.


    • Early Missouri adopters of pasture-based dairying start to scale up.


    • New Zealand dairy farmers explored Missouri and other states for dairying opportunities.

    2005 to 2008

    • Over $100 million has been invested in infrastructure of pasture-based dairying in Missouri.


    • MU Extension specialists and Missouri farmers went on a dairy systems study trip to New Zealand.
    • National grazing conference was held in Missouri, with over 200 people in attendence from 21 different states.


    • MU Extension specialists went on a pasture systems study trip to Australia and New Zealand.


    • National grazing conference was held in Missouri, with 285 people in attendence from 26 states and 3 countries.
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    • National grazing conference was held in Missouri, with 267 people in attendence from 24 states and 3 countries.