NEERA1000: Northeast Pasture Consortium
Statement of Issues and JustificationForage-based livestock systems generate nearly two-thirds of the agricultural income in the states of the Northeastern U.S. Much of the agricultural land in the region is best suited for forage production because of soil, site, and climatic limitations. Sustainability of agriculture in the region depends on keeping forage-based livestock systems competitive and profitable while protecting the environment. Research has shown that grazing production systems require less fuel than those that depend heavily on machinery and pesticide inputs, drying crops, ventilating buildings, and the use of inorganic fertilizers. Because of the increasing costs relative to income associated with harvested forage-based systems, many livestock producers are using more pasture-based systems as a means of reducing expenses. Yet, the technological base of scientists and resource people to support sustainable forage-based livestock systems has decreased across the region. This necessitates coordination among the remaining researchers and educators, and collaboration with NRCS grazing specialists and livestock producers to identify, develop, and implement the technology that will increase the competitiveness and profitability of pasture-based systems in the region.
The Northeast research and extension directors approved the concept of developing a Northeast Pasture Research and Extension Consortium in July 1995. A Planning Committee was formed of researchers, educators, and livestock producers. Its recommendations regarding the Consortium's mission, objectives, long-term and short-term goals, membership, leadership structure, and oversight were approved by the directors in February 1996. Nominations for the Consortium membership were solicited from both the private sector (producers and agri-business suppliers) and the public sector (land-grant university research and extension directors, ARS, and NRCS) in July 1996; members were appointed in September 1996; and the Consortium held its first meeting in January 1997. Meetings have been held annually with the tenth meeting in February 2006. Attendance at the last 5 meetings has averaged 72 with about one-third each year from the private sector. The private-sector stakeholders are strongly supportive of continuing the Consortium.
The mission of the Consortium, as adopted by the membership, is to link livestock graziers and federal, state, land grant, and private research and extension groups into partnerships that will identify, develop, coordinate, and promote pasture research and extension leading to economically, socially, and environmentally sound and sustainable grazing-based livestock production systems for the Northeastern U.S. Emphasis is on dairy, beef, sheep, goat, and horse enterprises.
The following are pasture priority needs identified by Consortium stakeholders (producers, agri-business suppliers, and NGOs):
--Determine the management strategies and costs of transition or conversion from row crops to productive and sustainable grazing lands and soils.
--Quantify the economics of whole-farm systems including the effects of breed selection, livestock diversification, and grazing management on animal and pasture health and well-being.
--Evaluate new forage species and improved varieties under grazing management and different climatic and soil conditions with emphasis on extending the grazing season.
--Determine the environmental impacts and profitability of alternative supplemental feeding strategies for animals on high-protein pastures.
--Evaluate the production and management aspects of pasture-based animal products for their human health benefits.
--Evaluate the limiting factors and marketing opportunities in organic dairy and livestock pasture-based production systems.
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