NC2042: Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises.

(Multistate Research Project)

Status: Active

NC2042: Management Systems to Improve the Economic and Environmental Sustainability of Dairy Enterprises.

Duration: 10/01/2023 to 09/30/2028

Administrative Advisor(s):

NIFA Reps:

Non-Technical Summary

Statement of Issues and Justification

According to the last year’s USDA Milk Production Report, the United States was home to 29,849 dairy farms and 9.4 million cows and 9 million replacement heifers in 2022. The US dairy industry contributes $753 billion annually to the US economy (IDFA, 2021). In order to maintain the large economic contribution of the dairy industry and to produce high quality food that consumers demand, the US dairy industry needs to focus on environmental, economic, and social sustainability.

Research on enhanced nutrition and management, with an emphasis on animal welfare and environmental sustainability, is paramount for long-term success of US dairy farms. The aim of this multistate research project NC-2042 is to provide integrated, collaborative research and outreach leading to adoption of dairy management strategies that improve the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of the dairy industry.

Dairy farming systems are diverse throughout the country, and range from confined housing to grazing systems, conventional to organic systems, and human-operated to automated systems. In light of this diversity, and knowing dairying is a multifactorial business, no single land grant experiment station has the resources to evaluate all the different factors affecting dairy sustainability. As a means to synergize research and outreach efforts, the multistate research project NC-2042 has been crucial to providing multiple actions to optimize calf and heifer performance (Objective 1), to improve dairy cow management (Objective 2), and integrate data and technology to improve efficiency and sustainability (Objective 3) in dairy farming systems.

Outcomes from these collaborative efforts have provided, and will continue to provide, dairy farmers utilizing different farming systems with the necessary knowledge and tools to help ensure economic, environmental, and social sustainability. As many members of this multistate research project dedicate a substantial proportion of their appointments to Extension programming, this holistic project directly impacts many stakeholders through high-impact outreach programs.

Related, Current and Previous Work

In a review of related projects in CRIS, using the words “dairy” AND “management” AND “sustainability” yielded 37 results. Of these 37 results, 19 were more broadly related to sustainability and included cropping and manure management strategies that could be applied to multiple species, 3 were related to recruitment and training of veterinarians, 2 were beef focused, 4 were current or former members of NC-2042, and the others were related to lab expansions, agriculture literacy, beginning farmers, and the use of anaerobic digesters. There was 1 stakeholder assessment of Wisconsin dairy calf management practices that could be related to our objective 1 as well as 1 on the environmental impacts and profitability of Wisconsin dairy farms through improved cropping management that could be related to our objective 3. These would represent only one state where this research is being conducted.

In a second search of CRIS, using the words “dairy” AND “calf” OR “heifer” yielded 10 results. Of these 10 results, 4 were related to immunity of dairy calves, 4 were written by current or former members of NC-2042, and 2 were related to genetics. We do not believe there is sufficient overlap between our objectives and what is reported in CRIS.  

There were over 350 peer-reviewed publications reported by members within the NC-2042 group for 2018-2022. We would like to emphasize several review articles that were written through collaborations between NC-2042 members, including a review on strategies to improve efficiency and profitability of heifer raising (Erickson et al., 2020), a review about the use of precision dairy technology in dairy calves (Costa et al., 2021), and a review on nutrition strategies for transition dairy cows (Cardoso et al., 2020). Additionally, this NC-2042 organized a symposium at the American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting in 2019 and has written several grants across stations, including 3 written in the last year related to precision calf management and welfare. 

Pertaining to Objective 1: Improve calf and heifer growth, health, and welfare through enhanced nutrition, housing, and management.

Overall, research performed from members of this multi-state project in the last decades including the last 5 years under Objective 1 has been on the cutting edge of dairy calf research. New knowledge gained under this Objective has provided the dairy industry, including producers, with basic knowledge and increased understanding of management, nutrition, and health of growing replacement calves and heifers. As a group, we have conducted research projects from the fetal stage through gravid pre-fresh heifers, including colostrum feeding, pre and post weaning stages. Although some of these projects have occurred at individual stations, there is still communication and exchange of ideas among project members on experimental methods and interpretation of findings. Research from our collaborative group has been fundamental to the understanding of the importance of early life nutrition and has helped with the improvement in dairy replacement animal improvement in the last decade. Much of this research is applied in practice and can be utilized directly by producers and nutritionists to improve their operations and performance of growing dairy cattle.

This group has investigated in depth the impact of colostrum quality and management factors that are known to reduce calf morbidity and mortality and may affect early life performance and development (IN, NH, KY, MN). We have conducted research to develop strategic nutritional interventions to be adopted in the peripartum that can directly affect colostrum composition, quality, and animal performance (NH). As we investigate nutritional intervention strategies for the cows, we have also focused on understanding the relationship between dam and calf lipid physiology and metabolism (IN). Furthermore, we believe that colostrum may be utilized as more than a tool for the transference of passive immunity in dairy calves. Thus, we have conducted research investigating the use of supplements to improve immunoglobulins during colostrum feeding, such as a green tea extract (KY). Much of the literature available focuses on conventional production systems, so we have put research efforts into investigating nutritional and management strategies on the health, performance, and their economic viability for calves reared in organic systems (MN). We believe that the knowledge and data gathered over these years should be easily available and accessible for readers. Therefore, our research has been summarized and made available through a symposium review (Heinrichs et al., 2019) and a recent book chapter (Erickson and Kalscheur, 2020).

This group has cutting-edge collaborative research in dairy calf nutrition and feed management, using experimental models that address practical industry problems, such as feeding and weaning strategies for dairy calves. During the last period, this group has evaluated the amino acids profile, the use of supplements, forage utilization, mineral requirements and the use of sub-products in calf and heifer diets and requirements of growing animals in several stations (MN, KY, SC, WI, CA, NH; Klopp et al., 2022). One example is the use of a lactic acid-utilizing bacteria in the management of weaning of dairy calves during feed transitions (Mazon et al. 2022). Also, utilizing less costly, lower quality forages and alternative forages as feedstuffs for growing heifers is another tool to maximize profitability and economic sustainability of rearing heifer systems (i.e. Erickson et al., 2020). Work at WI with feeding dairy heifer diets of high fiber, lower energy forages (warm season grasses, alfalfa stems) has shown more adequate heifer growth than when fed ad libitum diets containing corn silage and alfalfa silage. Milk replacer composition plays a major role in the cost of rearing and directly influences the performance of dairy calves and into the long term (Rauba et al., 2019). This group has investigated many components and feed ingredients commonly used in milk replacer, such as fat and protein source and percentage (i.e. Sharpe and Heins, 2021; Echeverry-Munera et al., 2021), and the allowance of milk replacer (Klopp et al., 2020). Another one of the key problems that we have tackled is that nutritional management of dairy cows and calves has traditionally been directed at the average animal, with large variability in results. With a movement toward individual-based and data-driven dairy farm management systems, there are more opportunities for farmers to make informed decisions at the individual-level (i.e. Wangen et al., 2021). This approach has been investigated in many collaborations within the group and outside, with other research teams and animal feed companies. So far, this collaborative effort has resulted in several peer-reviewed journal articles, several citations in the recently published NASEM 2021, and a myriad of extension materials. These studies investigating calf nutritional management across the range of United States regions and across research stations allows for the research to be pertinent to most of the dairy enterprises of the country and internationally. We have studied the costs associated with replacement heifer management decisions from birth to calving in several stations (WI, FL, KY; i.e. Hawkins et al., 2019, 2020).

In addition, our group has been on the cutting edge of emerging research, particularly in the field of surplus dairy calves and long-distance transportation (KY, WI, MN). The fate of surplus dairy calves is a key concern of the public and industry stakeholders. Yet, there is limited research investigating the welfare of surplus calves. We have evaluated the impact of long distance transportation on the health and welfare of dairy calves. The multidisciplinary approach led by our group has investigated disease prevalence, weight gain, hematological biomarkers, behavior, and emotional states after transporting young surplus dairy calves. With recently awarded USDA funding in a collaborative grant between stations, future research will benchmark the welfare outcomes of formula-fed veal and dairy beef calves. Information from these studies will identify risks to calf welfare in surplus calf industries and provide appropriate benchmarks for calf care assessment tools.

We have evaluated the growth, health and the economic performance of dairy calves in individual housing, group housing, pair housing, and raising calves with cows on pasture in the context of calf health, behavior, and welfare. We have conducted research to develop the best housing systems for pre-weaned dairy calves (KY, MN, WI). Young dairy calves are highly susceptible to disease, which can be affected by housing and management systems. Appropriate social relationships are also of key importance to calf development and welfare. Our group has performed multiple studies to assess the impact of individual, pair, and group housing on calf welfare, cognition, performance, and health outcomes. Lately, the use of cow-calf contact has been investigated in several research stations (KY, MN, WI) with preliminary results.

A new and growing topic of research in the group in the last period was the use of livestock precision technology to assist on the management of these animals on-farm. Several stations have been investigating this topic (KY, MN, IN, NY, CA, VA). We have conducted research to develop systems that utilize precision technology measures on dairy calves to signify the presence of diseases such as bovine respiratory disease and diarrhea (i.e. Cantor et al., 2022; Jorgensen et al., 2017; Hurst et al., 2021). We evaluated the behavioral patterns associated with the onset and recovery from disease with automatic calf feeders and accelerometers to measure both feeding behavior and activity. Individualized data that is being produced from these technologies may allow the identification of individual behavioral pattens that are associated with animal health and the development of algorithms to alert producers to deviations from these behavioral patterns that indicate an animal is ill within the first months of life. Our work will allow for early intervention of diseases that will increase recovery and decrease dependence on antibiotics. This research has been summarized in a review by Costa et al., 2021. Also, we investigated if variables collected during the preweaning phase can be used to predict future performance of replacement heifers, and to use the predicted body weight to help identify the most profitable heifers to return to the milking herd. The findings of these studies support that milk consumption and incidences of respiratory disease that occur preweaning will influence body weight of dairy heifers up to 400 d of age.

Pertaining to Objective 2: Improve dairy cow performance and welfare through enhanced forage production and utilization, nutrition, housing, and management. 

Research under objective 2 has provided, and continues to provide, producers, nutritionists and consultants ways to advance and improve decision making related to the nutritional management of dairy cows and herds. Research has encompassed improvements in forage management and quality, the use of alternative protein and energy sources, evaluating critical nutrient requirements for late gestation into early lactation dairy cattle, and development of increased laboratory methods to further evaluate nutrient utilization. Through the use of multiple research stations, the nutritional management of both organic and conventional dairy cattle has been evaluated across different regions of the country. Lactating dairy cattle represent the largest sector of the dairy industry and generate the most income for dairy producers. As feed is the largest single contributor to dairy production, a focus on dairy nutrition and management is critical to the future success of dairy producers. 

We have evaluated the feeding value of by-products and co-products in dairy cattle diets. This has included testing of individual by-products in vitro to evaluate their effect on milk fat depression intermediates (SC) as well as in vivo studies that have evaluated the feeding value of by-products and co-products compared to other feed ingredients commonly fed to dairy cattle (WI, NH, CA, IN, IL, VA). Completing studies across geographical regions and across research stations allows for different combinations of ingredients as well as management strategies that are relevant to a larger number of dairy producers and dairy cattle across the United States.

We have conducted research to develop the best management practices for forages (WI, VA, SC, MN, ID). We have evaluated the effect of drought stress on the digestibility of forages (VA, SC).  As climate change is a concern for dairy producers, proactive research evaluating forages that require less water as well as more clearly understanding the nutritive value of drought-stressed forages, will allow for more optimal diet formulation when water is limited. The work across research stations has enabled multiple collaborative publications as well as Extension events to disseminate information about best management practices when selecting forages (i.e. Ferreira et al., 2020, Ferreira et al., 2021). 

We have evaluated combinations of nutritional strategies to formulate diets fed to dry cows on subsequent performance during lactation. As the transition period for not only cow health and performance but dairy farm profitability, many research stations are conducting research related to optimal nutrition and management of transition dairy cows (NY, NH, WI, IL, IN). In addition to dozens of peer-reviewed manuscripts in this area and continued research focus in this area, reviews from multiple research stations have demonstrated collaborative efforts in this research space. (i.e. Cardoso et al., 2020; Wilkens et al., 2020). 

The impacts of our research are improvements in nutrition and management of dairy cattle to continue to have sustainable dairy production. Future research will have increased focus on environmental sustainability and the use of technology to improve dairy nutrition and management.  Several research stations are utilizing or plan to install technology to monitor methane emissions (WI, SC). Additionally, current and future research efforts are focused on improving welfare of dairy cattle and social sustainability of the dairy industry. From dry-off (cessation of milking) to the end of the fresh period (21 days after calving), dairy cows experience multiple stressors that can compromise their welfare. Current research efforts are investigating the impact of housing and management practices of dairy cows on conventional dairy cows that might reduce stress and disease incidence (WI, SC).

The public is increasingly interested in the rearing of agricultural animals for food products. If agricultural care practices are at odds with public expectations, the dairy industry may lose its social license to operate. One of the most contentious issues currently facing the dairy industry is the removal of calves from their dam within a few hours of birth. Multiple research stations are currently working to understand the effects of removing or keeping cows with calves for prolonged periods after birth (WI, MN). This novel data will provide foundational information for future research and demonstrate to the public a proactive approach to address concerns about cow-calf separation. 

Pertaining to Objective 3: Integrate data and technology to enhance environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the dairy enterprise.

Objective 3 relates to problems that span the entire dairy enterprise system and not single components such as heifer raising or cow management. Previous work related to objective 3 includes development of the “virtual dairy farm brain” project by WI with support from other stations such as NY. In this project, data are collected from multiple sources and made available to decision-making aids. It has become clear that development of such a platform has been more challenging than anticipated in the 2018-2023 project. Challenges include inconsistency of the data that are collected and access to data. The challenges are overcome by extensive data editing procedures and continued integration of data sources. Consequently, development of decision-making aids on top of this platform has been delayed, but more progress is possible in the coming years.

Current work at WI, IN, KY, MN, FL and other stations include projects on how to add value to high frequency, heterogenous data streams that are increasingly collected on dairy farms. This work ties in with the use of tools and approaches from machine learning and artificial intelligence which is a hot topic at many stations. Collectively this work aims to help farmers transform these data into actionable dairy management decisions, such as related nutrition, milking, reproduction, and replacement.

Related previous work deals with mating strategies on dairy farms. Member stations have conducted several studies reporting the economic outcomes of using conventional dairy semen, sexed dairy semen and beef semen on primiparous and multiparous cows (WI, FL; e.g.. Li and Cabrera, 2019; De Vries, 2022). For most of those studies, one of the critical points is to warrant the replacement heifers necessary to the future milking herd. Cabrera (2021) reported an income over semen cost using sexed semen and beef semen on medium and higher reproductive performance herds (e.g., between 20% and 30 % of pregnancy rate) of $2,001 and $6,215, respectively. Also, De Vries et al. (2022) emphasized the increase of profit/milking cow per year (between $149 - $159/milking cow per year) when dairies used beef-on-dairy compared with the use of conventional dairy semen only, with a higher profit for herds with better reproductive performance. This economic analysis is critical to assisting farms in making decisions in the allocation of their resources to raise heifers, including the sale of one day old or purchase of replacement dairy heifers.  However, more work remains to be done to make decision support more accurate by better predicting animal performance.  For example, work at WI aims to better predict milk production in first lactation animals. Technologies for physiological monitoring of dairy cows have great potential to supplement the observational activities of skilled herdspersons, which is especially critical as fewer skilled workers manage more cows. Moreover, data provided by these technologies may be incorporated into genetic evaluations.  Research on technologies and practices to improve dairy profitability and sustainability is being conducted by ID, MN, PA, VA, and WI.

We also plan to continue to work on systems such as new cropping and feeding strategies, alternative dairy production systems (grazing and organic), new technologies to improve reproduction, use of whole farm profitability assessment tools, use of precision dairy technology for monitoring behavior and health, new management practices to improve cow comfort, and use of modern calf and heifer raising systems. Robotic milking or automated milking systems (AMS) continue to grow in the U.S., but further research is needed on how to optimize the management and efficiency of production to improve dairy farm profitability. 

An innovative aspect of NC-2042 is developing educational videos and delivering educational programs to improve and accelerate the training process of dairy farmers and their employees. For this, as part of outreach programing, several educational videos have been produced in collaboration between VA and ID under the scope of labor management. A particular aspect of several of these videos is that they are narrated in Spanish with scripts in English, therefore intending to help accelerate the learning process for Hispanic labor on dairy farms, as well as helping US employers to better communicate with their labor force. We hope to continue this work in the new multistate project.



  1. Improve calf and heifer growth, health, and welfare through enhanced nutrition, housing, and management.
  2. Improve dairy cow performance and welfare through enhanced forage production and utilization, nutrition, housing, and management.
  3. Integrate data and technology to enhance environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the dairy enterprise.


Pertaining to Objective 1: Improve calf and heifer growth, health, and welfare through enhanced nutrition, housing, and management.

The first two years of life for a dairy replacement heifer represents a huge investment for producers, including time, labor, and financial resources. Typically, dairy producers do not see the return of their investment for approximately 2 years until calving and the onset of lactation. Thus, it is critical to the success of the dairy industry that efficiencies be further improved and advancements continue to be made in replacement calf and heifer management.

First, better colostrum management and understanding the factors affecting colostrum quality have been of interest for several years in this project and will continue to be a key research topic for several stations in the project for the future (NH, WI, NY, KY, SC). Colostrum quality and management is the most important factor regarding calf health and survival (Godden, 2008). With that in mind, there is a need to understand other factors that influence morbidity and mortality of dairy calves that are associated with colostrum management, such as additives, heat treatment, the use of colostrum replacer and its formulation, and breed differences, among others.

Pre-weaned calf feeding management is a fundamental factor for the success of the replacement heifer enterprise. Heifer replacements are the second highest investment cost on a dairy, and as the use of technology rises, there is greater opportunity for detecting disease in a time effective manner. Additionally, the dairy industry is under pressure to decrease the use of antibiotics and mediate resistance. Calf raising is one of the major areas of antibiotic use in the dairy industry. A collaborative effort between many of the stations (MN, WI, IN, KY) will be investigating these relationships. Factors such as micronutrients supplementation, the use of nutritional interventions, diet formulations, milk replacer specific nutrients and liquid diet allowance are examples of what this group plans to study. The overall aim is to improve nutrition and immune responsiveness of dairy calves before, during and after weaning by investigating feed additive supplements and their interaction with nutritional management.

With changes in dairy farm management systems towards an individual-based and data- driven approach, there are more opportunities for farmers to make decisions using on-farm diagnosis in all areas. The use of precision livestock farming tools are becoming more prevalent and many stations in this groups are investigating the best use of these tools in the dairy replacement raising environment (KY, MN, WI, IN, CA). In the future, we will investigate the use of precision livestock farming tools to support management of nutrition, monitor behavior and detect and treat diseases at the individual level, utilizing farm, group and environmental data to increase the precision and accuracy of the developed models.

Finally, dairy calves routinely face challenging management practices, including isolation from conspecifics, painful procedures, and transportation. While these practices are not universally seen on every farm, they remain prevalent across many countries, and thus require further investigation. Our group will be investigating in depth this emerging research area, particularly in the field of surplus dairy calves and long-distance transportation (KY, WI, MN) as the fate of these surplus dairy calves is a key concern expressed by the public and industry stakeholders. Also, the housing of these animals is fundamental to their success, so our group will be performing multiple studies to assess the impact of individual, pair, group housing and cow-calf contact on calf welfare, cognition, performance, and health outcomes (KY, MN, WI). Using a multidisciplinary approach, we hope to create gold-standard recommendations for the housing and management of dairy calves for future operations in a broad range of scenarios. 

Pertaining to Objective 2. Improve dairy cow performance and welfare through enhanced forage production and utilization, nutrition, housing, and management. 

Lactating dairy cows represent the largest sector of animals in the dairy industry and are the heart of dairy production systems. Despite huge advancements in the last few decades, to meet the nutritional demands of the growing human population in the next 50 years we must continue to make substantial advancements in management and efficiency of milk production by dairy cows. As these issues with lactating cow management are often universal among different production systems and largely national, and potentially international, it is vital that we maintain a platform through this multi-state project to foster collaborative research, along with communication and interpretation of findings among project members from across the country.

Research conducted in CA, IN, IL, NH, NY, NC, SC, VA and WI will investigate the relationship between diet and nutrient utilization on milk composition. The potential for long-term carryover effects of feeding and management of the non-lactating, pregnant cow on performance of the calf and performance of the cow has led several studies to more holistically evaluate feeding strategies for these dry cows. The aims of these experiments are to improve animal performance in this lactation as well as potential long-term effects on the calf. Many studies will evaluate animal performance as well as incidences and biomarkers of metabolic syndromes. In order to make efficient use of nutrients, emphasis on feed efficiency and nutrient use efficiency in lactating dairy cattle will be of particular focus for several research studies. 

The US dairy and feed industries use diverse ingredients across geographic regions. A specific focus we foresee for the next 5 years is evaluating nutrients and feed additives that modify the rumen microbial community. Production of methane, a greenhouse gas linked to animal production systems, will be measured in response to changes in diet formulations or through the addition of feed additives that impact the rumen microbial population (NH, SC, WI). Studies in WI, SC, and VA will study the environmental effects of feeds under conventional dairy production systems while work in NH and MN will do complementary work under an organic dairy production system.  Work done in MS will also focus on grazing dairy farms to further cover the breadth of dairy farms across the United States.

Researchers in IL, IN, KY, MN, SC and WI will investigate milking, feeding and behavior monitoring systems as strategies to improve health and efficiency of production. Studies will be conducted to evaluate how to improve management of primiparous cows in conventional parlors as well as robotic milking systems. As primiparous dairy cows make up over ⅓ of the dairy cattle population are often not used for research studies, our NC-2042 is specifically interested in the different nutrient requirements and feeding behavior of primiparous dairy cattle. Additionally, new research to explore the housing of dairy cow-calf pairs has begun in MN and WI.

Prepartum nutritional strategies to prevent hypocalcemia in postpartum cows will continue to receive focus, and new infrared milk analysis technologies will be extended in order to determine whether milk Ca concentrations or other components of the milk spectra can be used to determine Ca status of the cow, with the eventual possibility of using this technology in real time to assess hypocalcemia and related disorders (led by NY).  

Pertaining to Objective 3: Integrate data and technology to enhance environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the dairy enterprise.

Collaborative work is being planned between WI, IN, FL, KY, NY, TX and possibly other stations on ideas and methods to integrate heterogenous data into decision support systems. As the amount of data being produced on dairy farms increases with increased sensor adoption and additional technology available, the integration of data becomes critical. Best practices will be communicated across stations and joint publications that will help the larger research community to work with commercial data will be developed. These systems will address decisions regarding nutrition, reproduction, health, and replacement. Methods include primarily a sharing of ideas and data such that joint publications can be written.

Multiple states plan to work on measuring and devising management strategies to improve the environmental sustainability of dairy enterprises through improvement of feed efficiency including nutritional strategies, cropping and manure systems, and herd demographics. We expect that the social sustainability of dairy production is improved through greater environmental sustainability and healthier and more productive dairy cattle


Measurement of Progress and Results


  • Peer-reviewed publications Comments: 2017-2018 - 76 Peer reviewed articles that were written by researchers across research stations. 2018-2019 - 73 Peer reviewed articles and 4 book chapters that were written by researchers at multiple research stations. 2019-2020 - 84 Peer reviewed articles that were written by researchers across research stations. 2020-2021 - 109 Peer reviewed articles including 10 that were collaborative works across research stations. 2021-2022 - 82 Peer reviewed articles including 4 that were collaborative works across research stations.
  • Extension workshops Comments: Over 25 Extension workshops have been developed and completed.
  • Decision support tools Comments: 4 decision support tools have been developed.
  • Over 100 popular press articles Comments: All methods of dissemination of information have been used to convey information to dairy producers and dairy stakeholders.

Outcomes or Projected Impacts

  • Objective 1: Dairy calves will be healthier and more efficient due to improved colostrum management, nutritional recommendations, and best practices for housing and management.
  • Objective 1: The welfare of dairy calves will improve through nutritional, supportive therapies, and management changes during stress events (i.e. transport, illness, weaning).
  • Objective 2: Dairy production will increase due to the focus on the whole life of the dairy cattle with specific focus on the non-lactating period.
  • Objective 2: Specific nutritional and management recommendations will be developed for primiparous cattle. Primiparous cattle represent a large portion of the dairy industry and may respond differently to nutrition and management conditions than multiparous cattle. This will improve the production of primiparous cattle due to more accurately depicting their requirements and anticipated response to nutrition and management treatments.
  • Objective 3: Increased measurements reported for dairy sustainability across dairy production systems and research stations to continually make improvements in this area by measuring and reporting that will ultimately lead to recommendations.
  • Objective 3: Dairy farmers will utilize their own data more completely through the adoption of data integrated decision support tools to improve the production, health, and sustainability of individual cows and their entire farm.
  • Overall: Sustainable production of dairy cattle. Expected outcomes include healthier and more productive dairy heifers and cows, and more environmentally, economical, and socially sustainable dairy enterprises. The dairy sector is a significant contributor to the U.S. economy. Overall, the dairy industry adds $620 billion in total economic impact and supports more than 3 million total jobs in the U.S. (IDFA, 2019). Work from this project will contribute to continuous improvement of dairy farm management and sustainability of the dairy sector.


(2023):Review and analyze overall outcomes and impacts of the dairy industry and complete the final report.

(2024):Design, conduct, analyze, and begin to publish specific research projects. Present study findings at the national meeting of the American Dairy Science Association to convey findings to a broader scientific community. Individual and collaborative research projects will be used in research training programs for both undergraduate and graduate students under the advice of members of this group.

(2025):Write and submit at least 1 multi-station grant pertaining to 1 objective under NC-2042.

(2026):Write and submit at least 1 multi-station grant pertaining to 1 objective under NC-2042.

(2027):Complete the re-write for the NC-2042 multi-state group if warranted.

Projected Participation

View Appendix E: Participation

Outreach Plan

Most of the NC-2042 members have an Extension appointment, which is a primary channel of information dissemination. Annual project meetings and additional small group virtual meetings are to be used to share developments and results and promote diffusion of innovations to those who need them the most. Additional means of outreach will be through national webinars and publications, popular press magazine articles, and factsheets and brochures that are targeted to dairy farmers and dairy consultants. Results will be presented at scientific meetings and published in scientific journals. Spreadsheets, software programs and decision support models will be made available as apps for smartphones, tablets and online. Some additional specific means of dissemination are outlined below:

  • Validate and refine existing models of nutrient requirements of calves and heifers and present study results at scientific meetings and published in scientific journals, extension fact sheets, popular press, and webinars. 

  • Present at regional meetings that include 4-State Dairy Nutrition and Management Conference, Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference, Cornell Nutrition Conference, and Minnesota Nutrition Conference to facilitate information transfer and obtain input for future research directions.

  • Work with the NC-2042 group to attract outstanding graduate students to research programs.

  • Participate in applied workshops within states and organize regional and national workshops.

  • Distribute spreadsheets, software programs and decision support models based on outcomes for risk assessment and potential management actions.


NC2042 members elect a committee secretary who serves for one year, then moves into the chair role for the following year. Administrative guidance will be provided by an assigned Administrative Advisor and a NIFA Representative.

Literature Cited

Cabrera, V. E. 2022. Economics of using beef semen on dairy herds. Journal of Dairy Science Communications 3:147-151.

Cantor, M. C. and J. H. C. Costa. 2022. Daily behavioral measures recorded by precision technology devices may indicate bovine respiratory disease status in preweaned dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. 105:6070-6082.

Cardoso, F.C., K.F. Kalscheur, and J.K. Drackley (2020). Review: Nutrition strategies for improved health, production, and fertility during the transition period. J. Dairy Sci. 103:5685-5693. 

Costa, J.H.C., Cantor, M.C., and H.W. Neave. 2021. Symposium review: Precision technologies for dairy calves and management applications. J. Dairy Sci.

De Vries, A., N. Bliznyuk, P. Sharma, Y. Han, and P. Pinedo. 2022. Insemination values to support mating decisions under dairy heifer calf herd size constraints. Proceedings World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production. 57_012.

Echeverry-Munera, J., L. N. Leal, J. N. Wilms, H. Berends, J. H. C. Costa, M. Steele, and J. Martin-Tereso. 2021. Effect of partial exchange of lactose with fat in milk replacer on ad libitum feed intake and performance in dairy calves. J. Dairy Sci. 104:5432-5444.

Erickson, P.S., J.L. Anderson, K.F. Kalscheur, G.J. Lascano, M. Akins, and A.J. Heinrichs . 2020. Review: Strategies to improve efficiency and profitability of heifer raising. J. Dairy Sci. 103:5700-5708.

Erickson, P.S., and K. F. Kalscheur. 2020. Nutrition and feeding of dairy cattle. Animal Agriculture. 157-180.

Ferreira, G., C. Teets, J. Huffard, and M. J Aguerre. 2020. Effects of planting population, genotype, and nitrogen fertilization on nutrient composition, ruminal in vitro neutral detergent fiber disappearance, and nutrient output of corn for silage. Anim. Feed Sci. and Tech. 268: 114615.

Ferreira, G., L. L. Martin, C. L. Teets, B. A. Corl, S. L. Hines, G. E. Shewmaker, M. E. de Haro-Marti, and M. Chahine. 2021. Effect of drought stress on ruminal neutral detergent fiber digestibility of corn for silage. Anim. Feed Sci. and Tech. 273:114803. 

Hawkins, A., K. Burdine, D. Amaral-Phillips, and J. H. C. Costa. 2019. An economic analysis of the costs associated with pre-weaning management strategies for dairy heifers. Animals. 9-471.

Hawkins, A., K. H. Burdine, D. M. Amaral-Phillips and J. H. C. Costa. 2020. Effects of housing system on dairy heifer replacement cost from birth to calving: evaluating costs of confinement, dry-lot, and pasture-based systems and their impact on total rearing investment. Front. Vet. Sci. 7:625.

Heinrichs, A. J., C. M. Jones, P. S. Erickson, H. Chester-Jones, and J. L. Anderson. 2020. Symposium review: Colostrum management and calf nutrition for profitable and sustainable dairy farms. J. Dairy Sci. 103:5694-5699. 

Hurst, T. S., N. Lopez-Villalobos, and J. P. Boerman. 2021. Predictive equations for early-life indicators of future body weight in Holstein dairy heifers. J. Dairy Sci. 104:736-749.

Jorgensen, M. W., A. Adams-Progar, A. M. de Passille, J. Rushen, S. M. Godden, H. Chester-Jones, and M. I. Endres. 2017. Factors associated with dairy calf health in automated feeding systems in the Upper Midwest United States. J. Dairy Sci. 100:5675-5686.

Klopp, R. N., F. X. Suarez-Mena, T. S. Dennis, T. M. Hill, R. L. Schlotterbeck, and G. L. Lascano. 2020. Postweaning response on growth and nutrient digestion to using different weaning strategies when feeding moderate and high amounts of milk replacer to Holstein calves. J. Dairy Sci. 103:8143-8150.

Klopp, R. N., C. R. Ferrrira, T.M. Casey, and J. P. Boerman. 2022. Relationship of cow and calf circulating lipidomes with colostrum lipid composition and metabolic status of the cow. J. Dairy Sci. 105:1768-1787.

Li, W., and V. E. Cabrera. 2019. Economics of using beef semen. J. Dairy Sci. 102 (Suppl 1). 112.

Mazon, Gustavo, P. D. Montgomery, M. Hayes, J. Jackson, and J. H. C., Costa. In press. Development and validation of an autonomous radio-frequency identification controlled soaking system for dairy cattle. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Rauba, J., B. J. Heins, H. Chester-Jones, H. L. Diaz, D. Ziegler, J. Linn, and N. Broadwater. 2019. Relationships between protein and energy consumed from milk replacer and starter and calf growth and first-lactation production of Holstein dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 102:301-310.

Sharpe, K. T., and B. J. Heins. 2021. Growth, health, and economics of dairy calves fed organic milk replacer or organic whole milk in an automated feeding system. J. Dairy Sci. Comm. 2:319-323.

Wangen, S. R., F. Zhang, L. Fadul-Pacheco, T. E. da Silva, and V. E. Cabrera. 2021. Improving farm decisions: The application of data engineering techniques to manage data streams from contemporary dairy operations. Livestock Sci. 250:104602.

Wilkens, M.R., C.D. Nelson, L.L. Hernandez, and J.A.A. McArt. 2020. Symposium review: Transition cow calcium homeostasis - health effects of hypocalcemia and strategies for prevention. J. Dairy Sci. 103:2909-2927.


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USDA-ARS-Dairy Forage Research Center, Madison, WI, USDA-ARS/Wisconsin
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