OSU research supports Oregon’s $1 billion dairy industry

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OSU research helps keep dairy cows healthy while optimizing income and the quality of the milk.
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Organic and conventional production is subject of current research

Milk is Oregon’s official state beverage and its fourth-largest agricultural commodity, with dairy farmers grossing $524 million in sales in 2011. The state's dairy industry contributes more than $1 billion to Oregon's economy each year thanks to its approximately 350 dairy farms and 120,000 dairy cows.

OSU researchers visited 50 of those farms to examine the impact that organic and conventional management practices have on the health of their cows. They collected milk samples, counted bacteria, and screened for common infectious diseases including mastitis, a costly infection of the mammary gland.

They aim to find correlations between management practices, incidences of diseases and the amount of milk produced. They'll then use the data to develop recommendations for keeping dairy cows healthy while optimizing income and the quality of the milk.

To help dairy farmers maximize their milk production, OSU is also studying the factors that influence dairy cows' comfort level, which is measured by how much time they lie down. When a cow lies down, the blood flow to her udder increases, which produces more milk. More time on the ground equals more milk. For each additional hour of rest, there's a gain of 3.7 pounds of milk. Those extra pounds mean extra cash for dairies.

Sources: William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute; OSU Extension Service; Dairy Farmers of Oregon.

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