Organic Valley
Image credit: Leon Ephraïm / Unsplash

BRIEF: Organic Valley pilots satellite-backed grazing management to improve pasture management

February 2, 2021

  • Farmer-owned US dairy cooperative Organic Valley is piloting a new satellite photography tool to provide real-time feedback about pasture health and nutrition on its farms.
  • If successful, the tool will be scaled to all Organic Valley operations during 2022. The co-op says its farmers have over 189,000 acres of pasture under management.
  • Organic Valley — which describes itself as a champion of regenerative agriculture — markets its cows as spending more time outside grazing than 95% of dairy animals in the US, making pasture health a priority.

Why it matters:

When it comes to regenerative agriculture and livestock production, managing grass use more intensively is a central concept. The practice of rotational grazing is aimed at better mimicking natural systems. But knowing when to move to a new paddock, what size it should be, how much forage to leave behind, and when a rested area is ready to graze again is a detailed science.

Organic Valley’s new satellite-powered endeavor is an effort to take some of the guesswork out of rotational grazing. The thinking is: the more automated the process becomes, the more likely a grazier will stick to the program.

Other initiatives using technology to make these methods more accessible for farmers include San Francisco-based Pasture Map, which helps cattle producers create, evaluate, and record grazing management plans. Australia’s MaiaGrazing is another software-based tool that focuses on maintaining the right stocking rate and getting recommendations to farmers in real-time. The University of Montana‘s Rangeland Analysis Platform uses satellite data to help ranchers monitor vegetation and bare ground cover over time.

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