Entered Discovery Farms Program



South-Central Wisconsin, Columbia County


Bob and Karen Breneman


Milk; grass-based, management intensive grazing dairy

Research Opportunities

This farm was chosen to represent medium-sized, grass-based dairies in Wisconsin that out-winter dairy cattle.

The Breneman farm consists of 200 acres of open pastureland, divided into 42 paddocks, which are planted and managed to achieve a 75 percent grass and 25 percent legume mix. Paddocks are intensively managed with break fences utilizing a management intensive grazing (MIG) forage system.

The landscape on the farm is gently sloping glaciated uplands comprised of sandy soils formed in glacial till. Paddocks range from 1-9 percent slopes on soils that have low moisture holding capacity and are subject to seasonal drought. Increasing soil fertility is important in this soil type and landscape. These soils require careful management to minimize wind erosion as well as nitrogen leaching.

Forage management and animal movement into paddocks varies based on seasonal plant growth. Depending on paddock size, their 80 crossbred dairy cows graze for 12-36 hours per paddock. After the cows move on to a fresh paddock, heifers move into the paddock vacated by the cows for another 12-36 hours of "clean up" grazing. Grazed paddocks receive approximately a 30-day rest. This management intensive grazing (MIG) system results in a stocking density of 1.6 acres per mixed animal unit.

The dairy herd and replacements spend the majority of their time grazing within the paddock system, depositing manure as they graze. Older replacements and mature cows are out-wintered on selected paddocks.

Monitoring in Place

One edge-of-field surface water monitoring station was placed at the lower end of a set of paddocks used to graze and out-winter dairy cattle. On-farm water quality monitoring was conducted to measure sediment and nutrient loads in runoff water from paddocks that are used for regular rotational grazing and are then used again to out-winter the dairy herd. The monitored watershed is 28 acres in size.