Krusenbaum Farm Project Update

This case study documents the start-up of a successful alternative dairy farm in Wisconsin. Initially the vision was to establish a 97-hectare biodynamic farm with dairy and cash cropping. Low milk prices throughout most of 1991 and the heavy workload associated with conventional dairying forced the farm family to look for alternative strategies. They experimented with management-intensive grazing in 1992 and by the spring of 1994 had completed seeding their entire farm to sod. (Start-up and early phases)

The workload still remained too heavy and the family switched to seasonal dairying and out-wintering of their dry stock, reducing the mid-winter workload from 12 to 3.5 hours/day. By the end of 1995 net farm income from operations had risen from $21,500/year (1990 and 1991) to $54,000/year (1994 and 1995). (Intensive grazing phase)

This story is important because the farm family, with their alternative approach (biodynamic, grass-based, seasonal milking) were able to weather the stresses of entering dairy farming at a time when entry rates were very low and the existing dairy farmers faced substantial financial pressure. On-farm monitoring during this six-year study has shown that the grass-based system resulted in low purchased feed inputs ($300/cow) and near equilibrium in whole-farm nutrient budgeting, while good herd management ahs resulted in maintaining high productivity (RHA=17,000 lbs.) and excellent herd health. In addition, renting the farm and careful money management has resulted in a low debt load ($73/cow). This case study illustrates the complexities and adjustments associated with the initiation of an alternative farm business.

Author: Joshua Posner