Alliance Grazing Group
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About Alliance Grazing Group:
The Alliance Grazing Group produces the highest quality dairy products with happy and productive employees and contented cows while enhancing all aspects of the environment and embracing sustainability. Alliance has two grass-based dairies with a third under construction. Owners Ron St. John and Sandy McArthur expanded into grazing dairies in 2006.
Workers at our first grazing dairy, Piedmont, started milking cows in 2006. This dairy is located in Trenton, Florida. There are 1,735 cows there. Our younger animals are raised on another farm. The second grazing dairy, Southpoint, is located about 20 miles away from Trenton in Chiefland, Florida. Our staff there began milking cows in 2008. Southpoint Dairy has about 1,700 cows. Construction started in January 2011 on a third grazing dairy also located near Trenton. There will be 1,500 cows on the new dairy. Milking is scheduled to start Fall 2011.
The Grazing Concept
On our grass-based dairies, the pastures are divided into 8 to 10 acre paddocks and cows are moved as the grass is eaten. Each time the cows are milked, they are moved to a new area of fresh grass. Pasture-based farming allows the cows to go to the food instead of having the food delivered to them. This system does not require as much fossil fuel to transport animal feed.
North Florida’s warm climate is perfect to grow large quantities of cool- and warm-season grasses. (Some grasses grow better in the summer heat and some grow better in the cooler months. We plant a variety of grasses so the cows have plenty of grass available all year round.) When the cows are tired of eating, they can lie down anywhere they choose in the big, grassy field. An irrigation pivot emits water over the pasture to cool cows during the summer months. Cows have access to drinking water all day long.
All dairies must comply with the state and federal environmental rules and regulations. On a grazing dairy, the cows disperse 85 percent of their own manure as they move over the pasture. Manure is deposited on the cropland throughout the year exactly when and where it is needed without the use of machines. The layout of the dairy is very important because the maximum distance the cows should walk to the parlor is ¼ to ½ mile. Remember: they have to walk to the parlor and back twice each day. They walk at a leisurely pace and then are cooled by sprinklers while waiting to be milked. Proper layout means that the cows never have to walk very far to get to fresh, new grass.
The only barns on the grass-based dairies are the milking parlor and one feed barn. The feed barn is only used when there is not enough grass to meet the cows’ nutritional requirements.
Since the cows in a grass-based system are in their natural environment, fewer people are needed to care for them. The only machinery running is a tractor and mower. Grass needs to be grazed or harvested every 21 – 28 days for maximum nutritional value. Excess grass is clipped, dried and stored for future feeding when it is needed.
Cows are milked twice a day. Each cow can produce about 6 to 7 gallons of milk each day – that means around 2,000 gallons each year or 32,000 eight-ounce glasses of milk per year. To produce the best milk, dairy cows must be kept at the peak of health. The cows are observed daily for signs of potential sickness or lameness. They are regularly seen by a veterinarian and are vaccinated to prevent common diseases.
Most of our cows are members of the Jersey breed. These cows are more efficient foragers and handle heat better than Holsteins (the black and white cows). Jersey cows produce milk with higher milk solids which yields a thicker texture and has a different mouth feel to the milk. Studies show the Jersey breed is a more efficient breed using less water, land and producing less greenhouse gases as compared to the Holstein breed. This translates into a smaller carbon “hoof” print.