Fresh Food

Organic Valley Looks to Satellites to Aid Pasture Management

Satellite photography gives near-real-time picture of pasture health
Wisconsin Organic Valley farm
Photograph courtesy of Organic Valley

La Farge, Wis.-based Organic Valley announced a pilot project that will use satellite technology to help monitor the health of the cooperative's more than 189,000 acres of pastureland. 

Organic Valley farmers practice intensive rotational grazing, rotating the pastures on which their cows graze based on the quality of forage available. Switching among different perennial pasture sections, called paddocks, is a vital component of regenerative farming, which seeks to support soil health management, water conservation and more-efficient resource use. 

Manually evaluating the quality of forage in paddocks is a time- and labor-intensive process for farmers, Organic Valley Senior Director of Farm Resources Wade Miller said in a news release. Monitoring pastures in near-real time through satellite photography is expected to greatly ease this burden, he said. "Based on university trials," Miller noted, "we expect our farmers will be able to capture at least a 20% increase in pasture utilization through the use of this technology."

The pilot program will launch for select Organic Valley farms this year, with full rollout for the cooperative's farms nationwide expected in 2022. 

Organic Valley, founded in 1988, represents farmers in 34 states. The company touts its founding mission of "saving family farms through organic farming" and says its dairy cows spend more time grazing than 95% of dairy cows in the U.S.

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