Dairy Innovation Grant recipients, McGarry Dairy

Dairy Innovation Grant Leads to Economic and Ecological Benefits 

By Katie Spring, Northeast Dairy Business Innovation Center 

McGarry Dairy Farm is well known for their production, milk quality, and herd management.   

For nearly 20 years, Ed and Diane McGarry have milked around 110 Holsteins. In 2018 their son, Brian, joined them as a partner in the business, and in 2021 they were named Vermont Dairy Farm of the Year.  Now, just five years into becoming a partner, Brian McGarry is showing how investment in innovation and technical assistance can support the transition from one generation to the next.   

Last year, McGarry Dairy received a $44,716 Dairy Farm Innovation and Alternative Management Grant, a program that supported farms in improving both ecological and economic outcomes through whole farm system approaches. 

The funding allowed McGarry to purchase and install four AMS Galaxy cow brushes, 140 Allflex cattle monitoring collars, and a Consumer Dynamics Scio Cup feed testing device.  Together, these improved animal health and feed quality while decreasing wasted feed and purchased feed costs. 

“Economics and cow health go together,” Brian said.  “The cow brushes are hard to put a number on, but the collars and Scio Cup have been helpful with cow health.  The Scio Cup allows us to get the dry matter really dialed in and make sure we don’t have extra feed waste.  It’s helped us be able to understand what’s going on really quick, and to go over that with our nutritionist.” 

Brian noted the rising costs of fuel and putting up feed.  Precise insight into their dry matter levels led to a decrease in feed waste, and as a result improved their bottom line.  While the Scio Cup helps reduce waste, the cattle monitoring collars have led to boosted production. 

“The collars have helped us be able to get to sick cows sooner and make treatment decisions quicker,” said Brian. “This helps us retain more of our animals and getting them to older years gets more total production per cow. With the collars we’re also able to catch more heats. This is dropping our days open and helping get us cows into peak production more often. This all helps cows retain higher intakes and produce milk more efficiently. When intakes stay high it makes it easier for us to cut down on grain and feed higher forage diets.” 

NE-DBIC Dairy Farmer Cohort  

Before applying for the Dairy Innovation and Alternative Management Grant, McGarry Dairy participated in a NE-DBIC funded cohort through the University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops and Soils Program and led by Dr. Heather Darby. Farmers in the cohort received direct technical assistance by a team of providers, including Jeff Sanders, an agronomy specialist at UVM. 

The McGarry’s built on previous work they’d done with Darby and Sanders, which included implementing no-till and working to reduce their fertilizer rates.  Through the cohort, they added new varieties, updated their crop rotations, and identified forage quality and animal health as areas to focus on for the grant.  This collaboration with technical assistance providers helped the McGarrys develop a competitive grant application that led to funding. 

Continued Improvement and Collaboration Leads to Innovation

The McGarry’s multi-year focus on improving forage, building resilient cropping systems, and utilizing no-till planting paid off in 2023, when they were one of the few farms able to run trucks in the fields during one of the wettest summers on record.  Looking ahead, the McGarry’s plan to continue working with Dr. Heather Darby and Jeff Sanders to further improve their systems and produce higher quality feed.   

Overall, the Dairy Innovation and Alternative Management Grant led to key economic and environmental benefits for McGarry Dairy. Limiting feed waste led to reduced grain hauling, which in turn decreased local traffic and lowers the farm’s carbon footprint. The ability to quickly identify health issues, optimize feed, and enhance cow comfort has resulted in healthier, more productive cows. These improvements show how integrating technology alongside technical assistance can lead to more sustainable and resilient businesses. 

Farmers looking to make similar investments can explore NE-DBIC programs, including the Dairy Farm Improvement & Modernization Grant, which is expected to open again in January 2025.  To see a full list of dairy innovation grants, visit our funding calendar

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