Online Course: On the Ground. A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils

Organic Agriculture February 26, 2016 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension

About the Course

On the Ground: A Closer Look at Organic Dairy Pasture, Forages, and Soils is a self-directed online course designed for Extension educators and other agriculture service providers, as well as farmers and students who want to better understand certified organic dairy farming. It is a follow up on eOrganic's An Introduction to Organic Dairy Production which is a pre-requisite for taking this course.
The modules, described below, will help participants better understand the connections between the health of an organic dairy farm’s soils, the health and nutrition of pastures and stored forages, and ultimately, the health of livestock. Each module combines readings, narrated presentations, and recommended resources; all materials have undergone peer review and certification checks to ensure high quality, accurate certified organic information.
eOrganic is currently recruiting service providers and farmers to beta test the course; please contact Debra Heleba at the email listed below. 

Course Modules

Module 1: Introduction--More to Chew On
Module 1 provides an interview of the course and key reminders from An Introduction to Organic Dairy.
Module 2: Building Better Soils
Healthy soils are key to healthy pastures, crops, and, ultimately, healthy animals and their products. This module will expand on soil information addressed in the Intro course by expanding upon nutrient cycles, soil testing and interpretation, ways to utilize on-farm nutrients, and the basics of nutrient management planning.
Module 3: Fine-Tuning Pastures
Treating perennial pastures as crops by ensuring that pastures have good fertility will produce higher quality forages, and result in better animal performance. This module takes us beyond fertility to look at improving pastures through management. We cover why an understanding of the relationships of plant species within pastures as well as the relationship between plant and livestock is important to optimize forage quality and livestock intake.
Module 4: Growing and Storing Forages
This module In addition to providing your animals with fresh, high quality perennial forages through pastures during the grazing season, for fresh feeding, supplementing their diets and/or extending the grazing season through stored feeds and annual forages is covered in this module.
Module 5: Inputs: What is and is Not Allowed
This module provides an overview of how the National Organic Program (NOP) standards and the National list of allowed and prohibited materials tells us what we can, and cannot use on our farms. We’ll look at specific examples of products, labels and lists as we discuss fertilizers, seeds, seed inoculants, silage additives, and pesticides.


The course is a collaborative project of:
  • Organic Dairy Program at the California State University, Chico
  • Northwest Crops and Soils Program at the University of Vermont Extension
  • eOrganic, eXtension’s Organic Production Community of Practice
With Funding Provided By:
USDA National Food and Agriculture Institute's Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative #2010-51300-21361.
Authors and Contributors:
  • Heather Darby, University of Vermont Extension
  • Sarah Flack, Sarah Flack Consulting
  • Debra Heleba, University of Vermont Extension
  • Richard Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Further Information

For more information, please contact eOrganic Dairy Team Coordinator Debra Heleba at


This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.