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dairyfarmsandthe environment

Dairy Farms & the Environment

An important part of life on the dairy farm is caring for the environment. Farmers take many steps to protect the land, water, and air around them. They have detailed plans called nutrient management plans  and permits that they closely follow in order to comply with state and federal rules and regulations. Many farmers go above and beyond the regulations to pass on the best possible farm to their children. 

Clean Air - Clean air is important for the well-being of the cows, as well as the dairy farmer’s families. Producers protect air quality by keeping barns clean and using special manure storage facilities that help control odors. Research has inspired new practices and innovative technologies to improve manure and odor management. Specially formed diets that reduce odor, air filtrations systems in the barns and proper manure storage, all can help keep the air on the farm clean and fresh. 

Water Conservation – Dairy farmers use water responsibly and carefully. Many conservation technologies are in place to conserve water. For example, water used to clean the milking parlor is reused to clean barn alleys or walkways and then to irrigate fields. Modern dairy farms use a heat exchanger to partially cool the milk. As cold well water flows past the milk in a separate tube, some of the heat transfers from the milk to the water. This water is collected and used again as drinking water for cows. This approach reduces energy use and saves on water pumped from the ground by using it more efficiently. Using manure to meet crop nutrient requirements can also improve soil’s productivity and water-holding capacity. Application of manure to crop land increases the water-holding capacity of soil by 20 percent so less groundwater is needed to grow crops. In addition to dairy farmers’ personal commitment, farms must abide by all state and federal water regulations and rules. 

Recycling has lasting effects – Did you know, farmers are the original environmentalists. They have been recycling water and manure for generations. Water can be recycled many times a day to be used to clean out barn alleys and irrigate their crops. Manure is a natural part of dairy farms. It is used as an organic fertilizer for cropland and for compost, which is used by local nurseries and by neighbors for their gardens. The water used on dairies is recycled several times a day to wash barn alleys and irrigate the fields. And, applying recycled manure to the crops helps increase the water-holding capacity of the soil, which reduces the need for irrigation in the first place. 

Being Good Neighbors – Dairy families are a part of their communities, actively volunteering in service clubs, churches, schools and youth programs. Many producers are the second or third generation to operate their dairies and feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve their farms and communities for the future. 

Technology - Dairy farmers use state of the art technology to care for the environment. These devices help protect from runoff, reduce air emissions, and can make the farm a “green” operation. Waste is stored in lined lagoons until it is time to use those nutrients. These lagoons can be treated to reduce odor.  The solid waste can be separated from liquid waste with a mechanical separator. The manure can be used for fertilizer and the water can be recycled for irrigation. An exciting new development is the methane digester. This machine collects methane from the waste and converts it into energy. This renewable fuel can generate enough electricity for the farm and supplement the community around the farm. 

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