Recycle Recycle Recycle! Dairy farms Recycle almost everything. Right now we're recycling cow manure. You see, dairy farms must contain all manure and liquid waste from the cows during the time they are not out on pasture. For example, when the cows are in their barns, milking parlor or in their corrals, their waste must be contained.
Where does it go?
It's scraped from the barns or hosed and drained into progressive ponds on our ranch specifically made for the purpose of containment. We have four ponds. Each one becomes progressively 'cleaner' than the last.
What do we do with it?
The largest of the ponds, which we call the 'manure pit' is where most of the solids and liquid go. This pit holds manure and waste water all winter long while the cows are in their freestall barns. The solids settle to the bottom and bacteria and microorganisms break down the manure resulting in a nutrient-rich wastewater. When summer comes and we are no longer in our rainy season, the liquid from the pit gets pumped into a truck and spread out on the ranch to fertilize the grass with nutrients.
After all the liquid is spread, the remaining solid matter is then removed by tractor and spread as well. This is all finished by sometime in September on our ranch. The Regional Water Quality Control Board mandates that this is completed by October 15th. After we receive our first rain (usually in October for us) the grass will turn a bright, rich green, full of nutrients that the cows will eventually graze upon when the time comes. Full circle.
The mixture is spread in a thin layer over a large field by truck so that the nutrients can be absorbed as fertilizer by a variety of nitrogen absorbing grasses.
The dried manure within the corrals is scraped and scooped up by tractor and is added to our fertilizer pile. Throughout the year we have many repeat customers including landscape companies that come out and buy the fertilizer by the truck load for their gardens or landscape projects.
The three remaining, cleaner ponds also get drained every year, but this water is sprayed over a large area by a center-pivot irrigation system (big sprinkler). Our big sprinkler helps to irrigate one of the fields that will be planted with oat hay.
Our ponds do double duty and are great for wildlife habitat.......
We're all caretakers of the land.
That’s why we, as dairy farmers (and I feel I can speak for many of us on this) want to use the nutrients produced on the farm in the most effective way. Many farmers are the second or third (fourth in Dominic's case) generation to operate their dairies and feel a strong sense of responsibility to preserve their farms and communities for future generations.
More and more, large size dairies are converting the methane from cow patties into electricity, by use of a digester system. Typically these dairies are larger in size than our 210 milking cow dairy.
Happy Friday! Cheers!