Dairy farmers have been "doing their part" for many years. Here at Orange Patch Dairy, we have been enjoying some great technologies since we built our new barn to make our dairy more efficient and environmentally friendly. The following are some of those things:
- Plate Cooler: We have a great piece of equipment called a plate cooler. It's job is to pre-cool milk before it reaches the bulk tank to reduce the amount of electricity needed to cool milk from 100 degrees to 40 degrees. The plate cooler works much like a radiator. Cold water runs through the plate cooler, as the milk flows through the "fins" the water cools the milk to about 60-70 degrees. The water is warmed as it flows through the plate cooler and is returned to the cow barn...where the cows enjoy warm water to drink. Interestingly, cow prefer warm water to drink, even in the hot summer months. Cold water will "shock" the bacteria in the rumen of a cow.
- Variable Speed Milk Pump: The pump we use to milk cows has a variable speed drive. This means that as we milk cows and put a load on the pump, it adjusts. As the load lightens, the pump works to save electricity. Our utility bills are much lower as a result!
- Collecting of Wash Water to Reuse: Water we use to wash the milking system out every day twice a day, is collected in the parlor. This water is then used to wash down the floors and walls of the parlor-thereby we use the water twice before it goes down the drain!
- Manure Management Plan: We have been working on and using a manure management plan for years. When we built our new barn 4 years ago we were required by the state to have a Manure Management Plan in place. This plan, in writing, declares the acres that we will use for manure application, based on the amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous that will be applies. We use this plan under the advisement of an agronomist, who is always working to help us do what's best for our land.
- Buffer Strips: When we built our barn we also had to update our manure management in our heifer yards. As a result we constructed and planted grass buffer/filter strips that help to capture rain run off from our heifer yards and filter the water BEFORE if reaches the ground water. This method of filtering allows the grass to get nutrients naturally while protecting our ground water for the farm.
- Grazing: We graze our heifers in the summertime. This helps to reduce feed costs while reducing the weeds in the pastures. We also are able to use land that would not have been able to produce row crops like corn, soybeans, or alfalfa.
- Alfalfa: Alfalfa makes a great cover crop, while putting nitrogen back into the ground. Alfalfa also helps to maintain top soils since fields planting in alfalfa will not be tilled for 3 or more years.
- Wildlife Habitats: We have lots of spaces where we host wildlife. Places in the landscape where we can't grow crops but can support wildlife like squirrels, deer, and pheasants.
- Crop Production: By using our soils to produce the most amount of food for our cows per acre helps the environment....thereby reducing the amount of acres we need to feed our cows. Technology such as new seed hybrids, correct use of fertilizers, and weed control all contribute to better production per acre.
Some new technologies that we are looking forward to in the future include the following:
- Plastic Recycling: Right now we have no good way to dispose of the plastic bags that we use to store our feed. We look forward to the addition of an Agricultural Plastic Program in our county, much like ones in other neighboring counties. What a great way to help out the environment!
- Methane Digesters: We have been excited about this technology for years! We love the idea of turning cow manure into a bio gas which can be used to generate electricity for our farm and many more homes in our neighborhood. Digesters help to reduce the odor of manure as well as producing a very good fertilizer which can be used in the fields. What a great renewable energy source!!!! We visited a farm in Minnesota which has been in inspiration for us. Haubenschild Dairy Farm Digester
So as you can see, dairy farms have been working on celebrating Earth Day EVERYDAY of the Year!