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Dairy sustainability winners

July 22, 2013  by Manure Manager

Winners of the 2013 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards [from left to right]: Dan Rice, Prairieland Dairy; Steve Ballard, Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese; Renee Jacobs, Green Valley Dairy; Kam Fierstine, Unilever; Mark Petersen, Petersen Dairy Farm; Dan DeGroot, Skyridge Farms. Contributed

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recently announced the winners of the second annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The program recognizes dairy farms and businesses of all sizes for impementing practices that advance the industry’s commitment to healthy products, healthy communities and a healthy planet.

“The strength of the award winners’ stories illustrates why consumers can be confident about choosing their favorite dairy foods and beverages,” said Barbara O’Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, which was founded by dairy producers. “These and thousands of other actions being taken every day – both large and small – contribute to the industry’s overall commitment to a healthy future for the next generation.”

The winners were selected based on results that delivered triple-bottom-line solutions to advance economic, environmental and social sustainability. An independent panel of judges – which included experts from academic institutions, government, dairy science organizations, nongovernmental organizations and media as well as environmental and dairy industry leaders – also assessed each initiative’s potential for adoption by others as well as its demonstrated ability to promote learning, innovation and improvement.  


“This year’s winners include dairy farms and businesses from across the country who took steps to reduce their environmental impact, improve their profitability and increase their contribution to a sustainable 21st-century food system,” said Molly Jahn, a professor of genetics and agronomy at University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of the awards’ judges panel.

The 2013 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award Winners include:

Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability
Petersen Dairy Farm, Appleton, Wis. – When the city of Appleton, Wis., decided to build a high school less than half of a mile from Petersen Dairy Farm, the Petersen family began exploring composting as a way to manage the dairy’s manure and associated odors. Now compost is sold at the dairy by the five-gallon pail or truckload, primarily to home gardeners. Visitors witness firsthand how their old newspapers are recycled as bedding for the cows, or mixed with manure, composted and ultimately returned to their gardens for use as mulch and to their yards for plant food. By turning their urban location into an asset, the Petersens have proven that cows can be good neighbors.  

Prairieland Dairy, Firth, Neb. – A creative partnership among four families put this dairy on the path to long-term prosperity and allows employees at Firth, Neb.-based Prairieland Dairy to focus on their specific talents. Sustainable design is reflected in every aspect of the facilities, which were built to be efficient and low-impact while maximizing cow comfort. Automatic cooling, waste management and pest control systems are just part of the solution. Prairieland Dairy also taps into the natural power of wind and gravity, and the geothermal properties of well water, to reduce the use of energy, water and equipment, for savings estimated at more than $200,000.

Skyridge Farms, Sunnyside, Wash. – Dan DeGroot, owner of Skyridge Farms, a dairy in Sunnyside, Wash., cultivated an organization that optimizes performance and preserves the environment. Since 2003, DeGroot has improved lighting, added occupancy sensors and installed a programmable logic control system. The management team can automatically control lighting, fans, and soaker and flush systems. By doing so, they maintain optimum performance, reduce costs and keep the herd comfortable. This upgrade alone yields a 20 percent energy savings annually across the five freestall barns. With composting, Skyridge Farms harvests manure nutrients, provides quality bedding for the herd and eliminates 600 truckloads annually previously used to transport manure.  

Honorable mention
McCarty Family Farms, Rexford, Kan. – The McCarty Family, owners of McCarty Family Farms, have revitalized their rural northwestern Kansas community by providing more than 100 direct jobs, creating a need for additional housing and in turn increasing school enrolment. McCarty Family Farms’ unique “cow to cup” partnership with Dannon and the addition of an on-site processing plant has improved economic stability while aggressively reducing its environmental impact. The plant has yielded significant progress toward the dairy’s water reduction goal. Approximately 59,400 gallons of raw milk from the three dairies is processed through an evaporator every day to remove excess water before being separated into cream and skim milk. Every drop of the water removed during the evaporation process – 39,000 gallons per day – is reused throughout the dairies.  

Outstanding Achievement in Energy Efficiency
Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese, Gooding, Idaho – Energy efficiency is sometimes overlooked, but at Ballard Family Dairy & Cheese in Gooding, Idaho, the Ballards see it as a way to reduce their overhead costs and eliminate propane use. An energy audit and a team of energy management experts helped identify four primary areas of savings, which included using solar thermal power for the hot water system, installing LED lighting, replacing vacuum pumps and adjusting the milk cooling process. The Ballards achieved their goals, saving $23,000 annually and reducing the dairy’s carbon footprint by 121,500 pounds per year, while decreasing its water footprint by 365,000 gallons annually.

Outstanding Achievement in Renewable Energy
Green Valley Dairy, Krakow, Wis. – At Green Valley Dairy in Krakow, Wis., the management team’s “waste not” philosophy has them constantly evaluating opportunities to reclaim energy, recycle water and repurpose manure nutrients. In 2005, Green Valley Dairy set out to build on this belief. The management team determined that anaerobic digesters would help manage manure nutrients and reduce odors while decreasing the dairy’s carbon footprint. Although it was one of the first digesters in Wisconsin, the benefits of this plan quickly gained public support. Today, three anaerobic digesters have the capacity to produce 1,200 kilowatt-hours of “green” electricity, most of which is used on the dairy or sold to the local utility.

Honorable mention
Fulper Family Farmstead, Lambertville, N.J. – Fulper Family Farmstead in Lambertville, N.J., has focused on environmentally friendly activities, including soil conservation, crop rotation and farmland preservation, since the dairy’s origin in 1909. As operating costs continued to rise, the Fulpers found that a solar energy system would increase energy efficiency, sustainability and revenue, while decreasing the farm’s carbon footprint and utility costs. Installed in 2011, the freestanding, ground-mounted system creates 500 kilowatt-hours daily – enough to cover all of the operation’s electricity needs and power approximately 100 homes. Today, the farmstead sells $30,000 in renewable energy credits annually.

Outstanding Dairy Processing and Manufacturing Sustainability
Employees at the Henderson, Nev.-based ice cream plant worked side by side with environmental experts to analyze energy efficiency and water usage. The team identified an opportunity to reconfigure, automate and optimize systems to reduce electricity use by 13 percent, natural gas use by 16 percent and water consumption by more than 1.1 million gallons per year.

“This awards program is a great example of how system-wide collaborative efforts can help dairy contribute to a bright future,” said Paul Rovey, an Arizona dairy producer, member of the judges panel and chair of Dairy Management Inc. “We are proud to share these examples of dairy’s ongoing commitment to stewardship and sustainability, which is made even more powerful because of collaborative relationships with partners.”

To learn more about the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, the winners and the best practices in place at their operations, visit


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