Manure Manager

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Manure saves dairy farmers money


April 4, 2008
By Manure Manager

It might not smell like gold, but cow manure may be almost as valuable to savvy dairy farmers.

    It might not smell like gold, but cow manure may be almost as valuable to savvy dairy farmers.

    Third-generation dairy farmer Gary Crowell of Bar Vee Dairy in Turlock, California is saving thousands of dollars a year by using his 700 heifers’ manure to fertilize the crops that feed them instead of buying commercial nitrogen fertilizer.

    “This is a no-brainer,” said Crowell. “It pays for itself, strengthens your profits and keeps you in compliance with environmental regulations. I’m amazed more dairy producers aren’t doing it.” Crowell is saving approximately $110 an acre annually on 275 acres.

    Crowell shared his story at a recent environmental summit in Fresno, California. California dairy producers gathered in Fresno to learn more about the manure management practices that have proven cost-effective and environmentally beneficial on dairy farms around the state. The conference was jointly hosted by Sustainable Conservation and the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno.

    “Given high natural gas prices, which account for 90 percent of commercial fertilizer production costs, managing manure so that nutrients are recovered and used to grow crops instead of being lost to the environment can boost farm profits,” said Kristen Hughes, dairies project manager at Sustainable Conservation.

    The price of natural gas has risen more than 70 percent over the last five years. That alone increased Gary Crowell’s savings by more than 30 percent. In a single year, farmers around the nation paid up to $3 billion more in increased fertilizer costs.

    “Smart manure management is a natural extension of the ways dairy farmers manage their other assets—their financial assets, reproductive assets, feed assets and so forth,” said Jon Robison, professor in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at California State University, Fresno. “The nutrients we feed to livestock either are converted to milk or meat for human consumption, or are converted to manure. The focus now is to recycle these nutrients through the farm ground to produce crops that feed the livestock. In this way, dairymen are bringing that ecosystem into balance.”


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