Manure Manager

Sixth family farm joins CVPS Cow Power

March 3, 2009  by  Marg Land

March 2, 2009, Bakersfield, Vt. – A family farm that employs more than
20 relatives has become the sixth farm in Vermont to join the CVPS Cow
Power™ family.

March 2, 2009, Bakersfield, Vt. – A family farm that employs more than 20 relatives has become the sixth farm in Vermont to join the CVPS Cow Power™ family.

Gervais Family Farm Inc., a family owned and operated dairy farm in Bakersfield, has begun generating electricity from cow manure and signed on as the newest CVPS Cow Power producer.

Robert and Gisele Gervais originally purchased their farm in 1960, starting with 200 acres and 35 milking cows. Over the years, the farm has grown considerably along with the family. Robert and Gisele have 15 children, and today the farm includes more than 2,500 acres and 1,900 cows, heifers and calves. The family milks about 950 Holsteins three times a day, raises all of the farm’s replacement heifers, and does their own crop and feed management. The farm is owned by Robert and Gisele Gervais and their sons: Charles Sr., Larry, Paul and Clement.


Clement Gervais, who took the lead on developing the Cow Power project, said the whole family decided together to join other Vermont farm pioneers in generating electricity from manure.

“One of our key reasons was to do something about the odor of the manure, but this also improves manure management and provides an alternative bedding source for our cows,” he said. “The cost of bedding is a big thing. We’ve been using two and a half tractor-trailer loads of sawdust a week at $2,400 per load, and we hope to replace 85 to 90 percent of that through manure solids separation. The manure, after digestion, is squeezed through rollers and the solids, low in bacteria, make good bedding. There is not much food left in the solids for bacteria to grow; it has been eaten up by the methane-forming bugs. The liquids flow back to the lagoon ready for use as fertilizer. That’s a big economic benefit.”

The Cow Power process is simple: manure and other agricultural waste are held in a sealed concrete tank at the same temperature as a cow’s stomach, 101 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria digest the volatile components, creating methane and killing pathogens and weed seeds. The methane, which is roughly 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, fuels an engine/generator. The process kills almost all manure odors, and provides a peat-moss-like material for bedding animals.

CVPS customers can choose to receive all, half or a quarter of their electrical energy through Cow Power, and pay a premium of four cents per kilowatt-hour. It goes to participating farm-producers, to purchase renewable energy credits when enough farm energy isn’t available, or to the CVPS Renewable Development Fund. The fund provides grants to farm owners to develop on-farm generation. The CVPS Renewable Development Fund provided the Gervais Family farm a grant of $75,000 to help underwrite start-up costs. The farm also received grants from the Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets.

The farm is in the Enosburg Electric service territory, which worked with CVPS and the Gervais family to make the project a reality. CVPS will purchase the renewable energy credits and related environmental attributes associated with the farm-based generation for 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, and Enosburg will purchase the energy.

The project is expected to produce about 780,000 kilowatt-hours annually.

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