UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering Ruihong Zhang designed an anaerobic biodigester nearly 10 years ago that is used to turn food waste from campus dining halls into clean energy.
Several dairies have also invested in digesters to treat their manure, which would otherwise emit the greenhouse gas methane, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture offers grants to help defray the cost.
Cost is the major stumbling block to more widespread use of the technology, and the trial of a biofertilizer made in the campus digester is an attempt to see if the bottom line can be made just a little more favorable. READ MORE
This new full-scale-electric feed truck is the next step in Straus' quest to show that his Marin county organic dairy farm can be carbon positive, using agriculture as a solution to reversing climate change.
Straus, along with a local mechanic, spent eight years developing the 33,000 lb. gross weight truck to use as a feed truck on his farm. The truck measures, mixes and hauls feed before dropping it into the trough for his nearly 300 organic dairy cows.
An environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel-fueled trucks, the feed truck's motor is charged from electrical power generated from methane gas produced by the cows' own manure.
California dairy farmers are facing pressure to lower methane emissions under the state's ambitious new greenhouse gas reduction laws, which include methane emission reduction targets of 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.
The state's Air Resources Board says that much of the reduction should come from converting methane from cow manure into energy. Dairy manure accounts for about a quarter of the state's methane emissions.
"What I've tried to do is create a sustainable organic farming model that is good for the earth, the soil, the animals, and the people working on these farms, and helps revitalize rural communities," said Albert Straus, CEO and founder of Straus Family Creamery.
Straus added, "My electric feed truck is not only a practical tool for my organic farm. It is also a symbol of the resourcefulness we need to fight climate change, which threatens our business and the future of American farming."
Straus' methane digester has been powering his farm since 2004, fueling his all-electric Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Leaf plus smaller farm vehicles and machinery. Working with the Marin Carbon Project, his 500-acre farm is California's first dairy to develop a 20-year carbon farming plan to sequester 2,000 metric tons of carbon every year.
Straus' goal is to demonstrate to the farming community and public that farmers can implement and teach others practical solutions to climate change. Ultimately, Straus is working towards getting his farm off fossil fuels entirely.
United States plug-in electrical vehicle sales have increased nine-fold since 2011, per Inside EVs. Yet Straus believes he is the first to put a full-scale electric feed truck into use, getting the jump on Tesla Motor's electric semi-truck slated for September 2017 release.
Next, he plans to unveil an all-electric Farmers' Market truck to transport his company Straus Family Creamery's organic milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream and butter to local markets in San Francisco Bay Area.
Moreman, a retired vocational agriculture teacher with an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University, began his career by managing a cattle feedlot. He then spent over 25 years teaching at Texas Christian University and Clarendon Community College, where he developed and taught a two-year program in ranch and feedlot management.
Six years ago, this 81-year-old launched a successful turnkey manure composting and organic fertilizer application business headquartered in Clarendon, Texas, that has since doubled in size with 15 employees. Clarendon is about 65 miles southeast of Amarillo.
The company’s motto is, “Giving nature a hand and conserving the land.”
“I feel very strongly about conserving our resources,” says Moreman. “I think composting is one of the better things that we do, and the area that we are in, you could have three different soil types in one field, from sandy loam, to dark clay, to caliche. Compost improves the soil structure and the ability for the carbon molecules to hold the nutrients in place till the plant can get hold of it.”
A group of eight feedlot owners, who together raise about 200,000 head of cattle, annually supply Moreman with the manure he needs to make compost. The company uses its compost turning equipment on land dedicated by each feedlot to convert over 720,000 tons of raw feedlot manure annually into about 300,000 tons of compost. It then sells the compost to farmers as organic fertilizer and a soil amendment, providing the equipment and personnel to land apply it for them.
Rolling Plains Ag Compost makes its money from the sale and application of the compost, with a percentage of that income paid to the feedlot owners for supplying the raw manure.
Moreman says that there are two main reasons why the feedlots are eager to work with Rolling Plains Ag Compost. Firstly, when the feedlot cleans its pens and stockpiles the manure, it typically is compacted in large chunks, which makes it very difficult to land apply. Its nutrient content is also highly variable in this form and it often is full of weed seeds. Because the raw manure is in larger chunks, it usually takes a couple of years to break down in the field, which is why farmers tend to not see any value from it until the second year after application. However, by providing the raw manure to a composter, the large chunks are broken down, it is easier to land apply, and the nutrients are available immediately upon incorporation. Also, farmers who have applied raw manure on their fields have found that this material tends to have unwanted debris like pipes and cables mixed in with it.
Secondly, working with a composter like Rolling Plains Ag Compost, reduces the feedlots’ potential liability concerning land applying of raw manure. Moreman says based on feedback from his feedlot suppliers, the decision to compost the manure rather than land apply it has made a big difference when it comes to dealing with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Our feedlot operators tell us that if an inspector from the EPA or Texas Water Quality Board comes by and they see that they are composting that manure and hauling it out, the inspectors don’t ever bother them because that’s what they want to see done with it,” says Moreman. “But if the inspectors go in there and they have a huge pile that’s so big that it interferes with TV reception, then they get concerned.”
The composting processes gets rid of many of the pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure, and reduces the volume. Moreman says that it reduces the manure volume by as much as 5-to-1. So there is a lot less material to land apply and it tends to have more consistent nutrient content.
Because the feedlots feed their cattle concentrated rations, there is little, if any, roughage like hay or bedding material like straw mixed in with the manure, which actually makes it more valuable as a raw material for making compost because there is little to no filler.
“Dairy manure is probably worth about half as much as cattle feedlot manure because a dairy operation will typically feed a lot of hay and silage to their cattle,” says Moreman. “These beef cattle are on a high grain ration and they are not subjected to a lot of roughage, because these feedlot owners want their cattle to eat a lot of grain and convert that to beef. That’s kind of the name of the game.”
Moreman’s business operates year round. Employees are either creating the windrows, turning the windrows, or land applying the compost for farm customers.
“We are either putting compost on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat or irrigated pasture,” says Jack. “There is a crop coming off at all times, so they need compost pretty much all the time.”
While there is year-round demand, there are times of greater and lesser demand. May to July tends to be the slowest time of year, after spring crops are planted.
An important selling point to marketing the compost to farm customers is its ability to improve the water holding capacity of the soils where it is applied. Water is a valuable commodity to farmers in that part of Texas. Adding compost to dense soils increases their aeration and drainage capacity, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Most of Rolling Plains Ag Compost’s customers participate in a program where they
land-apply compost on each parcel of land on a two-to-three year rotation.
The company has worked hard to build its farm customer base, and Moreman’s background as an educator has helped. He spends considerable time hosting seminars and speaking to individual farmers about the benefits of using compost. His effort has paid off.
“You can be assured of one thing that if they try it, we are going to make a sale next time around,” says Moreman.
While compost has significant nutrient value, it does not necessarily fulfil all the farmer’s nutrient needs but represents only part of the overall puzzle. The company’s customers understand that. Most will need to add some commercial fertilizer, depending on the crop they are growing.
Typically, a feedlot will stockpile its raw manure as it cleans its pens and then Rolling Plains Ag Compost will bring in their own loaders and trucks to transport the manure to a drainage-controlled parcel of land that the feedlot has designated as its composting area. This can measure anywhere from 20 to 40 acres.
The company will create a compost windrow that measures approximately six-feet tall by up to 16-feet wide. The windrow will be as long as required by the amount of raw manure being converted. In the past, they have measured anywhere from a quarter-mile to a mile long.
The composting process consists of windrow turning, temperature measurement and moisture measure to ensure that the microorganisms responsible for the biological conversion process within the windrows are doing their job.
Part of the reason for the turning process is to ensure that the windrows are well oxygenated to support the microorganisms. As the conversion process takes place, the windrows can heat up to as much as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
To turn the windrows, Rolling Plains Ag Compost uses a CT718 compost turner by Wildcat, which is a Vermeer company. With a 44-inch diameter drum to turn, mix and aerate the material, it can process up to 5,000 tons of manure per hour. The turning takes place typically once a week.
After about six weeks, the raw manure has been converted to compost and it is ready for land application. Moreman says the compost turner is a large and powerful piece of equipment with a 500 hp Caterpillar engine. He adds that it is sturdy enough to break down the chunks in the manure pile.
Rolling Plains Ag Compost has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks to deliver the compost to farm customers. At all stages of the pen cleaning, composting, and land application process, the company depends on a large fleet of John Deere loaders to move the material as needed.
Once the compost is delivered to the farm, the compost is temporarily stockpiled beside the field and then loaded into New Leader spreaders to land apply the compost. Rolling Plains Ag Compost owns four of them. New Leader is a type of nutrient applicator manufactured by Highway Equipment Company (HECO) located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Rolling Plains Ag Compost operation, the applicators are mounted on either Chevrolet or International trucks.
Moreman says that these New Leader nutrient applicators are large and purpose-built. The box consists of a stainless steel bed with a conveyor on the bottom. The conveyor propels the compost to the back of the box, where spinners broadcast the material onto the land. The company will deploy as many nutrient applicators as needed for each job, but when all four are working, their customers are amazed at how quickly the job gets done.
“They are also very accurate,” says Jack. “There is a GPS unit on them to ensure that you don’t leave any part of the field out, and if you do, it will tell you.”
In terms of application amounts, Rolling Plains Ag Compost recommends four tons per acre on irrigated land and two-to-three tons on dry land. Once the farmer has some experience using the compost, they usually make adjustments on future applications based on the responses that they have experienced.
Ag Commissioner Richard Ball is scheduled to present the Empire State's top environmental award to this third-generation family farm for their exemplary environmental management.
The brothers' Dueppengiesser Dairy Co. of Perry, N.Y., is proof that farms can grow and be both sustainable and profitable by being environmentally responsible.
They closely worked with Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District to meet the state's top (Tier 5) standards while growing their business from 110 milking cows and 750 acres in 1990 to today's 1,100-cow milking herd and 2,100 cropland acres. READ MORE
Today, Governor Phil Scott announced the pilot launch of the new Vermont Environmental Stewardship Program (VESP), which will use soil-based analysis to identify farmers who are going above and beyond to protect our natural resources.
Surrounded by state and federal officials at the North Williston Cattle Company, owned by the Whitcomb family, Governor Scott emphasized the important role farmers play in Vermont communities.
The program is a partner effort by the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Vermont Association of Conservation Districts, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, and the University of Vermont Extension.
As the lone recipient in Washington state of a nationally funded Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG), the tribe proposes to demonstrate successful implementation of an emerging animal nutrient treatment system for dairy farms.
The technology, originally developed to address human waste in developing countries, is now being adapted to treat dairy nutrients. READ MORE
The award, now in its sixth year, is awarded for a dairy's use of sustainable practices in areas of cow care, energy conservation, water conservation, nutrient management, and business and employee relations.
Rickreall is the first dairy from Oregon to win the award. It was one of only three such awards in the country this year, and the only one west of the Mississippi River.
Kazemier, who has managed Rickreall Dairy since 1991, summed up his commitment to sustainability as a constant effort "to do the right thing."
"I believe that if we know a better way to do stuff and don't do it, I don't think we are honoring our purpose here in life," he said.
His work on the dairy, more than defining him, he said is an extension of his philosophy on life.
Among reasons cited by the U.S. Dairy Innovation Center for Kazemier's award are his philanthropic efforts to help others.
Kazemier travels regularly to Uganda to instruct dairy farmers, build housing and mentor young men. In Oregon, Kazemier built Camp Attitude, a camp for families with special-needs children.
In Rickreall, residents know him for his open-door policy, and the steps he takes to be a good neighbor.
"We are ultra-sensitive to the public," Kazemier said. "We only irrigate certain fields, certain times of the day, because of wind direction and concerns with odor. And we have an open door policy, where anybody who wants to see the dairy can come in. We bring in a minimum of 2,000 school children a year at no cost to the schools."
When it comes to the environmental improvements, Kazemier worked with Energy Trust of Oregon and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade his barn lighting and parlor laundry systems, steps that have reduced his energy use by hundreds of thousands of kilowatts per year.
Kazemier's nutrient management plan involves applying only the amount of nutrients plants take up, so nutrients don't leave the soil profile. He conducts water-quality tests in a nearby creek on a quarterly basis, and takes soils tests on the farm's cropland on an annual basis, just to be sure.
Additionally, Kazemier provides neighboring farmer Scott Zeigler excess manure nutrients from Rickreall Dairy in exchange for feed, an arrangement that has proved beneficial to both parties.
Kazemier's father-in-law, Gus Wybenga, a third-generation dairy farmer who expanded and redesigned Rickreall Dairy when he purchased it in 1990, designed it with water conservation in mind. Kazemier has refined the system to capture and conserve water, and ensure that tap water is recycled at least three times before being used for irrigation.
And Kazemier has arranged with a local food processor to take excess waste water off the processor's hands, an arrangement that, again, benefits both parties.
When it comes to his 3,500 cows, Kazemier works closely with a nutritionist, a veterinarian and a herd manager to regulate and monitor herd health. And he uses computer software to track daily milk production and maintain health and treatment records.
Rickreall Dairy meets most of its feed needs through double-cropping ryegrass silage and corn silage and on the dairy's 1,100 acres of cropland. Kazemier supplements that with high-quality alfalfa hay, along with two byproducts from a local biofuel production plant, plus mineral supplements, beet pulp, cottonseed, hominy and corn grain, and the feed he gets from Zeigler Farms.
Kazemier uses composted manure solids for cow bedding, a practice that, in addition to providing a comfortable and sanitary bedding, also provides another beneficial use for dairy waste, and he has removed exterior walls to improve air circulation in the dairy's five free-stall barns.
According to John Rosecrans, the dairy's nutritionist, Rickreall Dairy cows consistently rank as an "A" herd, exhibiting high milk-production-to-feed rates, low cull rates and high pregnancy rates – all key elements in a dairy's success.
"This is one of those dairies where you can walk through the cow pens and they don't run from you, they follow you," Rosecrans said. "That tells you a lot about a farm."
Then there are the dairy's twenty-five year-round employees, workers with an average a tenure of twenty years.
"People don't quit very quickly here," Kazemier said, "and I take a lot of pride in that, because agriculture is a tough business, and my guys, they know that I've got their back if they put one-hundred percent into this job."
Indeed, cows, people, the community and the environment all seem to benefit from their association with Louie Kazemier and Rickreall Dairy.
The program recognizes dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet.
From farm to table, transparency and ingenuity drive dairy forward, as demonstrated in the newly released 2016 Sustainability Report, which describes the Innovation Center's strategic plan focused on social responsibility. The plan was developed by dairy community leaders in recognition of the changing consumer and customer marketplace where health, environmental and ethical practices are of increasing interest.
Award winners represent the U.S. dairy community's voluntary efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainability.
"This year's winners demonstrated impressive leadership and creativity in the application of technology and other practices that protect our land, air and water," said Barbara O'Brien, president of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. "And, they're proactive about building strong relationships with their communities and employees. Based on this year's nominations, it's clear that dairy farms and companies of all sizes use sustainable practices because it's good for the environment, good for their community and good for business."
Judges evaluated nominations based on their economic, environmental and community impact. The independent judging panel — including experts working with and throughout the dairy community — also considered learning, innovation, scalability and replicability.
Through creative problem solving, this year's winners addressed water quality, soil fertility, community outreach, energy efficiency and more.
"These award-winning practices can serve as models for other farmers, too," said Jason Bateman, dairy farmer, 2016 award winner and one of this year's judges. "Winners made breakthroughs, and they improved everyday practices. It's inspiring to see people collaborate with partners outside of dairy and build on ideas from other industries."
The 2017 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards winners are:
Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability:
Kinnard Farms, Casco, Wisconsin
The Kinnard family milks more than 7,000 cows — a scale that allows them to maximize cow comfort while supporting their rural community. They retain the area's young, college-educated residents by employing them to innovate farm technology. The Kinnards are often on the cutting edge; they made a first-of-its-kind sand recycling center — one that uses no freshwater in the process — to separate, wash and dry sand for repeated use. Sand is this farm's preferred bedding material because it provides comfort and sure footing for cows and is bacteria free, keeping udders healthy.
Rickreall Dairy, Rickreall, Oregon
Rickreall, Ore., residents know Louie Kazemier as a good neighbor. In fact, his relationships are the force behind his farm's frequent improvements. For example, when solids were building up in the manure lagoon, Louie initiated trade with a seed farmer to provide fertilizer in exchange for feed. He also collaborated with a local food processor to use their wastewater for irrigation. Kazemier depends on a whole-system approach to tend to what matters — and that turns out to be everything. The results are big: for one, most of the dairy's 25 employees have been there for more than 20 years.
SwissLane Farms, Alto, Michigan
This farm is 23 miles from downtown Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan. That poses both pressures from urban sprawl and opportunities to reach people several generations removed from the farm. Since 2006, SwissLane's Dairy Discovery program has taken advantage of this opportunity, offering farm tours that have reached more than 36,000 students, teachers and families. They have plenty to demonstrate when it comes to sustainable practices. After a farm energy audit, SwissLanes Dairy made improvements that reduced energy costs by 17 percent per cow. They also took steps to become verified through the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program.
Outstanding Dairy Processing & Manufacturing Sustainability:
Glanbia Nutritionals, Evanston, Illinois
While consumers don't see the Glanbia Nutritionals brand in their grocery stores, it has a big footprint as one of the leading manufacturers of American-style cheese and whey. To implement a sustainability plan, they started with a single plant in Idaho. The team determined priority impact areas, measured social presence, determined metrics to demonstrate progress and identified areas where additional resourcing was needed. By 2016, the company had replicated this approach with three more plants and adopted a global sustainability strategy that promises to "nurture, grow and sustain the lives of our employees, milk producers, customers, consumers and communities."
Outstanding Achievement in Resource Stewardship
Kellercrest Registered Holsteins, Inc., Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
The Keller family participated in the Pleasant Valley Watershed Project, a collaboration among state, local and national agencies to reduce the local watershed's phosphorous load. Results were dramatic and positive. In fact, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is expected to propose removing the Pleasant Valley branch from the EPA's list of sediment-impaired streams. Other farms that participated in the project saw economic benefits too, and this spurred them to form a group to build on the learnings. The Kellers, whose family has farmed the hills of Mount Horeb since the late 1840s, saw cost savings as well as environmental benefits.
Mercer Vu Farms, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania
The Hissong family needed a manure management system that allowed them to maintain their high standard of cow comfort while protecting the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They looked at industries outside of agriculture to devise something dairy farms can replicate. They developed a system that allows them to use manure solids for cow bedding and for compost, while using phosphorus from the liquid manure as crop fertilizer in a targeted application. Their new system eliminated greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 740 cars from the road.
Outstanding Achievement in Community Partnerships:
Oakland View Farms & Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, Caroline County, Maryland
Environmental communities and farmers haven't always seen eye to eye – especially in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, where water quality is a significant issue. But these groups identified a common goal: improve the community's water quality through cost-effective projects that could be replicated. They did that with a woodchip bioreactor – the first of its kind in Maryland – that eliminated nitrogen from agricultural drainage water. An effective, virtually maintenance-free solution, it eliminates 48 pounds of nitrate-nitrogen from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay each year.
Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, The Kroger Co. of Michigan
Michigan Milk Producers Association and Michigan State University Extension, Novi, Michigan
The benefits of milk's nutrient-dense profile have long been established. But the Michigan Milk Producers Association (MMPA) relied on lesser-known qualities to help the residents of Flint, Mich. during a crisis in which they were susceptible to lead poisoning from contaminated water. Calcium and iron, found in dairy, can help mitigate health risks of lead consumption. Through a comprehensive partnership, 589,824 servings of milk were donated to those in need. Now there's a donation model to show this is possible in other communities affected by potential lead contamination.
U.S. Dairy Education & Training Consortium Extension, College Station, Texas
The need for skilled agricultural professionals in the southwestern United States continues to grow, especially as universities across the region have reduced or eliminated their dairy programs. USDETC thrives today thanks to farmers and other dairy industry professionals. The goal: train animal and dairy science, agribusiness and pre-veterinary students on practical aspects of modern dairy management. Students study and visit as many different dairies, management styles and developmental stages as possible. It's all about growing participants' understanding of what a dairy operation entails so they're better equipped to lead.
Slaton, director of soil testing in the Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, evaluates soil fertility, fertilizers and fertilization strategies that promote efficient nutrition uptake by crops with emphasis on warm-season forages, such as Bermudagrass, rice, soybean and wheat production systems.
He also develops nutrient management recommendations using soil testing and plant analysis with emphasis on phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, boron and zinc; and assesses nutrient availability in poultry litter and other organic nutrient sources.
SSSA Fellow is the highest recognition awarded to soil science professionals for contributions to soil science. Slaton is one of just 12 honorees for 2016-17. He earned his bachelor's degree from Murray State University in 1986, and his master's degree in 1989 and doctorate in 1998, both from the U of A. Slaton was a divisional associate editor for SSSA from 2009-13 and has been technical editor since 2014.
He has also served as secretary, vice president/program chair and president of the Southern Branch of the American Society of Agronomy; and as vice president and president of the Arkansas Plant Food Association. SSSA is the largest soil-specific society in the United States.
Members advance the field of soil science and provide information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling and wise land use.
The winner will be honored at Dairy Forum 2018, January 21-24 at the J.W. Marriott Desert Springs in Desert Spring, Calif. Nominations must be submitted by August 25, 2017, and there is no fee to enter.
The call asks for nominations of active U.S. dairy farms that are improving on-farm efficiency through progressive management practices, production technologies and/or marketing approaches.
Nominees will be judged on current methods as well as their positioning to meet future economic and business challenges.
The award recipient will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Dairy Forum to attend a special presentation ceremony held during the program. The person nominating the winner will receive complimentary registration to Dairy Forum.
In addition, the winning operation will be highlighted in the January 2018 issue of Dairy Herd Management.
Dairy Forum is widely recognized as the most important processor and producer conference of the year for the U.S. dairy industry. The 2017 event drew an impressive crowd of more than 1,100 industry participants.
For more information, visit: http://www.idfa.org/docs/default-source/awards-documents/2018_innovative_dairy_farmer_form.pdf?sfvrsn=e9f2caa5_2
The LWR System is a disruptive technology that is used by dairy and hog producers to recover nutrients and recycle water from livestock manure.
There are many benefits to managing manure in this way; these include cleaner sand for bedding, increased crop yields due to strategic nutrient application, and a much easier path to expansion should a producer so choose.
This funding will be used to further develop a new module for RO cleaning that will reduce consumable costs and increase flow capacity. Not only will this advance manure treatment, but could potentially have applications across a variety of industries beyond livestock production.
David Lametti, Parliamentary Secretary to the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, made the funding announcement last week on the Minister's behalf during a visit to Innovate Calgary.
The funding supports western-based companies that develop cutting-edge technology, create jobs, and spur the economy. The Government's Innovation Agenda aims to make Canada a global centre for innovation – one that drives economic growth by creating better jobs, opportunities, and living standards for all Canadians.
Since November of 2000, Lee Holtmeier has been managing the Linn Willow Creek Dairy LLC outside Linn, Kan. Prior to that, he'd worked 20 years for Farmland Foods buying hogs and grew up auctioneering cattle and hogs at his family's sale barn business in Nebraska. The only experience he'd had with dairy cows is when he started breeding cattle for Willow Creek Dairy when the dairy began operations in 1999.
While he didn't know some of the intricacies of dairy farming, Holtmeier did know how to manage people and spot problems. "We've changed a lot of things and moved some things around," Holtmeier says of his time at the farm the past 17 years.
One of those major changes was improving how manure was handled. Prior to 2007, the dairy was spending anywhere from $80,000 to $90,000 per year hiring dump trucks and excavators to take out the manure solids from three settling bays and three lagoons in the spring and fall. Not only was it costly, it also had a larger environmental footprint with several heavy machines being run to pick up manure. READ MORE
CR & R Environmental Services has a similar dream for the future – turning waste into energy through an advanced technology called anaerobic digestion. Anaerobic digestion produces "biogas" from organic waste in a zero waste, 100 percent renewable process.
At a recent Economic Workforce Development Committee luncheon hosted by the Lake Elsinore Chamber of Commerce at the Diamond Club at Storm Stadium, Alex Braicovich, senior regional vice president at CR & R, shared the vision, the process and the progress of their initiative of "Turning Today's Waste into Tomorrow's Energy."
CR & R, a full service, privately held, integrated waste management company based in Orange County, California, was founded in 1963 with one truck in a waste-hauling operation and later added two recycling trucks.
Today, the company has grown to include 50 municipal contracts in Southern California and southwestern United States.
They have 12 processing contracts and utilize 1,000 trucks every day with 1,600 employees that serve 2.5 million residential customers and 50,000 commercial customers. They have two solid waste facilities, five transfer stations and two landfills – a large one in Yuma, Arizona, and a smaller one serving Catalina Island.
The company has always been on the leading edge, including having the first recycling buy-back center in Orange County, the first three-can, fully automated curbside collection system, the first network of Material Recovery Facilities and one of the first bio-filtration systems. READ MORE
Organized by WET News and Water & Wastewater Treatment, the awards celebrate innovation and best practices in the water sector, and are highly prized within the industry.
Dairy and hog producers install the LWR System when they want smart, flexible, on-site nutrient recovery that allows them to expand their herds.
The LWR System holds the industry record for the most installations and is helping producers make valuable nutrient products that are easy to export while recycling clean water that is used to clean sand, irrigate crops, and even water back to the livestock.
"We are always pushing ourselves to consistently deliver leading-edge technologies to our customers while going above and beyond the call of duty," says Director of Operations, J.R. Brooks. "It is truly an honor to be recognized on this short list of companies who are each changing the water treatment landscape in their respective fields."
LWR has created the only proven system on the market that segregates and concentrates manure nutrients while recycling clean water that can be used back on the farm.
Today, over 590,000,000 million gallons of manure can be treated annually through LWR Systems that are currently installed across North America.
Not only are nutrient values maximized, but this method of manure treatment currently results in the potential recovery of over 400 million of gallons of clean, reusable water.
Enough water to fill 639 Olympic sized swimming pools, or the equivalent of the annual water consumption of over 13,000 Americans - and that number rises with every new installation.
"To be recognized among the water industry's elite is a result of our ongoing desire to provide the livestock industry with proven, reliable technology that truly adds value to farming operations. We are excited to showcase our technology on the world stage" adds Brooks.
The Clean Lakes Alliance presented Clean Fuel Partners, LLC, the digester operator, with the Lumley Leadership Award for Lake Stewardship for its efforts to reduce phosphorus entering the Yahara Watershed.
"We were completely surprised and caught off guard when we were announced," said Clean Fuel CEO John Haeckel. "I would like to think it's because we have been working to make the Waunakee facility work, to sort of resurrect it from a place where it wasn't successful."
The manure digester was originally built in partnership with Dane County and operated by a different company, Clear Horizons, with the intention of removing algae-causing phosphorus from three area farms that would otherwise flow into lakes and streams.
The digester also captures methane in the process to produce energy. READ MORE
PrairieChar Chairman and CEO Robert Herrington said he started the company because his wife made him buy her a horse farm.
He suffered a broken back when a tree fell on him as he was clearing a pasture. Lying in bed recuperating, he called friends in California and asked them to send him business plans to review. One caught his eye.
"We're in the manure business," Herrington said of what has become his new adventure. "We take something you don't want and turn it into something you do."
Manure is a cost center in the cattle, swine and poultry industries. It causes disposal and environmental problems.
In North Carolina, one of the top swine producers in the nation, manure from swine and poultry adds up to 40 billion pounds a year. Swine manure put into lagoons causes odor and environmental problems that Herrington believes can be solved with PrairieChar's technology.
PrairieChar, which Herrington said was engineered to be a scalable, cost-effective solution, is developing machines the size of cargo containers that can be placed next to a manure pile. The manure never has to be transported more than 300 feet. The company's revenue-share model means it gets the manure for nothing and farmers turn a cost center into a revenue stream.
The machines turn the manure into two valuable sterile products, he said. The process eliminates emissions into the air and removes soil and water hazards. One product produced is a "100 percent OMRI organic fertilizer that can reduce conventional fertilizer needs."
The other is a sustainable, renewable coal substitute that produces an ash that is actually valuable instead of being an environmental hazard like coal ash. It is 90 percent pure phosphate that can be sold for 25-cents to one-dollar a pound.
"We can change the way we're dealing with environmental issues," Herrington said. "We could convert manure into 33 million tons of our products annually."
It would also create jobs paying $50,000 to $70,000 annually in rural America, he added.
The machines cost $550,000 to build. The company recently opened a Series A round looking for $5 million. Although the company currently plans to begin operations on cattle manure in Kansas, Herrington said that if enough of its funding comes from North Carolina, it will target swine manure "sooner rather than later."
What started as a county extension milk lab has grown into a full service agronomy lab, complete with nutrient management planning and GPS soil sampling services.
AgSource Laboratories, in Bonduel, Wis., became a part of AgSource (then called ARC, Agricultural Records Cooperative) in August 1967. That first year, the lab processed just 5,301 soil samples. Today, the lab can analyze that many samples in under two days.
"We're very proud of the lab's long history," notes Steve Peterson, AgSource Vice President of Laboratory Services. "Bonduel has been a great community to work in. Thank you to our friends in Bonduel and thank you to our customers for 50 terrific years!"
Over the years, the laboratory has specialized in forage, soil, plant tissue and manure testing. While forage testing is no longer offered, agronomy services have expanded to include VRT fertilizer recommendations, GPS soil sampling and nutrient management planning.
"Every day in the lab is different, which keeps things fun," comments Peterson. "It should be interesting to see how we continue to adapt and grow in the future."
AgSource Laboratories, in Bonduel, Wis., will officially celebrate 50 years of soil testing services this August 2017. Customers, friends and community members are welcome to attend several special events this summer at the laboratory, located at 106 North Cecil Street. Stay tuned for more fun, 50th celebration announcements.
• June Dairy Month Ice Cream Social – Wednesday, June 14, 2-4 pm
• Anniversary Celebration Open House – Wednesday, August 16, 2-5 pm
For more information, visit, http://agsource.com/
August 10, 2016 - Successful businesses depend on good employees. And finding good employees can be a tough task for farmers looking to maintain or expand their businesses. That was the message that Bernie Erven, Ohio State University professor emeritus, shared during the Growing Michigan Agriculture Conference Jan. 24 at the Lansing Center.
“Employee relations is one key to the growth of Michigan agriculture,” says Dale Rozeboom, Michigan State University Extension specialist and one of the conference organizers. “We invited Dr. Erven because we know that farmers often struggle when trying to hire and keep the best possible talent.”
Erven kicked off the conference by challenging attendees to think of a business that was thriving while its people were failing. He wasn’t surprised when none of the 75 people in attendance could come up with an example.
“No one single thing is more important than the people you hire,” he says, adding that far too many farmers try to keep everything in the family, even when it’s not in their best interest. “In agriculture, the hardest thing many people have to do is decide which family members to invite into the business.”
He suggested that business leaders develop a job description before making assumptions about family members’ fit in the organization.
“Before you even think about whom to hire, do a job analysis. Outline the job qualifications and put together a job description,” he says. “Too often the rule is ‘Anybody who needs a job in this family gets hired.’ But businesses that succeed hire only if they have a need in the business and the person fits.”
Next, he says, it’s important to build a pool of applicants. That means taking a long, hard look at how you spread the word about open positions.
“Talk to existing employees and find out why they like working for you,” he said. “If you want to hire seniors, for example, find out what they want and focus on that in your communication.”
As a final step, Erven says that interviewing is key to hiring success, even when hiring family members.
“Who else gets a job without an interview?” he asked the crowd. “An interview with family members can uncover a lot of information, both good and bad.”
And with outside candidates, he said that being a good interviewer is critical.
“There is no worse place to lose outstanding applicants than in a poor interview,” he pointed out. “It’s up to you to come across as a person they want to work for.”
Erven was one of six professionals chosen by Michigan State University Extension to discuss important concepts necessary to keep Michigan agriculture on a growth curve. You can see his suggestions for being a great interviewer, as well as other presentations by experts from across the country, on the Michigan State University Extension website, www.msue.msu.edu. Click on “Agriculture” and look for “Growing Michigan Agriculture Proceedings” in the Resource channel in the lower right section of the site.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
December 14, 2015 – Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) has presented VXV Farms and the Vandervalk family with the 2016 Environmental Stewardship Award.
Each year, ABP recognizes an operation that demonstrates leadership in environmental stewardship – one that contributes to the land while maintaining productivity and profitability.
Jack Vandervalk moved to southern Alberta in 1956 and has been managing the ranch situated in the Porcupine Hills ever since. Together with his wife Merry and his son Gerald and his family, they run a cow calf operation with retained ownership to slaughter.
“It is my personal desire to make sure the land is better than when I found it. It is a goal of mine to keep trying to make it better. In my opinion, the cow is what we harvest our grass with and the grass harvests the sun,” said Jack.
Rotational grazing and unique water management systems have played roles in the stewardship success of the ranch.
Throughout the summer they rotational graze their tame grass, moving cattle every two or three days to allow for adequate rest periods. The native grass is utilized during the winter months to lower feed costs.“We are privileged to take advantage of flood irrigation.
The landscape that we have allows us to flood our tame grass pastures with minimal costs outside labour,” said Gerald.Numerous dams have been developed which are equipped with water troughs made from recycled mine truck tires. Turning old tires into watering systems has become a secondary business on the ranch. The excess tire materials have been used to build a wind fence to protect the cattle during the colder winter season.
The Vandervalk family is very active in the community working with various landowner and stewardship groups. Through the Lyndon Creek Conservation Group they worked on projects with neighbouring ranches, Cows and Fish has done riparian area work on their site, and Alberta Conservation Association worked with them on rotational grazing and off-stream watering projects.
“We have future generations coming and it’s important to have a place to call home… that they can easily take over and maintain what we’ve started,” said Gerald.
September 18, 2015 - The University of Guelph has begun a new study pertaining to agricultural producer stress, and how farmers may or may not be managing it, as well as investigating producer’s opinions with respect to what resources should be available.
"Many of us have personally known producers who have suffered from significant stress and other mental health issues," writes Andria Jones-Bitton, associate professor of epidemiology in the department of population medicine at the University of Guelph. "Some, tragically, have resulted in these friends and colleagues dying by suicide. Of additional concern is the additional stress imposed on producers during animal disease outbreaks and other extreme events. We currently know very little about stress and mental wellness in Canadian producers outside of these anecdotal experiences.
The study is being conducted in order to learn about the stress experienced by producers (from any agricultural commodity) in Ontario, as well as their resiliency or ability to cope with these stresses.
"Some producers are highly resilient, while others are not," adds Jones-Bitton. "It is important to learn about the factors associated with both so that we can help those who need it most."
The online survery was launched on September 17th at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, is completely anonymous, and can be done on computers or mobile devices. Participants can choose to have their name into 3 draws for $200 (names CANNOT be linked to survey responses). The study has been approved by our University’s Research Ethics Board.
The link to the survey is: www.producerwellness.ca
Bob (Robert) L. Ross scholarship open for applicationsJuly 13, 2017, Guelph, Ont. — Applications are now being…
Manure Science Review coming soonJuly 13, 2017, Paulding, OH – Farmers who want to…
Dueppengiesser Dairy earns top environmental awardJuly 20, 2017, NY - On Wednesday, Aug. 9, the…
Giving nature a hand conserving the landTexan Jack Moreman, owner of Rolling Plains Ag Compost, is…
Manure Science Review 2017Wed Aug 02, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Iowa Manure Calibration & Distribution Field DayFri Aug 04, 2017 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
Empire Farm Days 2017Tue Aug 08, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Dakotafest 2017Tue Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
AgSource Laboratories Anniversary Celebration Open HouseWed Aug 16, 2017 @ 2:00PM - 05:00PM
North American Manure Expo 2017Tue Aug 22, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM