How do we dispose of manure and waste byproducts at Hart Dairy? Our regenerative farming practices and lagoon system play a big role in turning manure into fertilizer.
A good question came into our website the other day. Fair warning – it’s not exactly dinner-table conversation, but it’s still important. The person asked how we get rid of our manure and waste byproducts. So, yes. Let’s talk about cow manure and how we handle it.
The good news is that we don’t have a lot of manure to dispose of in the first place, and that’s because of our regenerative farming practices — this means we improve the resources we use, rather than destroying or depleting them. Our cows are never confined, which means they aren’t locked up in barns where there is very limited movement allowed. Instead, our cows roam free on pasture 365 days a year.
Take a moment to think about that.
They go to the milking parlor twice a day to get milked, and then they are roaming free every other moment of the day. That’s good for the cow and the consumer – and you can continue to read about that in our forthcoming blogs.
Our stocking rate – which is just a fancy way of saying the number of cows grazing on a given amount of land for a specified time – is two cows per acre. To put it in simpler terms, we have just two cows per 1.3 football fields!
So, when our cows are outside, where do you think they go to the bathroom? Did you guess that they do their business in the grass? If so, you are correct. The cows create their own fertilizer simply by going to the bathroom. Nature does all of the work.
Dairies that have confined cows don’t have this luxury.
The mounds of manure pile up in the barns of confined dairies because the cows are inside most of the time, so the manure must be managed and disposed of. Hart Dairy cows are only off pasture when they are being milked, so that’s the only time that the manure can gather on a concrete surface.
Because our cows aren’t confined, Hart Dairy needs to dispose of only 10% of manure compared to confined farms with similar numbers of cows. The rest of our manure becomes natural fertilizer when the cows are on pasture.
OK, great. So how do we get rid of the manure that’s collected from the milking parlor? It’s got to go somewhere, right? Great question! It’s a pretty fascinating process. I’ll do my best to keep it simple, but please write to us at [email protected] if you have any questions.
The manure is collected from the milking parlor, which is flushed or scraped out into our lagoon system.
The lagoon has a separator, where sand and any solid manure material gets separated. The solids are loaded up once a week and spread back onto the fields via a box-wagon spreader and tractor.
Any liquid material enters our lagoon holding pond, and is pumped through hoses and PVC pipes. This is spread back out onto the fields via a drag hose irrigator.
This irrigator gets moved from field to field based on our Nutrient Management Plan. The Georgia Department of Agriculture requires dairy farms with 300 or more cows to have a certified Nutrient Management Plan, which ensures we are using crop nutrients as efficiently as possible to improve productivity while protecting the environment.
All data is recorded and turned in annually to renew our Land Application System permit with the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
And that’s how it’s done! Remember – most of the time our cows are making their – ahem – contributions on the grass, so the manure managerial process is quite simple. Happy cows make better milk … and lots of natural fertilizer.