People have been herding cows as a food source for 10,000 years, which adds increased dimension to the notion of sustainability. Today, Washington’s dairy farm families combine innovation with a strong tradition of integrity and hard work to ensure that their farms remain environmentally responsible. Farmers, industry organizations, government agencies and public interest groups work together to implement solutions that benefit everyone.
Cows are one of nature’s great recyclers. Dairy farmers feed forages and by–products of many human food production processes to dairy cows. This yields not only milk but also manure, which is then used as an organic fertilizer for crops and for compost. By eating leftover food remnants, cows prevent them from going to landfills and into other parts of the environment where they don’t belong.
Air Quality Control Measures
Dairy farmers care about their neighbors and their communities and work hard to minimize the inevitable farm odors that may affect others. Advances in technology, combined with good management practices, are yielding new and innovative ways to improve manure management and odor control. For example, dairy cows have very specific diets formulated by professional nutritionists to match their needs for health, milk production and odor reduction. Other technologies are being used in many farms across the state, including air filtration systems in barns and odor-reducing additives for manure storage facilities.
A dairy cow can generate 120 pounds of waste each day — that’s more than 40,000 pounds per year. Methane digesters can help offset this by separating methane gas from solid waste. While the solid waste is composted and reused as fertilizer, the gas can be used for heat or to generate electricity (which can be used to power the farm or sold to utility companies).