Liquid manure. Those words don’t paint a pretty picture, but the substance has been a popular subject in Kewaunee County lately.
According to the Kewaunee County Economic Development Corporation, with about 80 cows per square mile, the county has the highest cow concentration in the state. And you can guess what that means for animal waste production.
Large and small farming operations use that waste, or liquid manure, to fertilize their fields, produce a crop, feed their herds and continue the cycle.
Last September a group called Kewaunee CARES (Kewaunee County’s Citizens Advocating Responsible Environmental Stewardship) partnered with the Clean Water Action Council of Northeast Wisconsin (CWAC) and began testing water throughout the county. CWAC president, Dean Hoegger, says they weren’t too pleased with the results.
Hoegger admits that large-scale farms, also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), are not completely to blame for the amount of organic contaminants found in the wells. However, his organization is concerned with the growth of CAFOs and how that will affect the contamination levels.
At least two large-scale farm operations in Kewaunee County are taking measures to reduce, if not eliminate, runoff that causes contamination of surface and groundwater.
Dairy Dreams Dairy Farm in the Town of Lincoln, co-owned by Don Niles, DVM, uses a methane digester to remove carbon compounds from the waste generated by about 3,000 milking cows and 3,000 young cattle.
A special type of bacteria eats the carbon, in turn producing methane which is burned to generate electricity. Niles says Dairy Dreams generates enough electricity to power about 600 homes, and that all goes to the local power grid. The liquid that is left is applied to the fields and sold to neighboring smaller farms so they can also produce a crop.
Lee Kinnard of Kinnard Farms, Inc. says his operation doesn’t have a methane digester. Instead Kinnard Farms uses lagoons to store the manure and then uses special equipment to inject it into the soil, reducing air contamination.
Both Dairy Dreams and Kinnard Farms operations follow nutrient management plans for their herds and their fields. Niles says manure is a very valuable resource for farmers and they use it as efficiently as possible. Niles explains how the nutrient management plan works…
To Niles and Kinnard, wasting manure is like throwing away money.