Tag Archives: sustainability

Oregon Dairy Farms Milking Energy from the Sun

Steve Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms

For Steve Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms in St. Paul, Oregon, any project that is good for the environment and good for his bottom line generally is a go. That said, when the opportunity arose to install solar panels on his 300-cow dairy, Pierson didn’t hesitate.

Today Sar-Ben’s milking parlor and irrigation systems are powered by the sun.

“From a business perspective and an environmental perspective, solar panels make a lot of sense,” Pierson said.

Across the state in Vale, Oregon, where sunny days are the norm, Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms also found that solar panels could help him meet his power needs in an environmentally friendly manner. Today, after five years of enjoying reduced energy costs, he’s a firm believer in the power of the sun.

Warren Chamberlain of Dairylain Farms

“As dairy farmers, we do whatever we can to protect the environment,” he said, “and because we have a lot of sun over here on the east side of the state, solar panels just seemed like a natural fit.”

Between solar panels and methane digesters that convert cow waste into renewable energy, dairy farmers are providing a significant boost to Oregon’s renewable power supply, according to Energy Trust of Oregon.

About one-fourth of dairy waste from Oregon’s 228 dairies is converted to renewable power through methane digesters, according to Energy Trust of Oregon. And many operations are now turning to solar panels.

Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms, a 200-cow dairy in Boring, Oregon, looked at installing solar panels for seven years before making the move in the spring of 2017. “For years, we thought it would be a great addition to the dairy,” Collman said, “but we never went through with it because of the cost and complexity of it.”

“All farmers are environmentalists at heart.”

When a company approached the dairy with an offer to install the solar panels and even rent the land they are sited on, Cloud Cap made the change. Cloud Cap won’t have access to the power generated by the panels for the first 15 years, but the benefits apparently are worth the wait. “At that point, once we take ownership of them, it should completely power the dairy,” Collman said.

Melissa Collman of Cloud-Cap Farms

Cloud Cap’s deal is one of many that dairy farmers have used to purchase solar systems. Many have utilized state and federal renewable energy grants to help defray some of the upfront costs.

Depending on the formula and the amount of kilowatts a system generates, the systems can pay for themselves in a relatively short period. Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms, for example, said the three ten kilowatt systems he installed will pay for themselves within four years. A more typical payback period is the seven years that Bouke deHoop of Holland’s Dairy in Klamath Falls estimates it will take for him to recoup his investment in solar.

Systems typically are installed on less productive farmland, and, according to Chamberlain of Dairylain, don’t take up much land to begin with. The two ten kilowatt systems on his farm run about 100 feet in length, he said.

Systems are relatively maintenance free after the installation, Chamberlain said. “All we have to do is wash the dust off during the summer a little bit and knock the snow off during the winter,” he said. “Other than that, we haven’t had to do anything to them. They just sit out there and produce electricity for me.”

Bouke deHoop of Holland’s Dairy

Most solar systems won’t power an entire operation, but are designed to supply a portion of a farm’s energy needs. That portion, however, can be significant. Chamberlain said that over the five years he’s run on solar power, he has saved about $35,000 in electricity costs, or about $7,000 a year.

Beyond that, Chamberlain noted, he’s also been reducing his carbon footprint, which is something he and other dairy farmers take pride in. “Anytime you are able to save money and do something that is good for the environment, it always makes you feel good,” he said.

“I think farmers are always looking for ways to be more sustainable,” said Collman of Cloud Cap Farms.

Pierson of Sar-Ben Farms agreed: “All farmers are environmentalists at heart. This is just one more way we help protect our environment. We use renewable resources whenever possible.”

Brews to Moos: Cows Savor Brewery Byproduct

As an estimated 80,000 locals and tourists taste samples at the 30th annual Oregon Brewers Festival in downtown Portland this week, cows in Astoria will be enjoying the spent grains from one of the participating brewers.

This story began more than 10 years ago, when dairy feed costs started soaring in the wake of the U.S. ethanol mandate. Dirk Rohne of Brownsmead Island Farm near Astoria, Oregon, had one of those “what if” moments.

What if he could use a byproduct generated by the beer brewing process at nearby Fort George Brewery as feed for his 170 cow dairy?

“I had this conversation with the owners of Fort George, and it came out that Fort George had a problem,” Rohne said. “They had to get rid of all this grain, and, intuitively, I thought it could be a resource for my dairy.”

Rohne and Fort George began an arrangement that today is providing Rohne a valuable feed source and helping Fort George dispose of its byproduct in an environmentally friendly manner.

The arrangement is one of dozens in place today between Oregon dairies and Oregon microbreweries, arrangements that Rohne characterized as “a winning scenario for everyone involved.”

“This (arrangement) is way better than sending it to a landfill, because it is a valuable feed commodity for Dirk,” said Fort George founder Jack Harris. “And if we had to landfill it, it would be very expensive, because we make a lot of it.”

Use of spent grains as dairy feed, although a practice dating back decades, had a slow start among Oregon microbreweries, primarily because the smaller breweries weren’t making enough beer for dairies to justify hauling it to their farms.

“Initially, it was really difficult for a lot of these microbreweries to get rid of their spent brewers grains,” said dairy nutrition consultant Mary Swearingen. “I remember when I was younger, there were producers that used to get it for free, because the distillers needed to get rid of it. Today is has become an up-and-coming trend, and a hot commodity for producers to get their hands on.”

“Originally, it was very challenging time wise, driving back and forth with a flatbed carrying four fish totes,” Rohne said. “Then Fort George got larger, and I bought twenty fish totes. They would fill up the totes, and I would use their forklift to load the totes onto my truck and trailer in the middle of the road outside their brewery.”

Today the dairy hauls between forty and fifty tons of spent grain a month from the downtown Astoria brewery to the dairy in a one-ton truck with a triple-axle dump trailer that Rohne purchased solely for hauling the spent grain.

“Now it is a well-oiled machine,” Rohne said, “and because I was willing to do that in the beginning, a level of trust developed that allowed me to invest more into the hauling.”

Spent grains bring several positives to a dairy cow’s diet, Swearingen said. “Their number one characteristic is they are relatively high in energy, and they are very digestible,” she said.

“We feed alfalfa hay and corn silage and grain during the winter months when we are unable to pasture our cows,” Rohne said. “Those are very dry, so when you have that spent grain, which is very wet, it makes the consistency more palatable for the cows.

“The cows do very well on it,” Rohne added. “When I have a lot of spent grain on hand, everything seems to go a little bit better. The cows seem to eat more and do better, and I cut back on my feed costs.”

Dairy consultant and nutritionist John Rosecrans said he’s been using spent brewers grain in his practice for decades. Before Oregon became a leader in the microbrewery industry, dairies would purchase the feed from Henry Weinhard’s Brewery in Portland and from Olympia Brewing Company in Tumwater, Washington, among others brewers, he said.

“There were several brewers here back thirty, thirty-five years ago, and it doesn’t matter if a brewer is big or small, livestock is far and away the best use for that brewer’s grain,” Rosecrans said.

In most cases, spent grains make up only a small part of a dairy cow’s diet, Rosecrans said. “It might make up just five to ten percent of a dairy cow’s total intake,” Rosecrans said, “but it is a valuable part of their diet. And we’re turning what would be a waste product into a feed product. That should be good for everybody.”

Rohne even takes this environmentally friendly use of spent grains to another level, turning his dairy’s manure solids into compost and selling it back to the local community as fertilizer.

“In Dirk’s case, we send the spent grains out to him, he runs it through his cows, and we scoop it back up and put it on our garden,” Fort George’s Harris said. “It is a true cycle of life we’ve got going on between us and Dirk.”

Farming with Innovation and Heart Earns National Award for Rickreall Dairy

rickreall dairy_louies-portrait

A dedication to protecting the environment, maintaining good employee relations and preserving herd health has earned Louie Kazemier of Rickreall Dairy an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

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.”

Rickreall-Dairy-signWhen 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.

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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.

 


 


RELATED LINKS

Oregon Dairy Farm Receives National Sustainability Award
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Rickreall Dairy Lauded for Farming with Innovation and Heart

Dairy Farms and Businesses are Advancing Sustainable Practices, from Farm to Table
NEWS RELEASE | June 29, 2017
Winners announced for sixth annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, progress report released

Louie Kazemier: Dairy Farmer, Humanitarian, Heart of Gold

Adopt a Farmer Program Includes Oregon Dairies

Each year, Oregon dairy farmers participate in a program called Adopt a Farmer through Oregon Aglink to help promote agriculture through educating middle school students. Five Oregon dairy farm families are currently participating in this year’s program giving students the opportunity to experience a dairy farm firsthand.

The five dairies include:

  • Harrold’s Dairy in Creswell
  • Cloud Cap Farms in Boring
  • Mayfield Dairy in Aurora
  • Veeman’s Dairy in St. Paul
  • Willamette Valley Cheese in Salem

In addition to offering tours of their farms, these dairy farmers visit their adoptive classroom two to three times throughout the school year to engage students in the science behind farming. They participate in activities related to soil, water, conservation, irrigation, genetics, the farm-to-table continuum and economics.

Learn more about one of Oregon’s dairy farmers, Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms and her participation in the program.

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RELATED LINKS:

Adopt a Farmer

Dairy Meets Classroom: Melissa Collman of Cloud Cap Farms

Cloud Cap Dairy, Boring, OR

Cloud Cap Dairy on Facebook

Cloud Cap Dairy on Twitter

Cloud Cap Dairy on Instagram

Every Day is Earth Day for Dairy Farmers

earth_dairy_farmers_care

Earth Day may be celebrated each year in late April, but for Oregon dairy farmers every day is Earth Day on the farm.

Most dairy farm families live and work where they farm. Each day they walk out their back door to take good care of their animals and land. It’s a responsibility they take seriously, and they’re proud of the work they do to bring nutritious food to our tables in a sustainable way.

Dairy farming has become advanced and innovative in Oregon and across the country.  For example, between 1944 and 2007, the dairy industry used 90 percent less land, consumed 63 percent less water and emitted 63 percent less carbon while quadrupling the milk supply. Today, the dairy industry is responsible for less than two percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The dairy industry is also great at recycling. Almost 20 percent of everything dairy cows eat is an agricultural byproduct inedible by humans. One major byproduct of milking cows – manure – is a valuable resource. Farmers use manure as a natural fertilizer on their crops, and some farms use methane digesters to recycle manure into clean, renewable electricity. Several farms generate solar power, and reusing water many times over is standard practice on today’s dairy farms.

Sustainable diets with low environmental impacts contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations. Dairy provides substantial nutritional value in a single affordable package, has continually reduced its environmental footprint, and has committed to additional improvements industry-wide.

So whether you’re enjoying dairy foods on Earth Day or any day, you can feel good about how they’re made.

Seven Things You Should Know About Large Dairies

Larger Farms

Oregon has 228 family dairy farms, ranging from fewer than 100 cows being milked each day to more than 30,000. Regardless of the size of the farm, there are certain values, standards and management practices that every Oregon dairy farmer has in common.

Farm size does not determine farm quality. It’s a misperception that larger farms are somehow not as good for the animals, environment, employees or community. Here are seven things you should know about large dairy farms:

environment1 They are good stewards of the air, land and water. No matter how many cows they milk, farmers care for their land and their natural resources. It’s important to them to do the right thing and be good neighbors and members of the community and they take the initiative to do so by voluntarily implementing best management practices on their own.
farmers work with nutritionists and veterinarians2 Their cows are well cared for. Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high quality milk begins with taking good care of their cows. On farms of all sizes, farmers work with nutritionists and veterinarians to provide a nutritious diet, great medical care and healthy living conditions. Cow comfort is key to a farmer’s livelihood.
State and federal standards3 They follow the rules. Large farms must meet state and federal standards, and they face the same kinds of regulations and oversight as smaller farms. They have regular inspections of their operations to check for and ensure compliance. Dairy is one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S.
Sustainability and efficiency4 Sustainability is not just a buzzword. Farmers are innovating and working toward a sustainable future. They are increasingly working smarter with robotics, automated feeders, methane digesters, precision agriculture, solar panels and beneficial use of waste to increase efficiency and reduce impacts. Large scale farms allow optimal use of scarce resources such as water, energy and land.
Milk testing5 Food safety starts at the farm. Milk is one of the most tested and regulated food products, and all farmers employ rigorous standards, practices and procedures to ensure that it is kept pure, cold and safe. Farmers are held personally responsible for the quality of the milk that comes from their farms.
Josi family6 Oregon dairies are family owned. Even the largest Oregon dairies are family owned. Dairy farmers take great pride in their work, and they want to continue working on the same land so they can continue providing the nutritious food that we enjoy and depend on. It is their legacy.
Milk cheese yogurt7They coexist alongside smaller farms. Large farms support smaller farmers and vice versa. Not all farms produce milk for the same processors or the same dairy products or the same consumer markets. There is room for farms of all sizes and types – organic and conventional – to thrive.

RELATED INFORMATION

21 Creative Ways to Upcycle Your Milk Jugs and Cartons

On America Recycles Day, which is observed on November 15, we started thinking about what to do with all those milk jugs and cartons after they’re empty. Of course you can simply wash them out and deposit them in a recycling bin or at a recycling center. But you can also upcycle, or create a new use for your empty jugs and cartons, with some of these fun and useful possibilities:

MILK JUG CRAFTS

LIGHTS
c6a49a lanterns, what a bright idea
c6a49a indoor chandeliers
c6a49a outdoor chandeliers

watering-jug-300WATERING JUG
cff09e_jug keep your plants happy and well watered with this easy project

KITCHEN COMPOST HOLDER
3b8686 use empty jugs to upcycle food scraps into compost

SCOOP
7c7877 here’s one of many ways to turn your used jug into a handy scoop

GARDENING MADE EASY
9dc3c1
sow your seeds

9dc3c1 grow an herb garden
9dc3c1 start a mini greenhouse

BIRD FEEDERS
eb9f9f functional
eb9f9f fashionable, this is for the birds … literally

supplies-caddy_300SUPPLIES CADDY
aacd6d here’s a helpful little caddy for your school, desk or craft supplies

FUN GAMES
c6a49a play a game of catch with yourself
c6a49a or with a friend

PIGGY BANK
3b8686 start saving money by making a piggy bank instead of buying one

ARTS AND CRAFTS
7c7877 explore your crafty side with fun projects like this igloo
7c7877 a storm trooper helmet
7c7877 a skeleton
7c7877 or a gift basket

MILK CARTON CRAFTS

GINGERBREAD HOUSE
3b8686c ‘tis the season to make some fun gingerbread houses

ICE BLOCKS
aacd6cc freezing your own ice blocks is very cool, indeed

box-garden_300PLANTER
chocolate-milk_cm
make yourself a mini box garden

BIRDHOUSE FEEDER
7c7877c it’s a house and feeder – one stop shopping for birds

FLOWER VASE
cff09ec
whether as a stylish vase
cff09ec
or centerpiece, who knew old milk cartons could look this good?

PAINT POTS
c6a49ac
keep these paint pots in mind for your home improvement project or your kid’s next masterpiece

DESKTOP SUPPLY HOLDERS
3b8686c cut the cartons, then cut the clutter with these handy holders

WALLET/COIN PURSE
aacd6cc 
if you can make wallets out of duct tape, why not milk carton wallets?

TOY CRAFTS
eb9f9fc have some fun making these toys, from trucks
eb9f9fc to building blocks

candle_300CANDLES
7c7877c this bright idea upcycles cartons and crayons into candles

Last but not least, here’s one bonus idea that can utilize milk cartons, jugs or both. Start collecting cartons and jugs now to participate in the 2017 Royal Rosarians Milk Carton Boat Race on June 25. Each jug supports approximately 8 pounds, while sealed cartons support 4 pounds. Here’s a short video showing how to build your own boat.

NOTE: The links in this article are shared for informational purposes only and are not affiliated with the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.

Dairy Farms Come in All Shapes and Sizes

There are 228 family dairy farms in Oregon, and no two are exactly alike. Regardless of the farm size, location and history, there are certain values and standards that every Oregon dairy farmer has in common:

  • Dairy farmers’ commitment to providing high quality milk begins with taking good care of their cows. On farms of all sizes, farmers care for their cows by providing a nutritious diet, good medical care and healthy living conditions. Animal comfort is key to a farmer’s livelihood.
  • Environmental stewardship is important to all farmers, no matter how many cows they milk. Farmers care for their land and their natural resources. They usually live on the land where they farm.
  • It’s important to dairy farmers that they be good neighbors and members of the community.
  • Farmers and the industry are innovating and working toward a sustainable future. They are increasingly working smarter with automation, methane digesters, recycling, precision agriculture and solar panels to increase efficiency and reduce impacts.
  • Food safety starts at the farm. Milk is one of the most tested and regulated food products, and farmers employ rigorous standards, practices and procedures to ensure that it is kept pure, cold and safe.
  • Dairy farmers take great pride in their work, and they want the next generation to work on the same land so they can continue providing the nutritious food that we enjoy and depend on. It is their legacy.

There’s a common misperception that larger farms are somehow not as good for the animals or environment. However, the large scale farms allow optimal use of scarce resources such as water, energy and land. Large farms also face the same kinds of regulations and oversight as smaller farms. If you have questions about dairy farming, use our contact form and let us know.