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Nebraska Farmer

www.FarmProgress.com - September 2010

Natural Resources

Dairy management takes ‘green’ route By LORETTA SORENSEN

G

REEN isn’t just the color of lush pasture grass at the Brockshus family dairy farm in Osceola County near Ocheyedan, Iowa. A focus on practicing good stewardship and making the most of all their resources has led this northwest Iowa family to establish some “green” practices that are making them and their cows happier. “One of the main ways we make good use of resources and lower costs is with the water we use,” says Jason Brockshus. “Water pre-cools our milk, and the warm water from that process is provided for the cows to drink. Water also helps cool our compressors. That water is collected and used to wash our pipeline. From the pipeline, the water flushes manure from the milking parlor. If we have excess warm water, that water goes to the cows, too.” A plate cooler lowers the temperature of the milk from 101 degrees F to less than 40 degrees, which is required for milk storage. Cooling the milk is a major percentage of a dairy farm’s electricity costs. The Brockshuses have lowered that cost by using the plate cooler. “We struggled to have enough hot water available to keep our dairy clean and meeting specifications,”

says Brockshus. “Taking advantage of the heat our compressors and electric dryer generate has alleviated that problem. Water for our detergent cycle to clean our pipeline must be over 160 degrees, and we need a lot of it fast. With this system we’ve greatly reduced the amount of energy needed to heat water. It also provides an ample water supply for the cows, which is essential to have quality milk production.”

Good rapport with neighbors Manure flushed out of the parlor and freestall barns is applied to crops. That allows the family to use nutrients their cows produce and reduces the use and expense of commercial fertilizer. The practice of properly and carefully applying manure to cropland also helps build good rapport with neighbors. “We apply manure to fields closest to our dairy, so we’re not using excessive amounts of fuel to haul it,” notes Brockshus. “Our cornstalks and bean straw are used for bedding in loafing areas that hold our pre-fresh cows. We’ve also been able to reduce risk and help manage costs by raising our own replacement heifers.” Even though the cloth towels require time and resources to wash, Brockshus says the overall cost is far less than if

GOOD NEIGHBORS: Jason Brockshus and his family believe they have an obligation to the community to operate their dairy with the highest possible standards. This freestall barn houses Holsteins on the family’s 350-cow dairy farm near Ocheyedan, Iowa. the dairy used paper towels. “We found we could buy a couple of washers and dryers with the money we spent on paper towels,” he says. “The cloth towels actually do a better job of cleaning. Ensuring cows are clean is critical, so being able to do a better job and save money made sense.”

People support green practices Cows exposed to light eat more feed and produce more milk, so the dairy is fitted with timers that keep the lights on. The

family also extended the use of the original barn. “It’s been renovated numerous times,” says Brockshus. “Our dairy operation has grown slowly, and we brought other family members in as the dairy farm developed in size. We milk about 350 cows and raise all our own corn. We grow 310 acres of corn, 80 of alfalfa and have 10 acres of pasture. Our focus is always producing the best-quality milk in a cost-effective way.” Sorensen writes from Yankton, S.D.

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Dairy management takes ‘green’ route