Use of a Vegetative Filter as an Alternative Waste Management System for a Sustainable Seasonal Management-Intensive Grazing Dairy
The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the socio-economic and environmental feasibility and sustainability of a 60-80 cow seasonal, Management-Intensive Grazing (MIG) dairy. The specific objectives of the portion of the project funded by SARE are to:
1) Evaluate a vegetative (grass/soil) filter as an effective, affordable alternative waste management system as a component of a MIG dairy;
2) Collect data necessary for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to consider vegetative filters as an acceptable alternative to conventional lagoon or total containment systems for small- to medium-sized MIG dairy operations;
3) Establish an educational and demonstration model farm to teach concepts and practices of MIG dairying, and show the economic and environmental benefits of an alternative waste management system as a component of a MIG dairy.
Construction of a seasonal, MIG dairy facility was completed January 1999. Heifers began calving January 31 and continued through April 4 (a 64-day calving window). Cows were milked through December 15, at which time all animals were dried off.
The waste management system is designed to handle liquid and solid waste from the milking parlor and holding areas. Cattle on pasture deposit approximately 71 percent of the urine and manure directly on pasture themselves; therefore, the waste system is expected to handle only 29 percent of the total waste compared to a conventional, confinement dairy. Approximately two-thirds of this 29 percent will be scraped and hauled as a solid for spreading. The remaining one-third, or about 10 percent of the total waste, plus about 5 gallons per cow per day of waste water (equipment wash water) will be stored in holding tanks and applied to the vegetative filter area on a weekly basis.
The filter area is 2 acres in size, divided into four equal cells to allow for rotation of discharge within the filter area. Monitoring of the surface and ground water will be accomplished by analysis of waste samples, soil samples, piezometers both within and outside the filter area, and a collection weir at the drainage end of the filter area.
The investigators expect to show that a vegetative filter can be successfully used as an alternative waste management system for MIG dairies. Economic data are expected to show MIG dairies to be efficient, profitable, sustainable and environmentally compatible, and capable of producing high quality milk. If widely adopted, the results of this project could have far-reaching impact on quality of life for dairy producers and well-being of rural communities.
For more information:
Richard J. Crawford, Jr.
University of Missouri
SW Research Center
14548 Hwy H
Mt. Vernon, MO 65712