Sep 17, 2014
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Sustain Your Dairy

RSS By: Dairy Today: Sustain Your Dairy, Dairy Today

A closer look at how dairies are using sustainable practices that are not only economically viable but based on science, common sense and respect for the world around them.

California’s Dairies Work Harder for Cleaner Water

Aug 28, 2014

Producers in the No. 1 dairy state push for innovation, technology to protect water quality.

Tom Barcellos   Grandson

Dairy producer Tom Barcellos and grandson Kadin Kidder at the Barcellos dairy near Tulare, Calif.

Source: Dairy CARES

"Water is as important as the ground we stand on, for everything and everyone around here, as far as you can see and farther – our farms, our towns, our entire way of life," says California dairy farmer Tom Barcellos, who milks 800 cows and raises corn and alfalfa on the same farm where he was born 57 years ago, near Porterville in Tulare County.

"I do what I can to protect the water we have and use it responsibly, not only because it’s the right thing to do, it also makes economic sense," Barcellos says. "Everyone in this valley deserves clean drinking water, and all of us are responsible for working together to make sure that we have it. We inherited this valley and its water resources from the previous generations, and the responsibilities and challenges that come with that. I take those responsibilities very seriously. I want to do my part to make sure we can be proud of what we pass on to my grandkids and their neighbors and communities."

Connecting past and future is not theoretical for Barcellos, a third-generation dairy farmer. His father, Tony, still lives on the farm, while his seven-year-old grandson, Kadin, has already taken to helping out around the dairy (just one of the five grandchildren for Tom Barcellos and his wife of 37 years, Felomena).

Besides implementing careful water protection measures on his own dairy, Barcellos takes time off the farm to serve on the board of directors of his irrigation district and to lead a non-profit coalition of dairy farmers in a regional groundwater quality monitoring effort.

While Barcellos’ commitment to and knowledge of water issues is impressive, he is not alone. Water protection efforts on dairies across California have grown by leaps and bounds:

  • Since 2007, Central Valley dairies have operated under the strictest water quality protection regulations in the nation.
  • More than 1,275 Central Valley dairies now participate in the nation’s largest cooperative groundwater monitoring effort.
  • Dairies, individually and through their associations, invest millions of dollars each year in implementation of improved management practices and research to enhance water quality protection.

Managing nature’s fertilizer—manure

California dairy cows produce nutritious milk for millions of consumers, and manure is a natural by-product. Farmers put it to good use, recycling it as a natural fertilizer and soil builder.

Like commercial fertilizers, manure must be carefully managed and California dairy farmers are leading the way. In 2007, the Central Valley became the first region of the U.S. where all dairies use nutrient management plans, which are designed to protect groundwater. Farmers routinely test manure, plant tissues, and soil and irrigation water to assure safe application, maximum efficiency and groundwater protection.

Continuous push for improvement. Dairy farmers across California continue to push for further innovation, trying new methods and equipment to improve their manure management and water quality protection. Ray Gene Veldhuis is exploring improved water management technology at his dairy near Winton, Calif.

"We’ve been making our farm available for testing of different water treatment technologies that will allow us to use our manure and water even more efficiently, and perhaps also create renewable energy. That would be a win-win," Veldhuis says. "We haven’t got it all figured out yet, but we are trying to look ahead."

Dairy associations are also working hard to help dairy farmers move forward. Western United Dairymen assists its members in identifying and applying for grant programs for on-farm projects that generate environmental benefits and improve management. The association recently completed testing new technology that helps better evaluate performance of manure water storage ponds on dairies.

"California dairy farmers have always been innovators and they are eager for cost-effective management options," says Michael Marsh, the association’s CEO. "We are working to make sure they get the help and support they need."

Black-and Whites Go Green: Pioneer Embraces ‘Cow Power’

Jun 23, 2014

How a California dairy generates enough power to meet its complete energy needs.

Source: DairyCares

Larry Castelanelli on digester   Copy

Larry Castelanelli (left) and family members stand atop the cover of the dairy’s methane digester near Lodi, Calif.

Larry Castelanelli continues to be a leader in sustainable energy production, operating one of the longest-running dairy biogas digesters in California.

"In 2003, we decided to make our black-and-white Holsteins green," said Castelanelli who manages his family’s 1,600-cow dairy in Lodi. "Cows have been producing milk on this farm since the 1920s. Now they’re closing in on a decade of producing clean, renewable energy."

Castelanelli’s green energy production begins with a recycling process common on California dairies. Clean water is first used to cool milk tanks and wash cows. Then it’s recycled to clean manure from barn floors. This wash water is then stored in a retention pond until it can be reused as a natural fertilizer for crops such as corn and alfalfa.

Castelanelli made the investment to cover his pond with a thick plastic sheet, strong enough to walk upon. This captures biogas produced from the natural breakdown or "digestion" of the manure during storage. The biogas, mostly methane, is then used to power an engine capable of producing 300 kilowatts of power.

"We generate enough power to meet the complete energy needs of the dairy," Castelanelli says. "When we’re producing more power than we can use, we sell the excess to the utility company. At times, as much as two-thirds of our cow power leaves the farm."

Castelanelli sees his investment as a "win-win" situation. Not only is he reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the farm, he’s also offsetting his use of fossil fuel-generated energy, further reducing the release of heat-trapping gases.

With one of about a dozen dairy digester projects in the state, Castelanelli is hopeful more dairy farmers will be able to implement improved digester technologies on their farms, thereby adding clean, green, renewable energy to the list of products dairy farmers produce for our state and the nation.

"The potential for green energy generation by dairy farmers in this state is tremendous," he says. "You could say I’m bullish about the future of cow power."

Learn more about the sustainability efforts of California’s dairy industry at

Smarter Fleet, Smaller Footprint

May 05, 2014

A major California milk-hauling company has updated its fleet with longer-lasting, lower-emitting trucks designed to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution.


Source: DairyCares

Roughly 2,100 tanker loads of milk leave California family dairy farms every day and make their way to food processing plants throughout the state. Ruan Transportation, a commercial food-grade hauling company, moves much of that milk safely, efficiently and sustainably.

"Ruan is responsible for transporting about 30% of the milk produced in our state," says Jim Mulvenna, senior vice president and general manager of Ruan’s Dairy and Bulk Food Transport Division. "It’s no secret that dairy families have made great advancements in sustainability on the farm. But what folks may not know is that their commitment to sustainability extends beyond the farm gate and we’re proud of the contributions we’re making to improve the overall sustainability footprint of the dairy community."

Ruan has a long and successful history of developing environmentally friendly technologies and practices. This includes an updated fleet of longer-lasting, lower-emitting trucks designed to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution.

Key to Ruan’s sustainability success is the principle of achieving more with less. Today, Ruan hauls nearly 10 percent more milk with 261,700 fewer gallons of fuel than it did in 2009.

"Improved efficiency in transporting milk directly translates to reducing carbon from the air," Mulvenna says. "Fewer trucks on the road and fewer miles traveled by those trucks mean we burn less fossil-based fuel."

Dedicated to improvement, Ruan isn’t resting on its laurels.

As co-chair of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s FLEET-SMART project, Ruan is helping to develop dairy-specific transportation guidelines. These are designed to further reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 165,000 metric tons annually, potentially saving 16.5 million gallons of diesel fuel each year.

Ruan continues to do its part for the environment, including investing in research and development of alternative fuels for their trucks, such as compressed natural gas and biodiesel.

"With sustainable innovations constantly emerging, the future is exciting," says Mulvenna. "Some of our trucks already run on compressed natural gas and soon, trucks will run on cow biogas generated on the same farms where we pick-up milk."

Learn more about the sustainability efforts of California’s dairy industry at

Liner Lifespans

Apr 02, 2014

Rubber or silicone? Do you know the true value and cost of your milking liners? 

Nathan Brown March2014By Nathan Brown, Solution Manager, Liners and Tubes, DeLaval North America

With countless liner options on the market – each one making unique performance and length-of-life claims – it’s important that producers understand the true value and cost of the liners they choose.

Outside of the liner performance discussion, a common misperception in the market is that most liners have similar lengths of life. This, however, is not true. When comparing costs per milking on liners of varying life, the shorter-life liner will sometimes actually be more expensive than a longer-life liner. The longer-life liner might appear more expensive from a billing perspective because you’re paying more when you buy, but remember, you’re paying less often. With this in mind, it is important for producers to calculate the costs per milking on inflations and compare the options. Use this formula to help determine the liner cost per milking:

DeLaval chart 3 31 14

When I visit dairies, producers often ask me about liner life and material compounds. Many have commented: "Aren’t all compounds the same?" or "I buy (brand X) because they use natural rubber or silicone, and that is best, right?"

Let’s consider some facts and historical data on liner compounds, which are constant no matter who manufacturers them. A variety of compounds are blended to become what you see as a finished product on your farms. Making a rubber compound is very similar to baking a cake. Add too much or too little of one ingredient and your liner might be too stiff or soft, or not able to withstand chemicals.

For decades, natural rubber was the most popular liner material since the invention of the "modern" milking machine in the early 1900s. As dairy herd sizes grew, producers demanded longer-life products. This shift ushered in a host of new liner options to help producers reduce liner changes – which, according to most, are about as fun as getting a tooth pulled! As a result, synthetic rubbers are now the main components in many liners known to be "rubber." In fact, it is virtually impossible to go beyond 800-1,000 milkings per liner when using 100% natural rubber.

Synthetic rubbers have become the new age material most commonly found in liners. This material offers longer service intervals as well as other benefits to dairy producers. Many manufacturers offer "extended-life rubber" products, which traditionally milk slower as compared to their "standard-life" counterparts. However, there are liners on the market today which claim to show no difference in milking performance between standard life and extended life inflations, including silicone. Although silicone offers an extended life, producers often experience cutting and butterfat migrations issues, which can actually shorten liner life and affect performance.

DeLaval liner photo 3 2014
Commonly used compounds used to make synthetic rubber.

Other components sometimes used in liners are FDA-approved phthalate plasticizers, which are used to "soften" the rubber compound. However, be aware that phthalates are suspected to be a carcinogen. They are linked with some instances of breast cancer and may affect hormone levels in young children. As a result, some manufacturers have decided to eliminate phthalates from their rubber compounds in an effort to be more socially responsible. If this is concerning, ask your route driver if the liners you are using contain phthalates, and if they do, perhaps your specialist can recommend a phthalate-free liner.

In conclusion, knowing your true costs per milking and understanding the value in the rubber formulations of the liners used on your dairy can play a vital role in your profitability as well as the social responsibility of the products you produce.

You can reach Nathan Brown at or visit for more information.

Harvesting the Sun’s Power

Mar 03, 2014

Brothers Mike and Manuel Monteiro expand the output at their California dairy to include a new crop – energy.

Source: DairyCares

With little more than hope for a better future, Manuel Rodriguez Monteiro immigrated to the United States in 1916 at the age of 15. By 1930, he had saved enough of his wages from milking cows to buy 25 of his own cows. If he could only see his grandsons’ dairy today.

"I know he’d be proud," says Mike Monteiro, who with his brother Manuel, operates Lakeside Dairy south of Hanford, Calif. "He probably wouldn’t believe his eyes either."

Monteiro Bros   Copy
Solar panels generate enough energy to offset 75% of the utility power usage at Mike (left) and Manuel Monteiro’s California dairy. The dairy milks about 3,450 cows. (Photo: DairyCares)

That’s because the Monteiro brothers have expanded the farm beyond the traditional raising of animals and growing of corn, wheat and alfalfa to include the harvesting of a new crop – energy.

"We’re constantly looking for ways to be sustainable," Mike says. "When it came to energy sustainability, we just looked to the sky."

In 2011, Novato, Calif.-based SPG Solar completed work on an 891-kilowatt solar power system on the west side of the family dairy farm, where 3,240 ground-mounted solar panels track the sun each day as it moves across the Central Valley sky.

"We’ll generate over 1.7-megawatt hours a year," says Manuel Monteiro. "That’s enough to offset 75 percent of our dairy’s utility power usage, which is a tremendous savings for us and the planet."

On sunny days, the solar harvest is so good that the dairy’s energy meter actually runs backwards, feeding energy generated on the farm into the power company’s grid for use by other customers.

The Monteiros’ solar project reduces their reliance on electricity produced from fossil fuels so much that it’s estimated the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,100 tons each year – the equivalent of removing 238 cars from the roadway.

Mike Monteiro is optimistic other dairies will be powering up via sunshine soon: "Dairy farmers have always been innovators, looking to the future for new tools to improve the quality of care for their cows and the environment. With solar power as a viable option, we’re living in the future today."

Learn more about the sustainability efforts of other California dairies at

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