Doing More with Less: One Dairy’s Sustainability Success
Jan 06, 2014
A look at how an Arkansas dairy is sustaining its operations with small changes and positive results.
Source: Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy
"For us, conservation of natural resources and being good stewards of the land and animals is a way of life," say Ryan and Susan Anglin. "Moreover, it is fundamental to the economic survival and success of our dairy operation."
Stewardship, conservation and sustainability are a way of life at Triple A Farms, a 300-cow dairy in Bentonville, Ark.
Owned and operated by Ryan and Susan Anglin, Tripe A Farms has worked with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy® to do more with less on the fourth-generation dairy.
"Like our parents before us, we understand the importance of change and flexibility in agriculture," say Ryan and Susan. "For us, conservation of natural resources and being good stewards of the land and animals, which we oversee, is a way of life. Moreover, it is fundamental to the economic survival and success of our dairy operation.
The farm includes sons Casey and Cody and eight full-time employees. The dairy consists of a Holstein/Ayrshire herd and a commercial pasture-based beef grazing operation. The dairy herd annually produces about 4 million pounds of milk in the double-eight herringbone parlor where cows are milked twice daily. The farm produces feed crops, which include corn silage, sorghum and Bermuda grass and fescue for hay.
Due to their close proximity to urban neighbors, the Anglins carefully weigh community perception against every farm management practice.
"Everything we do to return to the land adds value and, hopefully, productivity to our farm and the quality of products to consumers," Ryan and Susan say. "It is this philosophy that has helped to keep us in dairy farming during the past decade of unprecedented urban growth, rising input costs and changing weather conditions."
Here’s a look at how the Anglins are making a sustainable difference on their dairy:
Energy. As part of the Anglins’ ongoing mission to operate as sustainably as possible, they conducted a farm energy audit in 2012 with the help of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy and its partners EnSave, Inc. and USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Services.
The Anglins replaced the compressor in their milk parlor with a plate cooler. The change saved more than 26,000 kWh in electricity and reduced the dairy's GHG emmissions by 6 tons of CO2 a year.
The audit generated a plan to identify potential areas for saving energy use and improving long-term efficiency and profitability. One suggestion was to replace the compressor in the milk parlor with a plate cooler for better milk cooling and 15% to 25% savings over conventional compressors (with a nine-year payback on investment).
Milk is quickly cooled from the cow’s normal body temperature of 101.5 F to less than 36 F. A plate cooler works like a car radiator. Milk is cooled with well water before it reaches the tank to provide quick cooling and ensure milk quality while saving electricity. By 2013, the Anglins were able to install the plate cooler and saw immediate results – not only in efficiency but the farm’s carbon footprint. The change saved more than 26,000 kWh in electricity and reduced the farm’s greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 12,800 lb. in CO2 – six tons less CO2 annually.
Conservation Tillage. The Anglins use conservation tillage practices that minimize soil loss and optimize fuel use and tractor and equipment "pass overs" on the land. They have adopted a new cropping practice in an effort to replace corn and corn silage. Wheat is planted in the fall and chopped as silage in May. Immediately after spreading manure, sorghum is planted into the wheat stubble with minimal disturbance of the soil. To optimize water, soil and nutrient retention, the fields always have growing plants or residue on the surface.
Nutrient Management. Applying manure on crops – the amount and the time – is carefully matched and measured to crop uptakes and soil tests. This system allows the Anglins to optimize the use of manure and greatly decreases the use of synthetic fertilizers.
Farm Smart™. In 2012, Triple A Farms worked with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to participate in the Walton Foundation’s Water Study. The Anglins pre-tested the concept of Farm Smart, a web-based tool being developed by the Innovation Center. Triple A Farms has joined other producers and stakeholders across the dairy supply chain to review the first draft of the Stewardship and Sustainability Guide for U.S. Dairy, a voluntary framework for tracking and communicating progress.
"By using Farm Smart to estimate our environmental footprint, we can annually benchmark progress from year to year," the Anglins say. "This helps us to set goals for continuous improvement."
Giving Back to the Community. The Anglins are highly involved in soil, water and wildlife conservation (preservation of land, water and natural resources) while ensuring that all livestock are healthy and well-cared for. But stewardship and sustainability go beyond their farm. It’s also about giving back to the local community and the broader food and agricultural industry. Ryan serves as a director on the board of his milk marketing cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America. He’s also former chairman of the National Dairy Promotion and Research Board. Susan volunteers her time to promote dairy health and nutrition in schools and at farm tour and community events. Active in social media, she also hosts a blog to educate consumers about dairy farming and optimizing resources for the future.
Future of Our Dairy. While dairying is its passion, the Anglin family faces certain change. The dairy sits across the street from a 1,200-unit housing development. That’s forced the Anglins to anticipate relocating or dramatically altering their business. Therefore, all improvements must be sustainable and have a five- to six-year payback.
With urban encroachment at an all-time high in their area, the Anglins understand that the local economy will continue to serve as a primary driver for the decisions they make on their dairy farm.
"We look at cause and effect or cost and income – that is the bottom line," says Ryan. "Where we are sitting, our decisions are affected by far different circumstances than producers just 15 miles west of us. Putting up a building may not be the thing to do, but improvements for taking care of livestock, soil or (farm) structures make sense."
Contact the Anglins at firstname.lastname@example.org or 479-795-2147.