30 Years of Change

November 1, 2011 05:49 AM

Gorrell   Patron, Patrona,Jessie 12 14 10Glenn Gorrell

East Smithfield, Pa.
Gorrell Dairy LLC is home to 670 cows and 610 heifers.



*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.


We live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, only 10 miles from the Susquehanna River, and with our head count, we are a CAFO [concentrated animal feeding operation].

Times sure have changed since we started farming in 1981. Who would have guessed that 30 years later, I would be spending so much of my time and money dealing with manure, record-keeping and documentation of where every animal is and where every load of manure goes?

Three years ago, we built a new manure system. Since we bed with sand, we put in a flush flume to a sand lane. We also added a solid separator before manure and sand get to our two-stage manure lagoons.

This gives us enough storage to last through the winter and allows us to apply the manure to growing crops. We can now haul solids to ground we farm farther away. The system also allows us to spread more liquids per acre since we are removing more phosphorus with the separator.

Our cropping plan includes more cover crops than previously. With our climate in northern Pennsylvania, a good cover crop is not always possible, like it was this year. It is our goal to get as much corn silage ground planted to a cover crop as possible.

With our highly erodible land, we have to have more hay ground than needed. But it comes in handy in a wet year like this one to apply the extra collected water. We are 35" above normal.

In the last two years, we have fenced the heifers out of intermittent waterways and replanted grass and trees to filter the water leaving the farm. This year, we need to finish the filter system from our trench silo and catch the drains coming out of the calf barn to the manure storage. Next year, we will deal with the area the bred heifers are in, which includes catching roof runoff and laneways over a diversion ditch.

Air quality did not seem to be an issue until we added the flume. Now that the flume runs about once an hour and separates solids out, the lagoons are not crusted over like our old storage. We are going to try an additive in the system as soon as we get done hauling manure this fall. We hope this will make the air more palatable for all.

On the cropping side, we have no-tilled our seedings for 15 years. We usually no-till 70% of our corn, using minimum tillage on the fields where we made a mess with harvest or manure spreading. We haven’t used a moldboard plow in 15 years. With our combination of no-till, cover crops and strip cropping, we have made big strides in what stays on our fields compared to 20 years ago.




Gorrell's October Prices

Milk (3.2% bf, 3.1% prt) $22.35/cwt.
Cull cows $1.25/lb. to
$1.30/lb. (dressed)
Springing heifers $1,250/head to
Alfalfa hay (milk cow) $255/ton
Cottonseed $330/ton
Cornmeal $285/ton contracted
Canola $305/ton


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