Chesapeake Concerns

October 26, 2009 10:23 AM

Kevin Phillips and his four brothers own North Point Farm, which milks 350 cows in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Kevin Phillips
Waynesboro, Va.

Our dairy is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Water quality has been a big concern for us for more than 20 years. We have been told that runoff and cattle standing in the creeks are contaminating the bay with too much nitrogen and phosphorus.

Actually, studies have shown that more nitrogen and phosphorus comes from lawn fertilizers, water treatment plants and erosion from developments than from farm operations. But it has been very easy to put the blame on dairy and poultry farmers.

We have been following a nutrient management plan for 20 years. Any operation over 300 animal units has to have a Virginia Pollution Abatement permit. All records are inspected once a year.

The problem with this plan is that everything is based on averages. Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality dictates how much manure or commercial fertilizer can be applied and when. They are very concerned about runoff, erosion, too much fertilizer applied and leeching into streams.

To comply, we have fenced streams, planted trees along streams, practiced no-till, banned fertilizer, sidedressed (basically spoonfed to assure 100% utilization) and tried to do what we feel is right. We try to notify neighbors before spreading manure, so odor (air quality) has not been an issue yet.

Our grandchildren are the sixth generation on this dairy. We try to make sure that we use sound environmental practices so there can be six more generations to farm this very beautiful area in the Shenandoah Valley.

Phillips' September Prices  
Milk (3.6% bf, 3.1% prt): $13.12cwt. (gross)
Cull cows: $38/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,350/head
Alfalfa hay: $140/ton
Cottonseed: $210/ton
Ground corn:  $170/ton
Soybean meal (48%): $400/ton




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