Larson is a third-generation dairy producer in southern Florida, milking 4,200 cows.
**Extended comments highlighted in blue.
Water quality has always been a concern at Larson Dairy. Mosquito Creek, a tributary to Lake Okeechobee, moves water and nutrients from the north, directly through our two dairies to the southern end of our farms, where most of our water sampling occurs.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection has suggested projects over the years, including an interceptor seepage system and additional pivots and sampling wells.
We have strived to maintain or improve the quality of water that comes in contact with our operation. However, we are at the point where growth has stopped because of environmental issues. Under current regulations on cow numbers, to increase the herd size we would need to purchase additional land for waste management.
One of our barns has a system that gives up 50-plus acres for waste storage ponds. Solids settle, and eventually the third-stage ponds pump out onto fields via two (110-acre) pivots. We have just added a 38-acre pivot that takes water from the second-stage waste storage pond.
Two years ago, samples indicated that our waste storage ponds might be leaking into Mosquito Creek. We then quickly implemented our seepage interceptor system. This is a long series of hoses surrounding the waste storage ponds that collect water and pump it back to the second or third waste storage pond via three lift pumps.
We also recently constructed two waste storage ponds that trap nutrient runoff from our commodity barn area. We even built a brim around the entire commodity area to capture storm water runoff in this area. When the ponds are near full, they can be pumped out through a 60-acre pivot onto a newly planted stargrass field.
Larson Dairy has also worked with other businesses that were interested in taking waste off the farm to create value-added products. However, the inability to move a consistent amount of waste material off-farm made it impractical to use this method as part of our best management practices.
We have strived to meet water quality standards as they have changed over the years. However, as cost-share for environmental regulations has decreased, implementing new regulations has become increasingly cumbersome and provided even less opportunity for business growth.
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