Good for Our Environment

08:52AM Oct 29, 2014
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Pete Wiersma

Pete Wiersma
Buhl, Idaho

In addition to helping manage 1,500 cows on his family’s two dairies in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Wiersma serves on the boards of United Dairymen of Idaho and Independent Milk Producers.

Rules and regulations—almost no one likes them, but everyone knows they’re necessary. The same holds true when it comes to environmental rules and dairy farming.

It takes time and resources to stay in compliance with ever-changing, ever-more restrictive regulations. When all you want to do is produce milk, it can be a real distraction.  

Here in Idaho, every dairy opera-tion is required to have a nutrient management plan approved by the state department of agriculture. Each plan is unique to its dairy. It takes into consideration the many variables that make up that particular operation in order to get a firm estimate of its nutrient production.

The farm ground available to receive those nutrients is tested every year. Based on the soil test results, an application rate is developed. Soil high in a particular compound, usually phosphorus or
nitrates, will receive little to no additional nutrients from the dairy until next year when the soil is
tested again.

Record-keeping is necessary for a plan to work properly. We are required to record the date, type
(liquid or solid), and amount of nutrient leaving the dairy as well as the address or location of the receiving ground. The complete plan is kept along with all records in a binder that is available to the inspector upon request.  

The purpose of the nutrient management plan is to prevent the over-application of fertilizer to farm ground. Other rules are really based on common sense and govern the more practical aspects of operating our dairy from day to day. This includes not hauling manure during wet weather, not allowing water to run off the property and avoiding certain activities on windy days to reduce blowing dust. Collectively, they really just attempt to ensure that no nutrients leave the premises in an uncontrolled or accidental manner.  

A big motivator for us to follow the rules (aside from the penalties that will surely come if we don’t) is not so much that it’s good for “the” environment, but that it’s good for “our” environment—and that of our neighbors.


We live, work and operate our business alongside them, and the last thing I want to be is a nuisance.  Mud or manure on the road, strong smells or dust—on occasion these things happen. But we do everything we can to keep them to a minimum.  

The truth is that if you look beyond the rules and regulations to see what they are trying to accomplish, they often (but not always!) make sense.