In Praise of Cow Manure

October 29, 2013 08:15 PM

Art Schaap

Art Schaap
Clovis and Portales, N.M.

The Schaaps manage four dairies, including an organic operation, and milk 5,500 cows. They’re also partners in a cheese factory.

Schaap will speak at the Elite Producer Business Conference Nov. 14 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Click here for more information.

Cow manure is normally a subject that is not discussed among people who are not involved with agriculture. It is, however, a very important part of dairy farming.

There are several ways to recycle manure, such as fuel, electricity, heat, mosquito repellent and even home insulation. In nature, manure is broken down and becomes a part of the food chain, thanks to animals and fungi.

Manure is also used for entertainment: "Cow chip throwing" was popularized in Beaver, Okla., in the 1970s. Robert Deevers of Elgin, Okla., set the record for throwing a cow pie 185’ 5". That’s classy entertainment.

The American bison gives us some interesting history about where we come up with some of the terms that refer to manure. The "meadow muffin" or "buffalo chip" was used by the Plains Indians, settlers and pioneers as a source of heat and warmth. The Indians called it "nik-nik," which they considered fecal matter that came from any bovine, which also included domestic cattle. This term also was used by the Lakota to refer to lies or broken promises. Adopted by the U.S. government, the figure of speech "bullsh_t" became an analogy and a vulgarity.

Over the years, manure has been transformed into a solid waste by environmental groups. These same groups are now hitting dairy farmers one at a time, suing them for open dumping and violating federal statutes that require them to report hazardous chemicals and change their operations. They do this by making the dairy farmer line manure storage lagoons and limit the application of fertilizer on fields, including liquid manure.

In our opinion, the main objective of the environmental groups is to change the practices of how farmers utilize the nutrients they need to grow crops. Though they may not be in your state, they are well funded and have led their constituents to believe they are saving the environment and that animals are the source of pollution.

With this logic, environmental groups have convinced organic companies that "factory farms," a herd of 300 cows or more, are the main source of pollution and contradict the organic value that manure provides the soil. Each state is different with interpreting the law and regulations. It also depends on what party is in control of the said state, some of which even have their own policies. I hope that our environmental groups aren’t creating problems just to obtain more clients.

Dairy farmers will always find ways to better utilize nutrients. Here in the Southwest, there is a group called Dairy Industry Group for Clean Environment (DIGCE). This group confronts environmental fallacies and bogus demands, challenging their "experts." DIGCE uses hydrologist, enviro-consultants, state National Resources Conservation Service agencies and universities to gather information that is based on science and not the feel-good solutions.

What DIGCE is seeing is that environmental groups want to fight us at an individual level, but they can’t take us on when we band together. We will always use cow manure as a resource and should know our land better than anyone else. At our dairy, we always care about our business. Managing manure is critical for cow care. It is our job to handle the task at hand, which is to educate and show people that we are good stewards and do that task to the best of our ability.

Schaap’s recent prices

$18.37 (3.41 bf, 3.08 prt)

Cull cows

Springing heifers

Alfalfa hay (milk cow)


Rolled milo

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