Protecting the Land

October 25, 2010 07:12 AM

ZachMyers 125x125Zach Myers 

Jonesville, N.C.

Myers Dairy, in the Appalachian foothills, is home to 830 Holsteins and 700 replacements.


*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.

September prices


(3.5% bf, 2.9% prt) $18.00/cwt.

Cull cows

Springing heifers $1,500/head

Ground corn $215/ton

Soybean meal $400/ton

Alfalfa hay
Don’t use

Don’t use

North Carolina has tough environmental regulations, so I spend significant amounts of time making sure we are following those regulations and maintaining our waste records.

As part of our operating permit, we must have a comprehensive nutrient management plan. Animal numbers, record keeping, facility storage and design, amount of waste produced, crops planted and soil types are the main components of this plan. Our waste records and storage facilities are inspected twice annually, once by North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation personnel and once by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Water Quality.

We must apply animal waste based on the nutrient uptake of the crop to be planted, soil type and composition. If the phosphorus content of the soil is above a certain amount, waste application must be based on the phosphorus requirements of the crop. If the phosphorus content of the soil is not high, we may apply waste based on the nitrogen requirements of the crop.

I cannot apply as much manure to sandy soils as I can to more loamy soils because of the nutrient-leaching potential of the sandier soil. I must inspect each of our waste storage ponds weekly and record the freeboard space available in each pond. With each precipitation event equivalent to 1" of rainfall or greater, I must inspect all waste storage ponds to make sure no ponds are above the legal limit and that there is no structural damage caused by erosion. I also have to keep precipitation data throughout the year and weather conditions at the time of waste application. There are numerous other regulations we must follow, but these are just a few to compare to other states. There are stiff penalties if we are found not to be in compliance, including revocation of our operating permit if the infraction is serious enough.

I believe that we farmers are the first environmental stewards. If we do not take care of our land, our land will not take care of us. I strive to make sure we do everything we can to avoid pollution and to reduce our risk of pollution. Some of our best management practices include long-term no-till or minimum-till, winter cover crop, buffers near surface waters, grass waterways in highly erodible land, and producing and harvesting high-quality forages.

High-quality, highly digestible forages result in more efficient digestion, reducing feed intake while increasing production. If cows can eat less and meet their nutrient requirements, there will be less manure to handle.

My comprehensive nutrient management plan is my guide to protecting the land entrusted to me. I know that if I follow what is set forth in those guidelines, I will minimize the risk of pollution. I also strive to communicate the importance of sound science, not emotion, in deciding what regulations need to be enacted. Sometimes the perception of something is worse than reality.


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