Medeiros and his parents own and operate a 2,300-cow herd in the San Joaquin Valley.
*Extended comments are highlighted in blue.
(3.65% bf, 3.22% prt)
More and more dairies are being targeted for their impact on the environment and are made out to seem totally ignorant when it comes to the environment. As dairy producers, we are forced to put programs and compliance measures into practice that have not been tested or that show that, indeed, dairies are to be held liable for their environmental impact.
Dairy producers are among the forefathers of environmental stewardship. If it were not for that very environment -- the land on which we grow forages and grains for feed, the water beneath our feet and the nutritious organic matter that we reincorporate into the land -- we as dairymen and borrowers of the land would not be able to do the very things we do. We would not be able to provide one of the most nutritious and safe products on the market.
California dairy producers face some of the strictest levels of environmental regulation. We have extensive recordkeeping and files of paperwork. There is not one job on the farm—from irrigation to tillage to spreading manure—that does not have a line or box on a form.
However, as progressive dairy farmers, we have been ahead of the curve in most instances. We are always striving to increase the productivity of our farmland. Therefore, we already closely monitor the amount of nutrient water (lagoon water) that we apply to the fields and its impact on the environment. We perform quarterly tests on groundwater and nutrient water and come up with a nutrient management plan with our farm adviser to ensure that we do not overload the farm ground.
We take a majority of the solid nutrients (manure scrapings and separator manure) and compost them for bedding. By doing this, we can decrease the volume of material we have to handle and ensure that it is pathogen-free. In addition, we are provided with an abundance of bedding material for the wintertime and can guarantee that our cows have soft, full beds to lie in, protected from the weather conditions outside.
For air quality, we have adopted a rigorous road maintenance program to minimize dust from vehicles and equipment. We bring our heifers into the feedbunk at dusk to minimize activity in the corral. We scrape the corrals regularly to decrease the amount of dried manure that can turn into particulate matter.
We are looking at a “low-till” program to decrease particulate matter sourced from the farmland, as well as methane digesters and water filtration systems that might decrease the amount of nutrient handling on the farm.
Going into the future, we need to dairy smarter and better then in the past and ensure that there is a future for our farms.
In the end, when I am asked or confronted with the challenge that I do not care for the land or environment, I can proudly say that I am a steward of the environment and that I am responsible for my environment. As a wise woman once told me, “What we have today is not ours, nor did we receive it from our forefathers. Rather, we borrow it from our children and the world of tomorrow.”