Factory Dairy Farm Environmental Impact

Have A Look In A Factory Dairy Farm

Placid Milk Cows enjoying their second chew

Many of us love milk for ice cream, milk shakes, yogurt, cereal or just a cold refreshing glass with our meal.  We imagine the placid looking cows, grazing in a field of green pasture. Such a pleasant thought to imagine.  But, lurking in the background is a factory dairy farm.  This might be a shocking revelation for you.

Of course the dairy farm is a business with a goal of maximizing production and profit, like most any other commercial enterprise.  Within a dairy farm, Issues to consider are to maximize milk output per cow, to use feed with the proper nutrition for maximum health and manage cattle feed growth for highest yield.

Many business improvements will generate both a gain and a loss, a pro and a con.  The dairy business actions are no exception.  A concentration of cattle in the minimum area will also concentrate the urine and manure waste problem.  Where does it go?  Probably the nearest stream, carrying with it a high content of chemicals that will create an imbalance in the water.

Cattle feed,such as alfalfa, is often sprayed with a pesticide to minimize loss of growth to bugs.  Often, the chemical overspray results in negative effects for neighboring farms and communities.  This is certainly not a welcome addition for their environments.  The spray chemicals can have health impact for both people and other animals.

Chemical additives to cattle feed can have long term impact on both the cattle as well as the people who drink the milk.   The consumers can be unaware of its effect in the long term.  antibiotics and hormones can both have a lasting consequence, especially in children.

The below video explores the environment within a factory style dairy farm.  The word “factory” is used to describe a milk production process that organizes and exploits each action required for the cows to give the most milk. High efficiency is the desired objective, getting the best ROI (return on investment).

 

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Using Pig Waste Petroleum For Asphalt Roads

waste disposal hazards    – Post 6

Huge amounts of animal waste containing urine and feces accumulate in livestock farms.  Disposal of the waste creates a huge problem.  It is a hazard to the environment creating harmful gases that contribute to the greenhouse effects that are causing global warming.

The scientific community spends quite a lot of research to discover methods of resolving the animal waste disposal. They are looking for ways to turn this waste into something useful.

The following video highlights a useful idea for a pig manure extract, petroleum.  Yes, surprisingly one of the components contained in the animal waste is a type of petroleum.  Which, is also a key ingredient of an important product for our road infrastructure, asphalt.

The success of using animal waste for a useful and needed product will certainly be monitored with great interest.  Of course, with any new product, it will have to be thoroughly tested to verify the expected useful life.  This material is obviously much cheaper than the current petroleum which is extracted from oil.

Time will tell as the development process continues to prove how well the asphalt made from pig waste will hold up to intense road traffic, weather and other abuse.

Pig manure paves road to sustainable asphalt – Science N

 

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Hog Factory Farm: Review From the Air

Does A Hog Factory Farm  Make A Good Neighbor?

 

The preferred location for a hog factory farm is in rural locations.  Reasons for this choice should be fairly obvious.  There is quite a bit of land required to contain the different space requirements of a farm that houses pigs in the thousands.  Waste disposal from the animals requires a lot of land area.

The animals are crammed into as small a space as possible to be mass bred, raised, fed and prepared for the meat market.  A huge waste disposal problem exists while housing such a large number of pigs.

A common method of managing the waste problem is through the use of lagoons.  Accumulated pig feces and urine collect through a floor of slats. Then it is pumped into the lagoon for treatment.  As the lagoon fills, the liquid is used for fertilizer. on various types of fields.

Here is one of the major complaints from property owners located around the farm and it’s lagoons.  Two issues stand out:

  • First – the smell from the waste lagoon is intense, based on which way the wind is blowing
  • Second – the environmental impact from applying this liquid mix as fertilizer.

Some of the factory farms employ a method of spraying to apply as fertilizer.  A lot of the spray gets diverted by the wind quite a distance from the sprayers.  This mist settles in and around neighbors houses and property.

The concentration applied tends to exceed the useful needs of the area being treated.  This will create runoff into any streams and other sources of water located near the farm.  The end result is to have an environmental impact to the water and wherever it flows.

The open air lagoon tend to release harmful pollutants into the air. These include methane and hydrogen sulfide gases.  Major contributors to global warming and environmental health hazards.

Studies indicate the community residents around large hog farm factories have higher than normal respiratory disease.  Employees that work inside the farm factories are also reported to have an above average amount of respiratory problems.

Overall, the hog factory farm has a negative impact to the surrounding community.  The spray, gas and odor emissions contribute to a lower quality of life.  Another result observed is that the property values tend to decrease within the surrounding community.

The below video contains a review of a hog factory farm located in North Carolina.  A drone was used to inspect the facility from the air.  Interesting commentary regarding the impact of factory farms is included.

In all fairness, a response by the reviewed farm can be found at this link on the Internet.

 

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Learn Something About How Animal Factory Farms Impact the Environment

11 Reasons Why Animal Factory Farms Have Environmental Impact

 

Collect animal wastewater from factory farm

Spraying collected waste water into the open air for disbursement.

 

 

An active group of youth that is concerned about the environment has created the DoSomething.org website.

This group is composed of 5.5 million young people making positive change, online and off.

They put together 11 facts about how animal factory farms impact the environment.

The 11 facts are listed below with source reference links at the bottom of the page.

  1. About 10 billion land animals in the United States are raised for dairy, meat, and eggs each year.
  2. Animal Factory farms accounts for 37% of methane (CH4) emissions, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of CO2.
  3. Manure can also contain traces of salt and heavy metals, which can end up in bodies of water and accumulate in the sediment, concentrating as they move up the food chain.
  4. When manure is repeatedly overapplied to farm land it causes dangerous levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water supply. In such excessive amounts, nitrogen robs water of oxygen and destroys aquatic life.
  5. Burning fossil fuels to produce fertilizers for animal feed crops may emit 41 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
  6. Globally, deforestation for animal grazing and feed crops is estimated to emit 2.4 billion tons of CO2 every year.
  7. Corn, wheat, and rice, the fast-growing crops on which humanity depends for survival, are among the most nitrogen hungry of all plants.
  8. Large-scale animal factory farms often give animals antibiotics to promote growth, or to compensate for illness resulting from crowded conditions. These antibiotics enter the environment and the food chain.
  9. Animal Factory farms contribute to air pollution by releasing compounds such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, and methane.
  10. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that confined farm animals generate more than 450 million tonnes of manure annually, 3 times more raw waste than generated by Americans.
  11. The waste lagoons on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) not only pollute our groundwater, but deplete it as well. Many of the farms use the groundwater for cleaning, cooling, and drinking.

 

Sources

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Climate Change From Cow Farts

Cows Produce Methane Gas in Enormous Amounts

Between our world and the outside universe is a layer of gases.  This layer, our atmosphere, is what sustains human life on planet earth.  There is currently much concern about climate change coming about from car exhaust and cow farts, among other things.

Trapped under this layer is Oxygen, a necessary component for humans.The atmosphere also protects us by blocking harmful intruding emissions from the sun.  The prevailing climate is determined in large part by this layer of gases.

Heat coming from the sun radiates back from the earth’s surface.  Based upon the combination of gases that makeup the atmosphere, some of the radiation of heat from the earth will be blocked.  This greenhouse effect will raise (or lower) the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, which is necessary to provide a temperature and climate that will sustain our life on earth.

Two of the gases that contribute to heat buildup, called the “greenhouse effect”, is Methane and Carbon Dioxide.  Here is where cows and cars come into play.  Cars produce massive amounts of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in the exhaust from burning fuel. This CO2 becomes part of the atmosphere, which will impact the makeup of the atmosphere by causing more heat to be blocked.

Cows create some CO2, but of more importance, methane gas in cow farts.  The methane gas is 20 times more powerful at blocking heat than CO2.  Thus, the impact to global warming is much higher with methane.  As the buildup of gases increases with earth’s population demanding more cars and meat producing stock, an unnatural climate change is taking place.

Climate change will have an impact on weather patterns around the world.  Where it rains the most, where it is dry, where major storms tend to be active and more.  Impact from climate change is being studied to learn what we can do (and not do) that will lessen the harmful effects to our atmosphere.

The below video provides some insight into the impact of cow methane production impacts climate change.

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The Impact of Giant Factory Farms

Dairy Factory Farms Bring Big Issues for  Oregon Local Communities

Business grows and provides more jobs and consumer goods, often at a lower price point. These are pros of the growth model.   Investors search for new business opportunities based upon state and local area regulations, taxes and infrastructure.  At times the local community views this as a welcome addition.  But, there are also down sides that often comes into play that lowers the glow of expectations.

This article presents graphic detail on the addition of a large dairy factory farm to an existing developed local area in Oregon.

Giant factory farms are moving to Oregon, bringing with them concerns about our rural communities, the environment, and how we want to grow our economy, as well as challenging long-held traditions of our state’s agriculture as one based on small, family-scale farms.

STORY BY KATHLEEN BAUER
IMAGES BY EAST OREGONIAN PHOTO

It’s important to respect “the cow-ness of the cow,” says Oregon dairyman Jon Bansen – a member of the farmer-owned cooperative Organic Valley. He quotes sustainable farm guru Joel Salatin in explaining what differentiates his pasture-raised cows from those living their lives in closed buildings in factory farms.

“It turns out that some things get more efficient with size, but biology doesn’t,” he says of the large mega-dairies that have taken up residence near the small Columbia River town of Boardman at the east end of the Columbia River Gorge. “To be standing on concrete, fed high levels of grain, treated like a widget instead of a biological being — it shortens their lifespan.”

Animal welfare isn’t the only reason to worry about mega-dairies. Another cost of these giant factory farms is to Oregon’s small dairies. In 2001, mega-dairy Threemile Canyon Farms, a 70,000-cow facility near Boardman, began supplying milk to the Tillamook County Creamery Association’s manufacturing plant nearby. One of the results of this move was that an average of nine family-owned Oregon dairy farms went out of business each month between 2002 and 2007.

Why did this happen?

“Mega-dairies flood the market with milk, driving down milk prices and making it increasingly difficult for family farmers to stay afloat,” Bansen wrote in an editorial in the Salem Statesman Journal.

Mega-dairies also degrade the lives of local communities. Bansen wrote that “the ways in which family dairy farmers and mega-dairy factory farms contribute to a community are drastically different. When something breaks, family farmers typically buy parts from the local store. When their animals need veterinary attention, they call the local vet. They support their feed stores, tractor-supply stores, and more. After a hard day on the farm, family farmers often engage in their community, schools, civic groups, and churches.”

Bansen emphasized that employees at mega-dairy factory farms have neither the time nor the money to spend in their communities because of low wages and the long hours demanded of them. And any equipment needed at the dairy is bought from the cheapest (mostly non-local) sources, and profits are sent off to corporate, often out-of-state, offices.

WASTE AND GROUNDWATER

To give an idea of how large these mega-dairies are, all you have to do is refer to their corporate websites. Threemile Canyon’s cows — consisting of 25,000 milk cows, 30,000 replacement heifers, 7,000 steers, and an 8,000-calf nursery — produce 165,000 gallons of milk per day. If you look at a satellite view of the property, you see that the buildings the cows live in are so vast that employees have to drive to get from one end to the other.

The amount of waste that these 70,000 cows produce is also mind-boggling — estimates are around 436 million gallons of liquid manure every year. One of the several open-air, double-lined waste pits, called lagoons, covers more than 20 acres. While these large factory farms have permits for discharging waste under the Clean Water Act, a state statute (ORS 468B-025) prohibits any of it from entering “waters of the state.”

“It says in very broad terms that no person in Oregon shall place or cause to be placed waste where it may enter waters of the state by any means,” says Wym Matthews, fertilizer program manager of the Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) for the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). “There’s the broad thought in Oregon that folks should be responsible and not allow material they are managing — waste or not — to get into the waters and cause a problem.”

In other states, leaks from factory farm lagoons have endangered the drinking water of cities that rely on rivers as a water source, and manure from the spills has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of fish in waterways. Recently, a major liquid manure spill from a dairy operation in the Tillamook area caused the closure of Tillamook Bay due to contamination from fecal coliform, which had a significant economic impact on commercial oyster growers in the area.

The thing that worries Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF), an organization that supports socially and environmentally responsible family-scale agriculture in Oregon, is that much of the reporting and monitoring is left up to the operations themselves.

“The reality is that it’s not possible for there to be no discharge at all, so it’s a bit of an aspirational permit, if you will,” Maluski says. “They often rely on the CAFOs themselves to report a problem because [ODA inspectors] visit them typically once a year. Or, if someone says, ‘Hey they’re spreading manure out there, and it looks like it’s going in the creek’ on a Saturday, if ODA can’t get out there until Monday, they might not see anything.”

And now that another mega-dairy — 30,000-cow Lost Valley Farm, just 30 miles from the Threemile Canyon operation — has received a permit from the ODA, farm organizations like FoFF and the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP), as well as consumer protection groups like the Center for Food Safety (CFS), are on high alert.

The land occupied by these two factory farms is one of three sites in Oregon designated as a Groundwater Management Area (GWMA), so named because nitrate concentrations in many area groundwater samples exceed the federal safe drinking water standard. “What’s so concerning about putting another mega-dairy in an existing groundwater management area is that the Lower Umatilla Basin was designated in the ’90s as a place where there were already too many nitrates in the water — water people use for drinking,” says Amy van Saun, an attorney for CFS. “This is only going to make it worse.”

Wym Matthews didn’t disagree. “I would describe the groundwater-monitoring well data from the Lower Umatilla GWMA as mixed,” he says. “There are some wells that are staying stagnant and not getting better or worse, some that are getting better, and some that are getting worse.”

Asked how the ODA could issue a permit in such a sensitive area, Matthews says that the only way a permit could be issued is if the agencies believe that the permit is restrictive enough so that if there was discharge, it would violate the discharge standard. For Lost Valley, the department has set the discharge standard at zero.

“How can the state say yes to [Lost Valley Farm], a factory farm, which is clearly going to add a risk of nitrates leaching into the groundwater, when you’ve already got an area that’s impaired and not getting any better?” Maluski asks. “When they were digging their manure lagoons for that facility, they actually hit groundwater at 10 feet, so they had to get a special water right to pump groundwater away from their lagoons. It’s just absurd. Obviously, they’re going to have a couple of liners, but if those liners fail, you’ve got a very serious direct contamination of the groundwater.”

EMISSIONS AND AIR POLLUTION

As many restrictions as there are related to the potential release of waste from these industrial farms into groundwater and nearby waters, there are no such restrictions on the very real emissions that are released into the air. Nearly a decade ago, the Oregon legislature passed a bill to address air emissions from these mega-dairies. Called the Oregon Dairy Air Quality Task Force, it was comprised of stakeholders from across the political spectrum, including representatives from government, academic institutions, the dairy industry, and public interest groups.

The task force studied the current scientific literature relating to air pollutants, such as ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter emitted by these factory farm operations.

“Ten years ago, that task force came up with some really strong recommendations for how the state could move forward with some rules around air quality in order to get ahead of the problem of these operations coming in and having a lack of regulations to mitigate emissions,” says Kendra Kimbirauskas, a member of the task force and the current CEO of SRAP. “And 10 years later, none of those recommendations went anywhere despite the fact that it was a consensus list of recommendations.”

Kimbirauskas says that at SRAP, which works across the country with communities that are directly impacted by factory farms, she’s seen what these operations do to rural communities. “It’s just like every other extractive industry,” she says, comparing factory farms to extraction industries like mining and industrial timber that threaten forests and wild lands.

“This is the same factory farm model with a different face,” Kimbirauskas continues. “It’s the idea that these out-of-state companies or corporations can come in, and they can call themselves family farms. But you can put lipstick on a cow, and it’s still a factory farm cow. They come in, and they’re extracting local resources. They’re extracting the water, they’re extracting the local wealth, and they’re sending it off to faraway places. They’re externalizing all of their costs of production, first and foremost, on the local community, on the local environment, and on the state.

“If we’re not careful, and we’re not paying attention to these issues now,” she warns, “by the time it does become in our face, it’s going to be too late, and what we love about Oregon agriculture and the local farm economy will be threatened.”

When asked about Threemile Canyon Farms and Lost Valley Farm claims to have “closed loop” systems, FoFF’s Maluski says he has to laugh.

“Threemile likes to talk about a closed-loop system where they’re capturing their manure, they’re fertilizing with it, and then they’re feeding the animals everything from the corn and alfalfa they grow to potato scraps and onion scraps,” he says. “But they’re ignoring a number of major elements, such as their methane output.” They’re not a closed loop on methane, he emphasizes, arguing that their much-touted digester only captures about a sixth of their total methane emissions.

Maluski notes that a 2005 Toxic Release Inventory from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that Threemile Canyon Farms, which at the time had only 50,000 animals on-site, was one of the nation’s biggest sources of ammonia emissions, estimated at 12,000 to 16,000 tons per year. “So if you conveniently ignore a major part of their operation then, OK, maybe you can get to closed loop,” he says. “But you’ve got to do that by ignoring a bunch of big loopholes in the loop.”

Van Saun at the CFS agrees. “It’s not so closed when you’re putting out enough ammonia that you’re in the top of all industry emissions, the highest single emitter of ammonia in the state,” she says. “That’s an externalized cost that they’re not paying for.”

LOCAL CONTROL

Part of the reason that large factory farms are flocking to the state — in 1997, the USDA census found that Oregon had eight mega-dairies with more than 1,000 cows, and as of 2012, it had 25 such facilities — is that Oregon’s land use system, while it was important in preserving agricultural land when it was created in the early 1970s, did not anticipate the emergence of large factory farms.

So, for instance, when Lost Valley Farm applied for a permit to site its 30,000-cow factory farm on land zoned for exclusive farm use, Morrow County commissioners had no choice but to say yes. An Oregonian article reported that the county had no legal way to stop what would be the state’s second-largest dairy, and that its three commissioners were deeply worried that it would sap already-limited groundwater from local farmers and exacerbate water and air-quality problems.

“When it comes to agriculture, communities don’t have any local control over what kind of agriculture is acceptable in the community and what kind of agriculture they want to limit or regulate,” Kimbirauskas says. “That’s because local control has been pre-empted in this state, meaning that policy on agriculture can only really be set at the state level.”

But for Monmouth dairyman Jon Bansen, it boils down to putting efforts where they will do the most good for the animals, the communities, and the environment.

“There’s different ways of making food, and I think some of them are more beneficial to human health,” he says of the reason he chose to operate a small, pasture-based organic dairy. “If you’re going to eat dairy, you should eat dairy that comes from cows that get to do what ruminants do: Go out, graze pastures, and live their lives on the soft earth, not on hard cement. To do what a cow is supposed to do. And if the animal’s really healthy, then the product it’s producing is going to be healthier for the consumer. That’s why we do what we do.”


Oregon native Kathleen Bauer is a freelance writer and blogger at Good Stuff NW, where she connects the dots between what’s happening in the field and what she’s putting on her table.     goodstuffnw.com  

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