Here's a math quiz. If you milk 10,000 dairy cows three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and feed each of them from 49 to 54 pounds of dry matter per day for a total of roughly 1 million pounds of feed daily, you get:
More cow flop than you scrape off your brogans.
And that much manure provides a big challenge for a dairy to dispose of in an environmentally responsible matter.
Al Deepee, general manager of Braum's Dairy near Tuttle, Okla., says the dairy faces that daunting task every day. Braum's was included on a recent field tour, part of the 24th Annual Southern Conservation Tillage Conference.
“We are a no discharge facility,” says Deepee. The animal waste stays on the facility, which encompasses more than 10,000 acres of farmland in an isolated, rural setting about an hour's drive from Oklahoma City.
“We don't have flush water runoff problems,” Deepee says.
The need for feed plays a crucial role in waste management.
“We raise from 4,000 to 5,000 acres of corn,” Deepee says, “to provide a good portion of the 1 million pounds of feed we use daily. We also raise wheat, barley and 2500 acres of alfalfa. We buy grain sorghum, wheat straw, and soybeans from local farmers. We feed a lot of soybeans.”
After corn harvest, he plants barley. “The farm produces from 100,000 to 105,000 tons of corn silage a year. That lasts about nine months and then we feed barley silage.”
Deepee prefers barley to other small grains. “We get more tonnage and nutritional value is higher,” he says.
Deepee says the dairy provides a good market for local grain and forage producers. “We operate two elevators where we buy local crops. We buy up to 200,000 bushels of barley a year locally.”
But the dairy produces most of its own feed. They grow crops on some coastal bermudagrass pastures. “We overseed coastal with wheat in the fall,” Deepee says. “We overseeded one bermudagrass field this spring with corn. We're not certain how well the grass will recover.”
He says continuous cropping is essential.
“The solution to pollution is dilution,” Deepee says. “We keep something on most of the land all year long to manage this much waste.”
Water from the dairy facility, a building that squats on some 35 acres of land and is visible for miles, “is used at least twice,” Deepee says.
Solids are separated, composted and used as bedding for the cows. Water goes into a lagoon and is recycled for crop irrigation. The farm includes 33 center pivot irrigation units. “We can pump 2,200 gallons of recycled water a minute 24 hours a day.
“A dairy this size requires a lot of acreage, and a lot of growing crops to take up the nutrients in the waste water,” Deepee says. “We purchase only ammonium fertilizer for the corn.”
All the milk and milk products from the dairy are sold through Braum's stores and restaurants. “We have stores in five states — Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas and New Mexico.”
Milk is processed at the Tuttle site and shipped to stores. “We run the manufacturing facility seven days a week and deliver to stores seven days a week,” he says.
Braum's operates another, larger farm in western Oklahoma, where they take dry cows. That facility includes 40 sections and more than 90 center pivot units.
Braum's has been in business since 1969. “We milked the first cow at this facility in 1976,” Deepee says.