Like all animals, dairy cows produce manure every day and manure management is a big part of a dairy farmer’s job. Dairy farmers don’t think of manure as waste – it is a valuable resource that is put to good use on and off the farm.
On many farms, manure is collected, then separated into liquid and solid components and stored securely. Manure storage facilities are strictly regulated, and dairy farmers work with local experts and government agencies to ensure best practices for manure management are followed.
Solid manure can be composted, and then used by farmers and even home gardeners. Compost can also be used as bedding for cows. Compost requires the introduction of oxygen, which stimulates microorganisms to convert the piled organic material to a nutrient-rich soil amendment. The liquid portion of the manure can also be used to fertilize fields to reduce the need for purchased fertilizers.
Some dairy farmers have taken manure recycling even further and installed methane digesters on their property. The anaerobic digesters convert manure into clean, renewable electricity for the farm and surrounding community.
Dairy farmers are always working on new ways to use manure and ensure their farms stay sustainable for the future.