by Jim Werkhoven
Washington Dairy Farmer
Even though we didn’t call it sustainability, my brother Andy and I were born and raised to know that stewardship of the land is the foundation of our family business; the foundation of what we do.
But when we were honored with the Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability Award, it was a very humbling experience for us. While I am very proud of our farm operations, I think there are many farms around the country that are just as responsible, just as innovative, and just as sustainable as ours.
The truth is, dairy operations are built around recycling and reusing. Because cows are ruminant animals, they can effectively digest fiber that other animals – including humans – cannot. So our cows can get the nutrition they need by eating leftover fiber and other food by-products — like soy and cottonseed, beet and citrus pulp, and so forth. My cows, for example, eat cottage cheese whey that would normally go down the drain at the processing plant.
I know of one farmer who has practically made it an art form to choose and purchase the right combination of nutritional by-products for his herd!
This kind of efficiency is what sustains us. While we are facing a difficult time right now, I believe that this is a great industry, and over the long haul we are only going to get stronger.
I look forward to reading the stories of the 2013 winners of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards. Nominations are open now.