Article

Can Cow Poop Help a Community?

April 17, 2017

What do dairy farmers think about cow manure?

“It’s a benefit all the way around,” says Jay Docheff, who dairy farms in Longmont, Colorado.

That’s not the expected phrase when one thinks of all the cow poop dairy farmers deal with every day. But Docheff, like most dairy farmers, realizes the potential of cow manure and uses this smelly resource on his farm -- and in his community -- by turning it into something that benefits the land: compost.   

Docheff has been composting on Docheff Dairy since 1996, long before your neighbor put a compost bin in his yard.

On a dairy farm, the composting process takes cow manure and turns it into a natural soil enhancer. It’s one of the practices dairy farmers like Docheff use to minimize their impact on the environment and ultimately improve soil health, which benefits the crops they grow to feed their cows.

He and his family started composting their cows’ manure partially because the county and state wanted them to do something useful with the manure – but also because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

“We should be doing this, it’s a beneficial practice,” said Docheff. “It results in a good product that the townspeople can use – and we use it on our own fields too.”

Docheff can see a big difference first-hand when he uses compost on his fields. He went from using 25 to 35 tons of raw manure per acre before he started composting, to using only ten cubic yards of compost per acre. He can use less compost because it has a higher concentration of nutrients for the soil.

The Docheffs’ composting practice also helps their community.

“It’s a great, completely organic product that has no added ingredients in it whatsoever. It’s perfect,” said Don King, of Don King Landscaping, who exclusively uses compost from Docheff for all his landscaping projects. “I’ve worked with the Docheffs for years and their compost is the perfect soil amendment.”

Just like the dairy farm, Docheff runs his composting operation year-round. It comes from the manure collected from the pens at the dairy – where they milk around 1,000 cows.

“It takes anywhere from six to eight weeks in the summer from start to finish,” explained Docheff. “In the winter time and cooler months, it takes anywhere from three to four months.”

Once the composting process is complete, they sell compost in bulk by the cubic yard to people in their community, whether it’s for general use or for commercial landscapers like King.

By applying sustainable practices, dairy farmers make sure the farm will be there for generations to come. And yes – that includes finding an excellent way to reuse cow poop.

 

This story was brought to you by our friends at Western Dairy Association

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