The environment is just like a cow... the better YOU take care of it the better it takes care of you. Let's see how we protect the environment at Mercer Vu...
Cows produce a lot of manure... but we don't call it waste because nothing is wasted. Cows not only provide milk, they provide fertilizer that we use to grow crops the cows eat.
Recycled waste water carries all the manure, urine and sand out of the barn when the cows leave to be milked.
The first stop is the sand separator. It removes the sand out of the waste stream. We are able to recycle 90-95% of our sand to re-bed the cows.
The second stop is primary manure separation where screens thicken the manure and a screw press dries it out. This removes course manure and nutrients from the waste stream.
The green piece in the picture is our secondary separation or a decanter centrifuge. This spins out more solids and nutrients like phosphorus. The goal is to have nutrient poor liquid and rich solids that have little water content that can be hauled further distances.
All the solids go out on a conveyer to be stacked. The solids look like fertilizer that you would buy for your garden.
Some of the solids are stacked and others are loaded directly on to a truck. Half are reused as bedding in dry cows and youngstock and the other half are composted.
The portion that is composted is stored on our compost pad where they are periodically turned. Here we are turning compost.
These solids are land applied where they are fertilizer for growing crops. They are an all natural fertilizer that has decreased our dependence on commercial, petroleum based fertilizers.
All liquid is stored in our 8 million gallon lagoon until it can be field applied. The lagoon has a cover on it. The cover keeps rain water out and collects gas that comes off the lagoon.
The gas that is collected is flared off in this flare. By burning the gas we are converting methane (a greenhouse gas) to carbon dioxide (what we breathe out and plants breathe in). The cover keeps 3-4 million gallons of rain out of the lagoon which would need to be hauled out... burning more fossil fuels.
Some of the liquid is moved through a draghose system. In this system manure is pumped through lines buried underground and then is attached to a flexible line that is pulled across the field by a tractor.
The tractor pulling the hose has a tool bar behind it that spreads the manure. It has spikes that break up the ground to allow the manure to saturate in the root zone. Manure is spread close to the ground, minimizing odors
To insure that the right amount of manure is being supplied a flow meter tells the operator how much is being applied. Draghosing manure eliminates dust and traffic associated with tankering manure.
Manure that cannot be draghosed is tankered. Manure tankers carry liquid manure to fields that cannot be reached with a draghose.
We soil sample our fields every year to tell us the fertility. We then balance manure applications to match crops grown, to be grown and what is in the soil.
By balancing nutrients we are protecting our environment and our community by only applying what our crops need. It does not only makes good environmental sense, it is required as part of our permitting process and is overlooked by Pennsylvania DEP and our County Conservation District.
Another environmentally friendly practice is no-till planting. We use special planters on all crops that allow us to plant in ground that has not been tilled. This eliminates ground erosion and keeps dirt in the fields and out of waterways!
We also plant cover crops on all our ground which adds organic matter and prevents soil erosion. These crops hold the ground over the winter until spring crops are planted.
We maintain waterways and field contours to prevent ground erosion in drainage areas. This is a project where we reestablished waterways, planted grass and then used straw bales to help establish the water ways until the grass was able become established.
Technology plays a role in new age environmental stewardship. If you look at the top of this planting tractor you see a yellow GPS receiver. From an environmental standpoint this changes planting setting on the go. It matches yields and soil types with seed populations and fertilizer amounts.
In the cab you can see adjustments made on the go. This puts the right amount of seed and fertilizer where it will be used. While it increases yield it also eliminates waste and overuse of fertilizers and other inputs.