Part of our farm is a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation). We chose for our cattle farm to be a CAFO because we felt that it provided the most efficient balance for our farm given the natural resources that we have. I have talked about the reasons for this in several previous posts.
There are many things that we do at our cattle feedyard to minimize our environmental footprint and protect the land. These actions are a combination of science and technology, and our focus on “caring” as we work hard every day to raise food animals and effectively use the natural resources that we are blessed with. In addition, as a CAFO, we are audited by both the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. So, what are some examples of the things that we do?
- We do extensive soil and water testing both around the feedyard and on our crop farm ground so that we know the nutrient content of both the soil and the water. In addition, we take frequent samples of both the solid and liquid natural fertilizer (manure) that our cattle produce. Using all of this information, we spread this natural fertilizer at agronomic rates which means that we spread only the amount of nutrients that the crop needs.
- We keep detailed daily weather and rainfall records.
- We built a new Livestock Waste Control Facility (LWCF) last fall which was a huge
capital investment. We did this because new technology existed that would help us to protect both the ground water that flows under the cattle farm and the surface water that is down-stream. My LWCF catches all of the rainfall water that drains out of our cattle pens. It is very large and lined with a strong synthetic liner that will hold the liquid natural fertilizer until I need it to water and fertilize my crops.
- We do Ground Water Monitoring testing around the LWCF and the cattle farm to monitor our impact on ground water.
- We recycle all of the natural fertilizer that our cattle produce to maintain the organic matter and nutrient needs of our crop ground.
These are just a few of the things that Matt and I do to care for the land that makes up our diversified farm. I think that it is important to point out that the “natural fertilizer” that my cattle produce is a positive asset to our farm and plays a key role in maintaining the health of our cropland soil. Natural fertilizer is not a
“waste product”, it is a vital component to the nutrient health of our soil. It allows our land to be productive year after year.
There is an abundance of science and technology available to Matt and I to ensure that we are stewards to the natural resources that we are blessed with. It allows our farm to be efficient and sustainable environmentally which is just as important to us as good animal care and beef safety.