Imagine if you weighed every bite of food in your kitchen. Then, you did everything possible to make sure every morsel was eaten to conserve costs. That’s what we do on the farm every day.
We weigh every crop we harvest as it comes in from the field. Then, every day we weigh the wagon of mixed feed we give our cows. We compare feed input numbers to milk production statistics, while continually looking at the energy costs and emissions of how we grow feed, transfer feed and manage nutrients.
It is important to farmers to be sustainable economically, socially and environmentally. Farmers are so far ahead in the U.S. on sustainability. Part of this is driven by a commitment the dairy community made to help accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects and energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I am on the board of directors of Dairy Management Inc., our national dairy promotion organization. At a recent meeting, I learned that the number of people making food purchase decisions based on beliefs is rising across all ages and incomes. People buy based on the company’s belief system. They call it “ethical eating.” Consumers believe ethical eating is sustainable eating. That’s why it is important dairy farmers talk about their sustainable practices.
We’ve always practiced sustainability. It’s how we have continued to farm. Using technology like GPS, we are down to one inch of planting precision, which reduces fuel and seed costs. Last year, we installed Lely robots to milk our cows. An unexpected outcome was a decrease in water usage by 30%, equating to less than 20 gallons per cow per day. This saves us $30,000 – $40,000 in manure handling, plus improves nutrient density.
We always need to look to do more with less. Sometimes our methods don’t work out and we change them again. Asking ourselves questions drives continuous improvement which makes us more sustainable.