The Power of Manure

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A lot goes into producing the milk at New Hope Dairy in Galt.

“We feed about 110-120 lbs. of feed to our cattle every day,” dairyman Arlin Van Groningen said. “What goes in must come out; (a cow produces) about 120 lbs. of wet manure.”

Multiply that by 1,500 cows and that adds up to a lot of waste.

Van Groningen happily points out the waste isn’t being wasted. SMUD installed a biomass digester at New Hope Dairy, which takes the manure’s methane and turns it into energy that powers 250 homes.

While this green effort may seem unusual, it’s nothing new for New Hope.

“The dairies in California are the original recyclers,” Van Groningen said, “A great portion of our feed come from food byproducts that would normally end up in a landfill.”

Along with the energy the digester creates, there are also other byproducts that are helpful. Remaining manure will be used as organic compost, and leftover water will be used to irrigate crops. It will come in especially handy because of California’s drought.

“We grow corn, we grow wheat in the winter time and that’s used to feed our cows,” Van Groningen said. “We don’t waste anything, that is for sure.”

Closing the recycling loop, which is important because Van Groningen said farmland is becoming harder to come by, “We needed to find a way to reduce our footprint and concentrate our nutrients from our cows to share them with our neighbors.”

SMUD has a total of four digesters in the region and has plans to build two more.

In Case You Missed It:

Cattle Ranchers Feeling Drought Pain

Dairy Farmers Facing Tough Decisions Ahead

Consumers Just Can’t Afford $8 a Gallon Milk

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