In addition to providing clean, comfortable spaces for his cows, Adam also prioritizes taking care of his land and the environment. Recycling sand, water and manure makes an incredible impact on the farm’s bottom line and its resources.
Starting in the barn, water and sand are critical resources used to keep the dairy cows cool and comfortable. Cows make a higher volume and quality of milk when they are laying down on beds of soft sand. But buying new sand after barns are flushed clean with water can become expensive and wasteful.
A few times a day, water from the dairy’s lagoon flushes the sand and manure out of the barns and into a sand lane. Here, the sand naturally separates itself from the manure and water and is scooped into piles to be dried and reused for the cows’ sand beds.
After the sand leaves the water, the water and manure continue down the lane and are separated as the manure is pumped into a methane digester. For years, having a methane digester at Leatherbrook Holsteins was a dream for Adam. In 2020, he partnered with Dominion Energy and Vanguard Renewables
to bring the dream to life. Dominion Energy and Vanguard Renewables partner to develop natural gas facilities that utilize dairy waste.
A methane digester, also referred to as an anaerobic digester, captures methane, a potent greenhouse gas created in manure, and turns it into renewable natural gas — a favorable alternative to nonrenewable natural gas typically pumped from the ground.
“This allows us to turn a large volume of manure into a resource that benefits the environment,” Adam says. “That is obviously a huge win for us and for the Earth, but the digester also helps with odor control, which makes for a smaller footprint and better-smelling air.”
And lastly, water is recycled throughout the farm for various needs. Fresh water is first used in the milking parlor to cool the milk after it is pumped from the cows. That water is then pumped to the barns to be sprayed through soakers to keep the cows cool along with the large fans.
Including the water used from the lagoon to clean out the cows’ stalls, the same drops of water are used several times before irrigating their crops and beginning the water recycling process all over again.