Industry Initiatives for Environmental Sustainability – a Role for Everyone

This webinar introduces current and future industry-based initiatives for environmental sustainability in the livestock and poultry sector, and how Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community learners can play a critical role in their region. This presentation was originally broadcast on September 17, 2021. Continue reading “Industry Initiatives for Environmental Sustainability – a Role for Everyone”

Translating Beef Production Research to Marketing Outcomes

The audience will learn about different beef production systems and their performance outcomes. Participants will have the opportunity to expound upon the information shared, inquire with panelists, and actively participate in beef marketing improvements.

Interactive Panel

Moderators

Dr. Megan Webb, Assistant Professor and Beef Production Systems Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota

Ms. Karin Schaefer, Executive Director, Minnesota Beef Council

Panelists

Ms. June Dunn, Field Specialist, Greater Omaha Packing Company

Dr. Alan Rotz, Agricultural Engineer, USDA-ARS Pasture Systems and Watershed Management

Dr. Garrett Steede, Teaching Assistant Professor, Ag. Education, Communication and Marketing, University of Minnesota

Mr. Jerry Wulf, Partner at Wulf Cattle Company

Corresponding Author

Megan Webb, University of Minnesota, mwebb@umn.edu

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Energy Consumption in Commercial Midwest Dairy Barns

Consumer interest and concern is growing in regards to sustainability of livestock production systems. Demand for reduced carbon emissions within agricultural systems has been growing along with increasing demand for food. Baseline fossil fuel consumption within agricultural systems, including dairy production, is scarce. Therefore, there is a need to discern where and how fossil energy is being used within dairy production systems. Determining baseline energy use is the first step in investigating the demand for a reduced carbon footprint within dairy production systems. The objective of this study was to measure total electricity use and determine specific areas of high energy consumption in commercial dairy barns located in the Upper Midwest of the United States.

What did we do?

Four commercial dairy barns representative of typical Midwest dairy farms and located in west central Minnesota were evaluated in the study. The dairy farms were: 1) a 9,500 cow cross-ventilated barn with a rotary milking parlor (Farm A), 2) a 300 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and 6 automatic milking systems (Farm B), 3) a 200 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parabone milking parlor (Farm C), and 4) a 400 cow naturally-ventilated barn with stirring fans for air movement and a parallel milking parlor (Farm D).

Electricity use was monitored from July 2018 to December 2018 with a goal of collecting two years of total energy usage. Two-hundred ninety-two  electric loads across the four farms were monitored on the farm side of the electric utility meter to evaluate areas of highest energy usage (Figure 1). Some of the monitored electric loads included freestall barn fans, water heaters, compressors, chillers, manure pumps, and pressure washers. The electric loads were monitored by data loggers (eGauge, Boulder, CO) and electric current sensors at the circuit panels. Electrical use data (kWh) of each load were collected and analyzed on a monthly basis. In addition, monthly inventory of cows on farm, cows milked per day, and milk production was recorded. Bulk tank production records (milk, fat percentage, protein percentage, and somatic cell count) were also recorded.

Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.
Figure 1. Data loggers with electric current sensors installed on farm circuit panel boxes.

What have we learned?

Based on preliminary results, fans were the largest electrical load across all four dairy farms. Fan usage during the summer ranged from 36 to 59% of the total electricity measured (Figure 2). Regular maintenance, proper control settings, design, sizing, location, selecting energy efficient fans and motors, and other factors all could influence the efficiency of these ventilation/cooling systems. Farms B, C, and D had greater electricity usage across all months for milk cooling (compressors and chillers) than Farm A. This is likely due to the fact that Farm A does not utilize bulk tanks to store milk, but instead, milk is directly loaded onto bulk milk trucks. Lighting use ranged from 7 to 21% of the total electricity use measured across the four farms, which suggests there is potential to reduce energy usage by upgrading to more efficient lighting systems such as LEDs. For heating, energy usage includes water heating, heating units in the milking parlor or work rooms, waterer heating elements, and generator engine block heaters. Average monthly heating use ranged from 5% of electricity used in Farm A to 32% of electricity used in Farm C.

Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.
Figure 2. The average monthly electrical use measured by data loggers and the percent used by each electrical load category. The average monthly total electricity in kWh is displayed at the top of each bar.

Future plans

Based on the preliminary analysis, clean energy alternatives and energy-optimized farms will be modeled as clean energy alternatives for Minnesota dairy facilities. An economic analysis will also be conducted on the clean energy alternatives and farms. Potential on-site renewable electric generation may supply some or the entire electric load allowing the buildings to approach net-zero (producing as much energy as is used).

The results of this study provide recent energy usage for farm energy benchmarks, agricultural energy policy, economic evaluations, and further research into dairy farm energy studies. The data will also be useful to producers who are searching for areas for reduced energy usage in their own production systems. Improving the efficiency of electrical components in dairy operations could provide opportunities to improve the carbon footprint of dairy production systems.

Authors

Kirsten Sharpe, Animal Science Graduate Research Assistant, West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, MN, sharp200@umn.edu

Bradley J. Heins, Associate Professor, Dairy Management, WCROC, Morris, MN

Eric Buchanan, Renewable Energy Scientist, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Cotter, Renewable Energy Researcher, WCROC, Morris, MN

Michael Reese, Director of Renewable Energy, WCROC, Morris, MN

Additional information

The West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) has developed a Dairy Energy Efficiency Decision Tool to help provide producers a way to estimate possible energy and costs savings from equipment efficiency upgrades. The tool can be used to evaluate areas of a dairy farm that may provide the best return on investment for energy usage. Furthermore, a guidebook has been developed for Optimizing Energy Systems for Midwest Dairy Production. This guidebook provides additional information about energy usage issues as well as a decision tool. More information may be found at https://wcroc.cfans.umn.edu/energy-dairy

Acknowledgements

The funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

A National Assessment of the Environmental Impacts of Beef Cattle Production

Environmental effects of cattle production and the overall sustainability of beef have become national and international concerns. Our objective was to quantify important environmental impacts of beef cattle production throughout the United States. This provides baseline information for evaluating potential benefits of alternative management practices and mitigation strategies for improving the sustainability of beef.

What did we do?

Surveys and visits of farms, ranches and feedlots were conducted throughout seven regions of the United States (Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Northwest and Southwest) to determine common practices and characteristics of cattle production. These data along with other information sources were used to create about 150 representative production systems throughout the country, which were simulated with the Integrated Farm System Model using local soil and climate data. The simulations quantified the performance and environmental impacts of beef cattle production systems within each region. A farm-to-gate life cycle assessment was used to determine resource use and emissions for all production systems including traditional beef breeds and cull animals from the dairy industry. Regional and national totals were determined as the sum of the production system outputs multiplied by the number of cattle represented by each simulated system.

What we have learned?

Average annual greenhouse gas emission related to beef cattle production was determined as 268 ± 29 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which is approximately 3.3% of the reported total U.S. emission. Fossil energy use was 539 ± 50 trillion BTU, which is less than 1% of total U.S. consumption. Non-precipitation water use was 6.2 ± 0.9 trillion gallons, which is on the order of 5% of estimated total fresh water use for the country. Finally, reactive N loss was 1.9 ± 0.15 million ton, which indicates about 15% of the gaseous emissions of reactive N for the nation are related to beef cattle production. Expressed per lb of carcass weight produced, these impacts were 21.3 ± 2.3 lb CO2,e, 21.6 ± 2.0 BTU, 0.155 ± 0.012 lb N and 244 ± 37 gal for carbon, energy, reactive N and water footprints, respectively. Many sources throughout the production system contributed to these footprints (Figure 1). The majority of most environmental impacts was associated with the cow-calf phase of production (Figure 2).

Distribution of the major sources for each environmental footprint.
Figure 1. Distribution of the major sources for each environmental footprint.
Figure 2. Distribution of the sources of each environmental impact across the three major phases in the life cycle of beef cattle production.
Figure 2. Distribution of the sources of each environmental impact across the three major phases in the life cycle of beef cattle production.

Take-home message: This study is the most detailed, yet comprehensive, study conducted to date that provides baseline measures for the sustainability of U.S. beef.

Future plans

These farm-to-gate values are being combined with sources in packing, processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste handling to produce a full life cycle assessment of U.S. beef considering additional metrics of environmental and economic impact. Further work is ongoing to complete this full LCA and to more fully assess opportunities for mitigating environmental impacts and improving the sustainability of beef.

Authors

Alan Rotz, USDA-ARS; Senorpe Asem-Hiablie, USDA-ARS; Sara Place, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; Greg Thoma, University of Arkansas.

Additional information

Information on the Integrated Farm System Model is available in the reference manual:

Rotz, C., Corson, M., Chianese, D., Montes, F., Hafner, S., Bonifacio, H., Coiner, C., 2018. The Integrated Farm System Model, Reference Manual Version 4.4. Agricultural Research Service, USDA. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80700500/Reference%20Manual.pdf.

Further information on the national assessment of the environmental impacts of U.S. cattle production is available in:

Rotz, C. A., S. Asem-Hiablie, S. Place and G. Thoma. 2019. Environmental footprints of beef cattle production in the United States. Agric. Systems 169:1-13.

Acknowledgements

This work was funded in part by The Beef Checkoff and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Environmental Impacts of Dairy Production Systems in the Changing Climate of the Northeast

To meet the nutritional needs of a growing population, dairy producers must increase milk production while minimizing farm environmental impacts. As we look to the future, management practices must also be adapted to maintain production under projected climate change. To plan for the future, better information is needed on practices that can reduce emissions from the farm and adapt to changes in the climate while maintaining or improving production and profitability.

What did we do?

We conducted a comprehensive assessment of the effects of climate change on both the productivity and environmental performance of farms as influenced by strategies to reduce emissions and adapt to the changing climate. Production systems were evaluated using three representative northeastern dairy farms: a 1500-cow farm in New York, a 150-cow farm in Wisconsin and a 50-cow farm in southern Pennsylvania. A cradle-to-farm gate life cycle assessment was conducted using farm-scale process-based modeling and climate projections for high and low emission scenarios. Environmental considerations included the carbon footprint of the milk produced and reactive N and P losses from the farms.

What we have learned?

We found that the environmental impact of the three representative dairy farms generally increased in the near future (2050) climate if no mitigation measures were taken. Overall, feed production was maintained as decreases in corn grain yield were compensated by increases in forage yields. Adaptation of the cropping system through changes in planting and harvest dates and corn variety led to a smaller reduction in corn grain yield, but the detrimental effects of climate change could not be fully negated. Considering the increased forage yield, total feed production increased except for the most severe projected climate change. Adoption of farm-specific beneficial management practices substantially reduced the greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses of the farms in current climate conditions and stabilized the environmental impact in future climate conditions, while maintaining feed and milk production (See Figure 1 for example results).

Figure 1. Carbon footprint, reactive nitrogen footprint and P loss in recent (2000) and future (2050) climate conditions (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for a 1500-cow farm in New York with baseline and Best Management Practice (BMP) scenarios, with and without crop system adaptions in 2050. Error bars represent the standard deviation of IFSM simulations for 3 climate scenarios per RCP. Unadapt = not adapted cropping system. Adapt = adapted cropping system.
Figure 1. Carbon footprint, reactive nitrogen footprint and P loss in recent (2000) and future (2050) climate conditions (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) for a 1500-cow farm in New York with baseline and Best Management Practice (BMP) scenarios, with and without crop system adaptions in 2050. Error bars represent the standard deviation of IFSM simulations for 3 climate scenarios per RCP. Unadapt = not adapted cropping system. Adapt = adapted cropping system.

The take-home message is that with appropriate management changes, our dairy farms can become more sustainable under current climate and better prepared to adapt to future climate variability.

Future plans

A more comprehensive life cycle assessment is being done by linking the output of the farm model with life cycle assessment software. The process level simulation of the farm provides inventory information for an inclusive life cycle assessment with multiple environmental considerations. This integrated software will provide a more complete sustainability assessment of the potential benefits of alternative management strategies for both now and the future.

Authors

Karin Veltman, University of Michigan; C. Alan Rotz, USDA-ARS; Larry Chase, Cornell University; Joyce Cooper, Washington State University; Chris Forest, Penn State University; Pete Ingraham, Applied GeoSolutions; R. César Izaurralde, University of Maryland; Curtis D. Jones, University of Maryland; Robert Nicholas, Penn State University; Matt Ruark, University of Wisconsin; William Salas, Applied GeoSolutions; Greg Thoma, University of Arkansas; Olivier Jolliet, University of Michigan.

Additional information

Information on the Integrated Farm System Model is available in the reference manual:

Rotz, C., Corson, M., Chianese, D., Montes, F., Hafner, S., Bonifacio, H., Coiner, C., 2018. The Integrated Farm System Model, Reference Manual Version 4.4. Agricultural Research Service, USDA. Available at: https://www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/up-pa/pswmru/docs/integrated-farm-system-model/#Reference.

Information on the analysis of Best Management Practices on northeastern dairy farms is available in:

Veltman, K., C. A. Rotz, L. Chase, J. Cooper, P. Ingraham, R. C. Izaurralde, C. D. Jones, R. Gaillard, R. A. Larsson, M. Ruark, W. Salas, G. Thoma, and O. Jolliet. 2017. A quantitative assessment of beneficial management practices to reduce carbon and reactive nitrogen footprints and phosphorus losses of dairy farms in the Great Lakes region of the United States. Agric. Systems 166:10-25.

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68002-20525. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Environmental Sustainability of Beef


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Purpose 

In recent years, there has been negative publicity in the media related to the sustainability of beef. In response, there has been a demand from within and outside of the industry for a scientific study to quantify the sustainability of beef over its full life cycle. This type of request has been given to many of the major food commodities, so a number of sustainability studies are underway or complete. Beef is one of the most complex systems though for this type of analysis. This beef industry life cycle assessment (LCA) is being conducted to establish benchmarks in various measures of sustainability and to identify opportunities for improvement. These types of analyses are important to promote consumer confidence in our food products.

What did we do? 

A national assessment of the sustainability of beef is being conducted in collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association through the support of the Beef Checkoff. This includes surveys and visits to cattle operations throughout the U.S. to gather production information. With this information, representative production systems are being modeled and evaluated through a cradle-to-farm gate LCA. So far, the environmental impacts of representative production systems have been evaluated for 5 of 7 geographic regions including the Southern Plains, Northern Plains, Midwest, Northwest and Southwest. To complete the full LCA, post-farm gate data were obtained from harvesting and case-ready facilities, retailers, and restaurants while consumer data were obtained from literature and public databases. These data were combined to quantify sustainability through a full cradle – to – grave life cycle assessment.

What have we learned? 

Preliminary LCA results have been obtained using the farm gate and post farm gate information obtained thus far. The environmental impacts of cattle production systems vary widely, with more variation within regions than among regions. For individual production systems, total greenhouse gas emissions (carbon footprint) ranges from 17 to 36 kg CO2e/kg carcass weight (CW) with regional means around 20 kg CO2e/kg CW. Regional values for fossil energy use, non-precipitation water use and reactive nitrogen loss are 40-50 MJ/kg CW, 400-6500 l/kg CW and 120-180 g N/kg CW, respectively. To assess the full life cycle of beef, the BASF eco-efficiency analysis methodology is used with the functional unit or consumer benefit being 0.45 kg (1 lb) of consumed boneless edible beef. The full life cycle carbon footprint of beef is 43-50 kg CO2e/kg of consumed beef with about 85% of this footprint related to cattle production, 10% related to the consumer and l! ess than 5% related to processing, packaging, transport and retail. Other impact metrics include water emissions, cumulative energy demand, land use, acidification potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, ozone depletion potential, abiotic depletion potential, consumptive water use, and solid waste disposal. An initial assessment indicates that feed and cattle production phases are the largest contributors to most of these environmental impact categories. Eco-efficiency improvements are being made in cattle production through increased crop yields and more efficient use of resource inputs such as fertilizer and feed. Beneficial improvements among processors include increased use of natural gas in lieu of fuel oil, biogas capture and use from wastewater lagoons at harvesting plants, packaging optimizations, and improvements in water use efficiency. This LCA is the first of its kind for beef and has been third party verified in accordance with ISO 14040:2006 and 14044:2006 a! nd 14045: 2012 standards.

Future Plans   

Surveys, visits and farm gate analyses will be completed this year for the Southeast and Northeast regions. All of the regional data will then be used along with expanded data from post farm gate processes to form the full national LCA. The national LCA will be completed in collaboration with the University of Arkansas using the SimaPro LCA software.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation       

C. Alan Rotz, Agricultural Engineer, USDA/Agricultural Research Service

Corresponding author email  

al.rotz@ars.usda.gov

Other authors  

Senorpe Asem-Hiablie, Agricultural Engineer, USDA/ARS;Tom Batttagliese, Global Sustainability Metrics Manager, BASF Corporation; Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, Director of Sustainability, JBS USA (Formerly with the National Cattlemen’s Association)

Additional information 

Asem-Hiablie, S., C.A. Rotz, J. Dillon, R. Stout and K. Stackhouse-Lawson. 2015. Management characteristics of cow-calf, stocker, and finishing operations in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Prof. Anim. Scientist 31:1-10.

Asem-Hiablie, S., C.A. Rotz, R. Stout and K. Stackhouse-Lawson. 2016. Management characteristics of beef cattle production in the Northern Plains and Midwest regions of the United States. Prof. Anim. Scientist 32(6):736-749.

Asem-Hiablie, S., C.A. Rotz and R. Stout. 2016. Characteristics of beef cattle operations in the Midwest. Beefacts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Centennial, CO.

Asem-Hiablie, S., C.A. Rotz and R. Stout. 2016. Characteristics of beef cattle operations in the Northern Plains. Beefacts, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Centennial, CO.

Rotz, C.A., S. Asem-Hiablie, J. Dillon and H. Bonifacio. 2015. Cradle-to-farm gate environmental footprints of beef cattle production in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. J. Anim. Sci. 93:2509-2519.

Rotz, C.A., B.J. Isenberg, K.R. Stackhouse-Lawson, and J. Pollak. 2013. A simulation-based approach for evaluating and comparing the environmental footprints of beef production systems. J. Animal Sci. 91:5427-5437. 2013.

Acknowledgements      

Funded in part by The Beef Checkoff and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. The authors thank Kathleen Fisher and others of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association for their help in obtaining information supporting this analysis.

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Transferring Knowledge of Dairy Sustainability Issues Through a Multi-layered Interactive “Virtual Farm” Website

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Purpose

The goal of the Sustainable Dairy “Virtual Farm” website is to disseminate research-based information to diverse audiences from one platform. This is done with layers of information starting with the mSustainable dairy logoost basic then drilling down to peer-reviewed publications, data from life-cycle assessment studies and models related to the topics. The Virtual Farm focuses on decision makers and stakeholders including consumers, producers, policymakers, scientists and students who are interested in milk production on modern dairy farms. The top entry level of the site navigates through agricultural topics of interest to the general public. Producers can navigate to a middle level to learn about practices and how they might help them continue to produce milk for consumers responsibly in a changing climate while maintaining profitability. Featured beneficial (best) management practices (BMPs) reflect options related to dairy sustainability, climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and milk production. Researchers can navigate directly to deeper levels to publications, tools, models, and scientific data. The website is designed to encourage users to dig deeper and discover more detailed information as their interest develops related to sustainable dairies and the environment.

What did we do?

As part of a USDA Dairy Coordinated Agricultural Project addressing climate change issues in the Great Lakes region, this online platform was developed to house various products of the transdisciplinary project in an accessible learning site. The Virtual Farm provides information about issues surrounding milk production, sustainability, and farm-related greenhouse gases. The web interface features a user-friendly, visually-appealing interactive “virtual farm” that explains these issues starting at a less-technical level, while also leading to much deeper research into each area. The idea behind this was to engage a general audience, then encourage them to dig deeper into the website for more technical information via Extension offerings.

The main landing page shows two sizes of dairy farms: 150 and 1,500-cows. The primary concept was to replace an all-day tour of multiple real dairy farms by combining their features into one ‘virtual farm’. For example, the virtual farm can describe and demonstrate the impact of various manure processing technologies. Users can explore the layout image, hover over labeled features for a brief description, and click to learn more about five main categories: crops and soils, manure management, milk production, herd management, and feed management. Each category page contains a narrative overview with illustrations and links to more detailed information.

What have we learned?

The primary benefit is that participants can learn about different practices, at their level of interest, all in one place. The virtual farm incorporates a broad theme of sustainability targeted at farming operations in the northeastern Great Lakes region of the USA.

The project has included regional differences in dairy farming practices and some important reasons for this such as environmental concerns (focus on N and/or P management in different watersheds) and long-term climate projections. Dairy industry supporters find value in having a one-stop repository of information on overall sustainability topics rather than having to visit various organizations’ sites.

Future Plans

We plan to continue to develop the website by adding relevant information, keeping information up to date, developing the platform for related topic areas and adding curriculums for school students.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Daniel Hofstetter, Extension-Research Assistant, Penn State University (PSU)

Corresponding author email

dwh5212@psu.edu

Other authors

Eileen Fabian-Wheeler, Professor, PSU; Rebecca Larson, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin (UW); Horacio Aguirre-Villegas, Assistant Scientist, UW; Carolyn Betz, Project Manager, UW; Matt Ruark, Associate Professor, UW

Additional information

Visit the following link for more information about the Sustainable Dairy CAP Project:

http://www.sustainabledairy.org

Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2013-68002-20525. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

The North American Partnership for Phosphorus Sustainability: Creating a Circular P Economy as Part of a Sustainable Food System


Purpose           

To promote and foster the implementation of sustainable P solutions in both the private and public sectors

People standing in the formation of a 'P'What did we do? 

Recently, a team of Phosphorus researchers initiated the North American Partnership for Phosphorus Sustainability (NAPPS) with seed funding from Arizona State University. The goal of North American Partnership for Phosphorus Sustainability (NAPPS) is to actively engage stakeholders (e.g. corporations, national and local policy makers, planners and officials, representatives of agriculture, industry) to promote and foster the implementation of sustainable P solutions in both the private and public sectors. NAPPS seeks to engage partners in identifying key bottlenecks and strategies for decision-making, policy, and implementation of P efficiency and recycling technologies.

What have we learned? 

Phosphorus is necessary for life, and is essential for agricultural production, and so for food security. The growing world population, changing diets of humans to more meat and dairy and growing use of phosphate additives, and biomass production for energy or industrial uses result in an increasing need for phosphorus input, and the world is today heavily dependent on non-renewable, finite phosphate rock reserves that which are concentrated in a small number of countries, posing geopolitical vulnerability. These trends lead to the depletion of phosphate rock resources, pressure on and instability in phosphate prices, decreasing quality and increasing contaminant loads of remaining reserves, and unstable, insecure P supply for regions without local rock resources, especially in the developing world. At the same time, excess P is lost from the food system at multiple points. The result is eutrophication of freshwater and coastal ecosystems – lo ss of the amenity value of lakes and rivers as well as toxic algal blooms and impacts on fisheries.

Phosphorus stewardship is therefore essential, and we must use P more efficiently in the agri-food system, and actively develop phosphorus reuse and recycling technologies and practices. At the same time, the issue of contaminants, both in phosphate rock and in recycled phosphates must be addressed, as well as the need to reduce phosphate inputs to surface waters where these are problematic. We can reduce the use of mined P by producing and applying fertilizer from recycled sources. By using improved practices and smarter crops, we can reduce the demand for P fertilizer and reduce the runoff to surface water bodies. By reducing and re-using food waste and eating food with lower P footprints we can lower our phosphorus consumption and demand. Collectively, these will also lessen the impacts of P runoff on precious water resources.

Future Plans 

NAPPS activities and stakeholder recruitment will be organized around four main sectors: P Recycling; P Efficiency in Food Production; BioEnergy and Food Choice; and Water Quality. Projects and activities will be decided by the Board of Directors, but may include:

1. Develop a common vision for creating a sustainable P cycle in North America

2. Identifying and helping businesses and other organizations respond to opportunities offered by challenges in P management and emerging research in P sustainability

3. Building networks between different interest groups and sectors related to phosphorus management and recycling

4. Evaluating new P efficiency and recycling technologies, including feasibility, availability of suppliers, inventory of existing technologies and companies, cost/benefit analysis, and life cycle analyses

5. Fostering implementation of new technologies by improving the efficiency of business value chains

6. Assessing and facilitating regulatory development pertaining to phosphorus management, including waste, environmental, discharge, and agriculture to improve P sustainability

7. Representing North American phosphorus managers and innovators in international meetings and initiatives

8. Preparing funding RFPs for demonstration projects and integration and dissemination of new technologies and concepts

Authors

Helen Ivy Rowe, Assistant Research Professor, School of LIfe Sciences, Arizona State University hirowe@asu.edu

James J. Elser, Regents Professor, School of LIfe Sciences, Arizona State University

Additional information                

http://sustainablep.asu.edu

Acknowledgements      

We thank Arizona State University for providing funds to launch this initiative.

 

Logo for Sustainable Phosphorus Initiative

The Sustainable Phosphorus Initiative - farm, food, fertilizer

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Making Dairy Manure More Valuable Than Milk

Can Anaerobic Digestion Lead to Additional Revenue Streams On a Dairy Farm?

CowPots are the invention of necessity. Brothers Matt and Ben Freund are second generation dairy farmers in the northwest hills of Connecticut. In dairy farming, the most challenging job is to manage the nutrient stream in an environmentally sound manner. In 1997 the brothers installed a methane digester to heat the manure coming out of a cold barn to be able to separate the liquid year round for field application with a drag line system. This made the farm much more efficient and timely while at the same time reducing soil compaction and improving crop yields. The solids which are composted were first used for bedding the herd and are now used to mold the CowPots, whose value far exceeded bedding value. Farmers and gardeners have always considered cow manure a wholesome organic soil amendment for their crops. The challenge was to find a new and better way to get manure to these soils while maintaining value to consumers.

CowPots are a patented, environmentally friendly product made from the nutrient rich manure and are a vehicle for exporting the farm’s excess nutrients. Through production and sales of CowPots the Freunds have reduced the nutrient load on their farm by approximately 11% and have added a significant 2nd income to the dairy operation.

Examples of CowPots    Root Example

Emblems of sound stewardship, CowPots are the ideal product for farmers, growers, gardeners — and for the planet.

What did we do?

The idea for using manure solids to fashion a horticultural pot occurred in the mid 1990’s. The dairy farmer’s wife, Theresa owns a seasonal farm market and garden center adjacent to the dairy farm. Matt noticed that when his wife was tilling the soil each spring, the supposed biodegradable pots were still fully intact.

Confronting stricter regulations on nutrient management through state and federal rules, he needed an alternative to the status quo of storing and spreading manure on their 260+ cow dairy farm. Comparing the fibers found in the peat pots to the fibers of the manure solids, he brought his idea to the kitchen. In Matt’s spare time he began forming, pressing, pasting and molding manure fibers into pots (initially working in the greenhouse and using equipment from his wife’s kitchen and not wanting to get divorced, he moved outside to the farm shop). Nearly a decade was spent experimenting through trial and error.

In the mid 2000’s a production prototype was constructed in one bay of the farm shop where 4” pots were formed and placed by hand onto a drying oven. In 2006, CowPots worked with a local company to shrink wrap stacks of pots and sold them for resale at local garden centers and hardware stores in the tri-state area. That same year Freunds received an SBIR grant to further investigate the horticultural benefits of growing in CowPots. Concurrently, UConn and Cornell University conducted trials in greenhouse settings. In 2009, a standalone manufacturing facility was built and the lineup of sizes offered grew. Today the Freunds manufacture 12 size pots for horticultural uses as well as custom shapes for customers.

What have we learned?

Freunds have learned not all dairy fibers are the same. There are numerous activities on any farm which affect the characteristics of this material. Changes in feed, added minerals, digester upsets,composting temperatures, duration in the in-vessel composer and pasturing the herd have been the most influential on Freund’s farm.

Matt Freund with Product   CowPots

Future Plans

The Freunds had many goals one of which was not to have CowPots dictate the management of the dairy. Every bucket of manure fiber needs to be tested before it is used for production of CowPots. The equipment is adjusted in response to any changes.

Another goal was to design a production facility with no waste stream. Dry matter of the fiber is very important to achieve this goal. By having nothing but water vapor and finished product exiting the facility, permitting becomes much less difficult and our footprint becomes much smaller.

The CowPots manufacturing facility is fast approaching their production capacity with shifts that run 24/6. New automation in the packaging system will be installed in the coming months for a total of three robots in the facility. Currently, Freunds are putting together an expansion plan to include an additional production line. They are also working with a company in a similar business to look for synergies. Freunds are investigating other waste streams which could be blended with CowPots products to make the end product even better and at a reduced cost. Recently an engineer came on board to identify production inefficiencies within the manufacturing system to help reduce costs. As the market builds, Freunds will be looking for partners to work with in different areas of the country.

Author

Matt Freund, Owner/Inventor matt@cowpots.com

Additional information

http://cowpots.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/CowPots

Acknowledgements

Northeast SARE, SBIR, USDA NRCS and Rural Development, CT Dept of Agriculture and CT Dept of Energy and Environmental Protection

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2015. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Seattle, WA. March 31-April 3, 2015. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.