Livestock manure is a nutrient-packed resource that should not be categorized, classified or regulated in the same way as human waste, according to Pius Ndegwa, Ph.D, WSU Biological Systems Engineering School Associate Professor and livestock manure specialist.
He explains that the main difference between human waste and livestock manure is that human waste contains pathogenic organisms and heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, selenium and mercury in sewage sludge. These potentially dangerous substances are not found in livestock manure.
“The EPA makes clear scientific distinctions between livestock manure and human waste, where a significant number and variety of harmful pathogenic organisms and disease causing agents can be found,” Dr. Ndegwa said. “For anyone who understands the nature of the two waste streams, there is no scientific basis for classifying livestock manure nutrients the same as sewage sludge, as the latter poses a significantly higher potential threat to the environment and human health.”
The dairy industry contributes an estimated at $938M from farm gate milk and beef production to the Yakima Valley economy and employs more than 4,800 people, according to Washington State University ag-economist Dr. J. Shannon Neibergs, who separated Yakima County dairy contributions from a 2011 WSU economic study. His analysis came from data analyzed in a survey of Washington’s 480 dairy farms (69 in Yakima County).
Washington’s temperate climate, advanced animal genetics, and farm management make Washington State one of the nation’s most efficient producers of milk. Calculations were made using dairy farm survey and USDA data. Although initially thought to be approximately $500M to the Valley’s local economy, further separation of Yakima County economic contribution increases the estimate to $938M.
“Central Washington has the ideal temperature for dairy production when compared to the extreme heat of California or extreme cold of the Midwest,” said J. Shannon Neibergs Ph.D., WSU Extension Economic Specialist and Associate Professor, one of the study’s authors. “The average dairy farm in Washington is a $4.7 million business employing 18 people.”
“Dairy farms make large capital investments in digester systems, water quality treatment, and odor suppression technologies to develop energy efficient operations,” he said. “Modern dairy operations are also in need of an increasingly trained workforce.”
Cheap natural gas is undercutting the conventional dairy digester model, but it is also opening the door to a new model that cleans digester biogas to pipeline quality renewable natural gas (RNG) for vehicle fuel, and converts dairy “wastes” to value-added bio-fertilizers, fiber products, and environmental credits.
Seattle-based Promus Energy is poised to demonstrate this new dairy digester model in the Yakima Valley by converting the existing digester operation at the George DeRuyter and Sons Dairy in Outlook from the production of electricity to RNG, while also extracting bio-fertilizers to greatly improve nutrient recovery and manure management.
Technology for fracked gas in 2008/2009 was the tipping point for the natural gas revolution in the US, and the increasing use of natural gas as vehicle fuel, says Dan Evans, President of Promus Energy. “Suddenly, we have a 100-year supply of cheap, domestic natural gas,” he says, “and that is getting the attention of vehicle fleets around the nation.”
Second generation dairyman, Bill Dolson, was among three longtime Yakima businessmen who were recognized for a ‘history of community service’ with the 2014 Ted Robertson Community Service Award presented by the Greater Yakima Chamber of Commerce.
William “Bill” Dolsen was born and raised on a Yakima-area dairy farm where he worked in every facet of the operation. The dairy moved to Zillah in 1972, today operating as a modern dairy farm called ‘The Cow Palace’ that provides family wage jobs for 90 employees, and home to 7,000 milking cows that produce 60,000 gallons of Darigold grade A milk every day, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Bill Dolsen has been active on the boards of Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, the Memorial Foundation, the Yakima Family YMCA, Yakima Rotary and United Way. He is also an active member of the NW Darigold Association, and recently appointed to the Darigold Board of Directors.
Dairyland News is distributed to dairy farm families, business leaders/dairy farm suppliers, government staff, elected officials, and news media to show how dairy farmers contribute to the community, with safe operations, best farm management practices and effective stewardship of land and animals. Dairyland News is produced by the Washington Dairy Products Commission in cooperation with the Washington State Dairy Federation.