Funded in part by Idaho and Washington dairy farm organizations, the Northwest Bovine Experience Program is a joint project of WSU and the University of Idaho to provide student veterinarians on-farm experiences with large animal healthcare. “It was a wonderful experience by giving me that time on the farm to have a better understanding about what is going on,” says Valley veterinarian Alea Hoffman who now works as full time veterinarian and assistant herd manager at DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook. “It was good for me with my goal of going into dairy practice and good for those who wanted exposure to the care of large farm animals.”
“This program opens their eyes to producing valuable food products, since many veterinary students don’t have an idea about the production of food,” said Dr. Gordon Brumbaugh DVM, Ph D., NW Bovine Experience Program director and veterinary scientist. “The two-year program begins with six weeks working on the farm through all of production elements, followed by the second year where they are lined up with a dairy cow focused veterinarian who serves as a mentor.”
Dr. Hoffman’s job is primarily looking out for the health and housing of dairy cows. “I look at individual animals in the population for signs of illnesses such as digestion or respiratory problems in what is similar to public health for humans,” she said. “I touch base with the nutritionist as needed to update him on how the cows are doing health wise. Feed is important and very similar to humans and huge role in cow health and productivity.”
A mid-January Conservation District organized workshop attracted more than 50 dairy farmers and custom applicators to Snipes Brewery in Sunnyside to hear experts describe best practices for managing dairy manure nutrients. Organized by the South Yakima and Whatcom Conservation Districts, the workshop was aimed at helping farmers mitigate the effects of their operations on Valley water and air quality.
“They packed a lot of real useful information into one six-hour meeting about how best to manage manure applications,” said Tom Devries, Valley dairy farmer and president of the Yakima Dairy Federation. “There were some parts of the workshop that we already knew about but it was good to get a refresher and get a better understanding of agronomic rates to do a better job of managing our manure.”
“We support this type training or workshop on an ongoing basis,” he said, “to ensure that we are doing all we can with new approaches and science-based manure management.”
“Dairy farmers have a lot of nutrient/manure to manage,” says Nichole Embertson, Ph.D., Nutrient Management and Air Quality Specialist, Whatcom Conservation District (WCD), “and training helps dairy farmers and the professionals who support them understand the requirements, benefits and value of nutrient management, and how to make the elements of their Dairy Nutrient Management Plan work for them.”
The WCD conducted a similarly well attended mid-January 6-hour manure nutrient workshop in Lynden where more than 60 dairy farmers and applicators were in attendance. Dr. Embertson partnered with the South Yakima Conservation District to conduct the Sunnyside workshop where more than 50 dairy farmers and applicators attended.
Agency staff presented their findings from more than a year of working with the four Valley dairies that had signed a legal agreement with the EPA to study nitrate sources. The data will be used in context as work of the Lower Yakima Valley Groundwater Advisory Committee moves forward.
Jay Gordon, representing the Washington Dairy Federation, says Valley dairies are cooperating with GWMAC to assess how they can modify operations together with other Valley ag-operations to improve water quality. “GWMAC is the only place where all stakeholders are at the table,” he said. “The GWMAC helps mitigate the effect of traditional ag-methodologies that may not now be consistent with current science-based practices.”
Valley dairies are cooperating with the GWMAC to develop a framework for implementation of reasonable rules, guidelines, and regulations for basin groundwater improvement. Steve George of the Yakima Farm Bureau and others said the EPA data will be helpful as one piece of the high nitrate groundwater puzzle. “The Lower Yakima Valley Ground Water Management Advisory Committee (GWMAC) is working on several ag-related nitrate sources that the Valley has wrestled with for more than 100 years – long before the dairy industry’s growth here.” he said.
EPA representatives said Valley dairies had taken several steps to control nitrate sources. They said dairies are providing safe drinking water for about 90 lower Valley residences, installed a network of 19 monitoring wells, implemented ‘Manure Nutrient Management’ best practices in 34 application fields, and are evaluating 41 nutrient storage lagoons for USDA compliance. EPA plans to work collaboratively with dairies for the next eight years to assess and remedy potential nitrate sources. Dairies will continue to sample application fields twice a year, and collect samples from monitoring wells.
Dairy farmers led the annual “Northwest Farmers Fighting Hunger” food/cash drive, “Dairy for Life” program and other projects to provide much needed dairy products to food banks. “Dairy for Life” is developed in cooperation with Darigold and 2nd Harvest. “Northwest Farmers Fighting Hunger” partners with Fred Meyer, QFC, Food Lifeline, 2nd Harvest, and the Washington State Department of Agriculture along with support from Darigold.
“Milk is a nutritious and perishable product that is in high-demand for low-income families who are stretched financially and often can’t afford nutritious foods that are beneficial for children,” says Rod Wieber of 2nd Harvest. “Milk is a welcome addition and the Dairy for Life project is a valuable addition to our efforts.”
“Dairy farmers contribute 400 gallons of Darigold milk every week to 2nd Harvest,” he said. “Overall Eastern Washington farmers & growers contribute more than 6 million pounds of nutritious produce, including dairy products, to Second Harvest every year to meet the growing demand for food.”
The 2014 NW Farmers Fighting Hunger project donated more than 90,000 pounds of donated food in one monthto benefit Feeding America affiliates; Food Lifeline and 2nd Harvest.
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.