Kinnard Farms use technology to grow
Casco — A highlight of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin tour of the 6,000-cow Kinnard Farm in Casco was the sand recycling system that is in place on the farm since last year.
Lee Kinnard, CEO and owner of the farm, together with his brother Rod and his wife Maureen and sister Jackie and her husband David Stewart, described the benefits of the system that is a part of their manure management on the farm.
In the system, recycled water that has been mechanically scrubbed to remove the solids is pumped to the high end of the farm to a flume pipe. The flume pipe is in the center of the cattle barns and is where manure is scraped.
The manure is scraped to the flume three times daily using skid steer loaders while the cows are in the parlor being milked.
The recycled water flowing through the flume carries the manure to the manure processing building.
When the manure enters the building, augers separate the sand from the original slurry of sand, manure and water. The augers convey the sand, which is still dirty at this point, to a sand washer. The washers scrub the sand clean using recycled water that has been captured from the cleaning of the milking parlor.
After a thorough washing, the sand passes over a vibrating screen that dries the sand. The end result is sand that is clean, dry and infinitely reusable.
“An added benefit of this system is odor control,” Kinnard said. “Prior to installing the recycling system, our system relied on pumping water back from the manure lagoon to be used to convey the manure through the flume. By eliminating this practice, odors have been greatly reduced.
“We live and work on the farm, too. We want to take extra steps to make sure the air is clean.”
Kinnard also pointed out that the system results in fewer trucks on the roads, and it is more environmentally friendly.
When the sand system was put into operation, the Kinnards hired life-long neighbor Marty Thiry as the sand facility manager. Thiry had been working swing shift in Green Bay for 25 years but wanted more time with his family and the opportunity to attend his teenage children’s school activities. He had been considering working with the Kinnards for a long time, and the installation of the new equipment provided that opportunity.
The Kinnards are a part of the Peninsula Pride Farms organization, an environmental stewardship coalition formed earlier this year by dairy farmers. Its goal is to leverage the ingenuity of the agricultural community, university research and scientists to meet water quality challenges in Kewaunee and southern Door Counties.
The Kinnards collect all water on the farm, including rainwater, and recycle it. Nutrients are applied on over 10,000 acres of farmland using the Veris soil mapping technology.
“Farmers are being asked to do an even better job of handling nutrients,” Kinnard said.
He describes the farm’s manure application as a precise science.
“Manure is good for the biological activity in the soil,” he added.
Kinnard pointed out that soil is characterized by its ability to hold and retain nutrients needed for plant growth. Because healthy soil binds the applied nutrients and holds them for slow release, crops also thrive.
Their system not only preserves organic matter, he said, but it actually builds organic matter content over time.
“Our goal is to have about 75 percent of our acres covered with a growing crop every winter," Kinnard said, "which helps us protect our soil and water quality.”
Kinnard said their most recent expansion and the construction of the new barn across the road from the original barns was the result of the improved manure management system. In order to afford to incorporate new recycling technology, they also needed to expand the number of cows, he said.
Unfortunately, expansion also brings criticism and legal challenges from those opposed to big farms.
“It’s kind of scary when people who have never met me or seen a farm want me to go away,” he said. “Farmers are the original environmentalists. This was a slap in the face to us and all of agriculture.”
This is the fifth in a six-part series related to the PDPW technology tours