I’m Jon Branon. I’m fifth generation here on our family
. Over 100 years my family has been farming this land. And we’ve got about 200
head total, 120 milkers and the rest are replacement heifers. We own 300 acres
of land and we rent probably another 300 right now. And some time in 2005 we
chose to do some environmental improvement practices on the farm. We worked with
our local NRCS office in
, just a very helpful group of people there. They came up and did a site visit,
looked over our situation, realized we were 100 years of small farming practices
that didn’t really mesh together well as far as driveways with run off, we had
an existing manure storage that was a little bit de-funked, things like that.
And so after seeing our facility, recommended some things
that we could do to enhance the operation, make it more user friendly, and
encourage some environmental quality too. And so one of the first things that we
had done was to address the driveways, the animal trails and the access road.
We’ve got a pretty extensive network of driveways running through here between
the machinery moving everyday and the cattle going out to pasture in grazing
season. And so we were able to reinforce the existing drives that were here and
it certainly has proven to be a huge benefit with the heavy rains, especially
lately, that we’ve been getting.
We also changed our manure pit design. And so, we were able
to, with the help of some engineering, redesign the pit with a concrete bottom
and change the barnyard area. And so those were some of the big components that
we had done early on. We did some leachate containment around the bunker silos,
that all gets pumped from a pump station back into the pit. That’s an area
where several farms could probably do more to improve because that’s a pretty
nasty effluent. It happened to be that the pits were usually low and so it’s
hard to capture that waste and get it back. That’s a project we really feel
has made a difference.
We found out that there was some money available though the
NRCS government agency to both design and engineer these practices and some
cost-sharing money as well. And what we found is that most of these projects
were out of our scope as a single working small dairy producer and so were we
able to benefit from the engineering component and the cost share initiatives
with these practices.
Our experience as a whole has been terrific. We found great
guidance with the NRCS, very good technical support, and we were able to benefit
from their knowledge engineering and access to other farms that have done
similar projects so we could compare our situation, so it was a very good
avenue. This cost share incentives program is huge and it’s been just a
terrific relationship. Most of the designing was done at the kitchen table and
I’m real happy with the result. And without a doubt there’s got to be some
environmental quality improvement because of this.