Tom Lutey at the Billings Gazette recently published a very interesting, thought-provoking read titled, Dairy farm utilizes alternative income sources on the next environmental step for cattle producers. It’s all about utilizing the methane for cattle and converting into reusable energy. This is a great example of just that, and from the comments about the article, I would say the general public supports this production practice, as well. (Photo courtesy Billings Gazette) Here is a piece of the article…
A farmer in tough times has to squeeze every penny from his operation, but Huls Dairy is squeezing in places few farmers have. Dairy cows at the Corvallis farm produce 6 million gallons of manure a year, which this fourth-generation farm in Northwest Montana’s Bitterroot Valley taps for methane fuel and a bagged, organic lawn-and-garden fertilizer sold as Afterburner Boost. The methane generates enough energy to power Huls’ 350-cow dairy operation, plus one home.
“Our farm has tried to utilize our cows, to market whatever we have,” said Tim Huls, who is facing the lowest payments in nearly three decades for his farm’s milk. “It wouldn’t be enough to offset the dairy crisis, in terms of taking you from being in the red, but at this point it’s paid its own way, particularly in fertilizer. Afterburner Boost does very well in the marketplace.”
Finding small ways to save or make a buck has become crucial for Montana farmers struggling with feast-or-famine market prices. Huls likens the erratic price behavior of his commodity to a seismograph reading for Yellowstone National Park. After receiving a record high price for his milk two years ago, Huls would now need dairy payouts to increase a third just to break even. For Huls Dairy, the decision to go into the methane energy business was as much about squeezing a dollar as bracing for environmental change. Methane from livestock is increasingly being viewed as a liability for farmers, one they might be penalized for producing possible federal legislation to curb global warming.