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Milk House Wastewater Project tours - August 30 & 31 (08/17/2005)
Where does your milk house wastewater go? How much water is used each day to clean up your milk house and parlor? Does your milk house wastewater system have enough capacity to handle that amount? Will your milk house wastewater system meet MPCA standards in the future?

Two Milk House Wastewater tours will be held in SE Minnesota to look at new milk house wastewater systems installations that may provide some insight and information of value to dairy producers around the state of Minnesota. The tours will be held as follows:

Tuesday, August 30 in Winona County. The bus will load at the Ag Service Center (400 Wilson St. N) in Lewiston.

Wednesday, August 31 in Goodhue County.  The bus will load at the Lions Building (105 Broadway St) in Goodhue.

The tours will take place from 10:00am to 3:00pm each day.  Participants are encouraged to ride the bus being provided for each tour. Loading on the bus begins at 9:45 a.m. on both days. The bus will depart at exactly 10:00am in order to stay on schedule.

Tour participants will see four new on-farm installations in each county, including a system with bark bed or strip; with aerobic treatment unit to trenches; with gravel filter to trenches; and with irrigation.  All systems have septic tanks. 

This S.E. MN Milk House Wastewater Treatment Research and Demonstration Project is a result of a Clean Water Partnership/Federal 319 Program through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency taking place from 2004 to 2007. There is limited milk house wastewater treatment system performance or economic information available. Therefore, the milk house wastewater project has three main objectives: 1) to help small and mid-size dairy producers better understand how they can comply with milk house wastewater environmental regulations; 2) to demonstrate how producers can have a system that is reliable and be economical to install and operate; and 3) to publish fact sheets, brochures, web pages and power point presentations to disseminate information throughout the state.

This project builds on an existing project taking place in Carver and Wright counties that started over two years ago. It was felt a milk house wastewater research and demonstration project was also needed in SE Minnesota because of the unique karst geology, different soils and landscape features that dairy producers are faced with in that part of the state.

The project is under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Janni, Extension Ag. Engineer and Head of the Dept of Biosystems and Ag. Engineering at the University of Minnesota, along with Extension Ag. Engineers' Sara Christopherson and David Schmidt. Project cooperators include: Cooperating dairy producers, Winona & Goodhue County SWCDs, Feedlot Officers, NRCS, BWSR, U of M Ag Experiment Station, U of M Extension Service, EPA 319 Grants through MPCA. 

You may be asking what does milk house waste include? It results from cleaning and sanitizing the milkers, pipeline and bulk tank, from bacteria, from nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, from residual milk which must be limited, from cleaners/chemicals, and from the water used.

Why is milk house wastewater disposal important to dairy producers? A high ammonia load can lead to fish kills. A high organic load can lower water quality by reducing oxygen levels. And, a high phosphorus load promotes algae growth. MPCA rules require < 25 mg/L BOD5 (Biological Oxygen Demand) for release to surface water. BOD5 is a measurement of how dirty wastewater is. It is the dissolved oxygen used by microorganisms in the oxidation of organic matter in sewage in five days. If released to a soil treatment below ground, the design guideline is <200 mg/L BOD5 for longtime performance. 

  Typical values for septic tank effluent is 100- 175 mg/L; for milk house wastewater it is approximately 500 to 3,400 mg/L; and for milk itself it is approximately 100,000 mg/L (Wright & Graves, 1998).  Thus, the importance of this project in helping producers, installers, agency officials better understand and solve milk house wastewater problems or potential problems.

Last summer, water meters were installed on each cooperating farm to measure water use in the milk house and to estimate wastewater flow on a monthly basis. It has been found that milk house and parlor water use is highly variable from farm to farm. Preliminary data indicates from 2.2 to 13.2 gallons per cow per day. Sampling and laboratory testing for BOD5 levels started after each installation was completed and will continue throughout the project period. Beyond wastewater analysis, data will be collected on labor requirements, general system performance, economics of operation and maintenance. Up-to-date data and observations by Extension Ag Engineers, agency personnel involved in the project, and cooperating producers will be shared with tour participants at each site.

Pre-registration is needed by August 24 to help plan for a noon meal count, handout materials needed and number riding the bus. Call the Extension Regional Center in Rochester at 507-280-2863 to make reservations. Cost will be $10/person, whether or not you ride the bus.

Support for the tours is being provided by the SE MN Dairy Initiatives program. 



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