October 25, 2021 at 6:00 p.m.
“There are lots of people out there who are interested in improving the land,” said Jason Cavadini, an agronomist with the University of Wisconsin Research Center in Marshfield. “Bringing everyone together around the same table helps us accomplish more.”
Miltrim Farms Inc., is a fourth-generation family dairy farm, owned and operated by the Trimner family. Miltrim Farms is home to 3,000 cows; 1,800 of those are milked with 30 robotic milkers, with the remaining cows milked in a double-12 herringbone parlor. Approximately 5,000 acres are cropped, raising alfalfa, grasses and clover for haylage, and corn for silage.
The farm was established in 1988, milking 300 cows on the site where their heifers are currently housed. In 2000, they moved to their current site, growing to 600 cows. Over the past 20 years, the farm has grown through carefully planned expansions to its current size.
The farm, located in the Eau Pleine watershed area, consists of primarily heavy clay soils. The farm was the first to be certified as a Clear Water Farm through the Alliance for Water Stewardship. Crop rotations in use typically run on a three- to four-year schedule.
“The makeup of the soil is kind of a benefit and a curse at the same time,” David Trimner said. “It really helps protect the water, but cropping-wise it is not always the best. You have to be really strategic on how you crop it. One of the things we do is try to utilize cover crops on our corn fields, to facilitate great soil health and good water infiltration.”
The dairy site comprises about 50 acres. Trimner said they are continually making plans to work with the landscaping and natural vegetation around the farm to help divert rainwater runoff from the dairy site to their wells, allowing them to best capture rainwater, reducing further runoff, and helping to recharge their wells.
The farm operates off a system of six wells, which are not all high-capacity, because of the geography of their farm. The wells are typically drilled to about 50 to 60 feet, with none being more than 100 feet; water is typically available at about 30 feet.
“In this area to get a large quantity of flow is a challenge. One of our wells produces about five gallons a minute,” Trimner said. “There is quite a bit of water; it is just relatively shallow, which provides challenges at times. We just want to make sure we are being good stewards and we have plenty of water for the cows.”
The farm uses approximately 82,000 gallons of water each day for operating the dairy.
Marathon County Environmental Resource Coordinator Andy Johnson explained how the aquifer in that area works.
“The water comes from the bedrock, about 30 to 40 feet down. All the water comes from the fractures in that rock,” Johnson said. “It is very much unlike the Central Sands area, where you can have big-capacity, high-yielding wells. The challenge here is yield. The wells around here produce less than 20 gallons a minute; 20 gallons is a great well, so you have to put several wells together. It is a little finicky up here, you have to be careful.”
Miltrim is constantly working to provide the most comfortable environment for their cows, working to marry those needs with the need to focus efforts on conservation practices.
The new barn built to accommodate the robot-milked portion of the herd was designed and ventilated in a manner to move enough air, eliminating the need for water misters to cool cows during the heat of the summer, further helping to decrease the water needs of the operation.
The barns are cleaned using reclaimed water in a flush system. The ventilation system allows the barn to be kept warm enough, approximately 40 degrees even on the coldest winter days, which keeps the flush system running without creating slippery, icy floors. The ventilation also reduces the occurrence of fog inside the barn, even on the coldest days.
“Keeping the fog at bay is crucial because the robots work with camera lenses to sense where the cow is and attach the milking unit,” Trimner said. “If you were to get a lot of fog in the barn, those lenses would fog up, creating issues for the camera.”
The barns are bedded using sand, about 95% of which is reclaimed through the manure separating system that is also used to reclaim the flush water. The manure that is separated off is applied to fields using drag hoses for fields up to 6 miles away from the dairy.
“With that, one thing we focus on is lower rates of manure being applied to help facilitate soil health as well as preventing runoff,” Trimner said. “It also helps keep trucks off the road. We do have to truck some, because there are some fields that we are not able to lay hose to. The manure is incorporated immediately using a minimum disturbance injection, which creates less odor and makes the manure more accessible to the plants.”
Another area of conservation being undertaken at Miltrim is turning some fields that are low production or difficult to farm into pollinator plots. These plots have been seeded down with native species. These benefit the soil and water by adding additional areas that capture rainwater, allowing it to infiltrate back into the aquifer, as well as providing a habitat for the pollinating insects necessary for crop production.
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