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Water has become an extremely sensitive – and maybe even critical – topic, especially here in the west, and even more so in recent years.


While the ag industry as a whole works to maintain water rights for irrigation and other farm uses, dairy farmers are tuned in to the many ways they can get multiple uses out of water on their farms. Here are a few that we’ve seen recently:


Milk Cooling:  After the water has gone through the cooling system – a necessary part of the refrigeration process – it’s non-potable. But in most cases, it’s still safe for the cattle to drink. Many of the dairies here in Northern Colorado are sending that post-plate cooler water into the water tanks, giving it another use and saving on the cost of additional water for the animals.


Water that’s gone through the cooling systems can also be used in sprinkler systems or to flush barn floors.


Irrigation: Water that’s been used to cool milk and flush barns can also be used in irrigation, which is of course agriculture’s largest claim on the water supply. When water that’s been used to flush barns is sent out for irrigation, it has also had the chance to pick up some valuable nutrients along the way.   


Digesters: Of course, the final destination of the water the cows are consuming completes (and restarts) the cycle. When the liquid waste makes its way into a digester system, nutrients are extracted and returned to the soil, and the methane is captured and converted into heat, electricity or natural gas. 


Even as we work with dairies to find more and more ways to reuse water, we’re looking at those places that need water and finding ways to use less in general. At the same time, we’re conscious of the trade-offs. Most often, if we’re using less water, we’re using more of other resources, like electricity. It’s a big-picture view that’s going to get the right solutions – for your goals and for overall sustainability – implemented on your farm.


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