Going Green: Conservation farming
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John and Cathy Burgett have operated this 200-cow dairy farm in southern Onondaga County since 1985. In 1996, they began practicing conservation farming because their farm sits over the Cortland-Homer-Preble Aquifer.
John Burgett said, "It serves over 30,000 people, so we’re doing our best to keep that water as pure as possible."
One recent improvement is a covered barnyard where the cows return to the barn after milking. Roof runoff from the barns was taking animal waste into the ground.
Burgett said, "So we re-cemented the whole thing and put a cover over it. Also out there is a section of grass, which absorbs all the water from the roof."
The manure is confined to the cement area where it can be removed for proper disposal.
In 2006, they installed a waste treatment system for the milking operation that starts with four settling tanks to remove sediment and then...
Burgett said, "It goes into a pipe, and using gravity it’s moved out by the paddocks. Here there is a series of baffles where the water is purified as it goes through each baffle. We end up with all the soap and detergent and the like filtered out and by the time the water goes through the baffles it’s almost pure water.
Since 1996, they’ve also used a rotational grazing system to feed their dairy herd for about seven months of the year however changing paddocks four times a day created muddy pathways for the cows so they re-built each laneway.
Burgett said, "There is a cover underneath to help with runoff with a fine mesh and above that we put fine sandstone that the cows walk on plus the laneway is shaped like this (sloped) so the water would run off."