Dairy farm gets manure management makeover

Natural Prairie Farms, with four dairy units in Texas, needed to expand to Indiana where their new organic farm would milk 5,000 cows.

It was a good time to re-think manure management.

Owned by life-long dairy people Donald and Cheri De Jong, Natural Prairie Farms bought their first dairy farm two decades ago with 800 cows. Today they milk about 5,000 cows on their organic system plus another 9,000 cows on a conventional system. And they employ 250 people.

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Ten years ago they were looking for ways to lower the environmental impact of their ever-expanding herds. And they were looking for new land with plenty of water. Donald De Jong says Texas is always short of water. Indiana fit the bill for a new organic farm.

For the new farm to be organically certified, the pasture and hay land had to remain chemical free for three years, giving De Jongs time to shop for an environmentally friendly system to handle organic manure. Organic manure carries a higher value than conventional manure, and De Jong didn’t want to overlook that potential.

The new technology employed by OmniProcessor impressed De Jong. It met his criteria for being economically self-supporting and even potentially profitable. Plus it would bring dairy slurry to a stage that the water can be used as wash water and eventually for drinking water. Ultimately, he says, the facility must produce water fit for animal and human consumption.

So, the De Jongs tapped Peter Janicki, who engineered the OmniProcessor, to engineer a solution for their farm. The result is the Varcor.

De Jong expects the Varcor systems on his Natural Prairie Farms will allow him to cut water use because of the closed-loop system.

Manure is collected many times every day, so the cows have clean habitat and the Varcor isn’t overworked.

Natural Prairie organic dairy farms use sand for bedding. Sand is separated out of the slurry mix and returned as dry bedding, while all the nutrients remain in the liquid.

The Varcor yields clean water, Aqueous Ammonia with a 22 percent concentration and dry phosphorus powder.

During a phone interview, Donald De Jong predicts the Varcor will revolutionize livestock production by economically providing a clean water supply and organic fertilizer. Plus the lagoon smell will be gone and it frees a farmer from the petrochemical industry.

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