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July 2007

MSU Farms to Hold Open House Oct. 13

Becky Larson climbs to the top of a large blue cylinder serviced by a maze of pipes and valves so she can unleash the large lid that conceals another complicated system of pipes and valves.
“It all looks a little intimidating at first,” she explains. “But it’s really just basic plumbing.”

Larson, a graduate student in the Michigan State University Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, honed her plumbing skills to help researchers come up with effective strategies for recycling milking parlor washwater, a challenge that has plagued dairy farmers for years.

The MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Center, the site of Larson’s project, is home to 150 dairy cows and uses 250 to 500 gallons of water in the milking parlor each day.

“That’s a lot less than most dairies, but still a notable amount. Traditionally, that water has been stored in manure lagoons or land applied,” Larson explains. “Current disposal methods are costly and pose environmental risks. We’re trying to come up with an economical way for farmers to reuse washwater and reduce the potential for negative environmental impacts associated with spills and runoff. There also is the additional benefit of reducing water use in the daily milking cycle.”

Larson’s project and a host of others will be featured during an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. on October 13 at the MSU Dairy Teaching and Research Farm.

“Throwing open the doors and inviting farmers in enables them to see firsthand some of the interesting projects going on here on the farms,” says Ben Darling, assistant director of the MSU Office of Land Management.

High on Darling’s list of accomplishments is the comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) that he helped develop for the MSU South Campus Farms. He will be on hand during the open house to show people how he and his group accomplished this monumental task.

“Completing the CNMP was a challenge because, unlike other farms, we have nine livestock species farms in one,” Darling explains. “It was also a worthwhile learning experience and we want to share the process with farmers.”

In addition to the farm tour, visitors will get their first glimpse of the new MSU Animal Air Quality Research Facility, a state-of-the-art lab that will be home to numerous projects designed to determine the effects of animal agriculture on air quality.

Wendy Powers, MSU’s director of environmental stewardship in animal agriculture, heads up the facility.

“Livestock manure odor can cause tension between farmers and their non-farm neighbors,” Powers says. “This lab will help us measure air emissions and determine how we can modify animal diets to reduce those emissions and manure nutrients. We’re eager to show producers the types of valuable information we’ll be generating.”

Powers encourages farm families to make a day of it by also attending the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources tailgate party and the MSU Homecoming football game against the University of Indiana Hoosiers.

“It’s a great opportunity to see what’s going on at the farms and the new lab,” she says. “And it’s a double bonus for those who can combine it with other Homecoming activities."

 

 

 

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