Land is a farmer’s most valuable asset. It can make or break any farm just by the types of soils. In New York, we are fortunate to have some of the most productive land in the nation, with soils that are typically well-drained and rich in organic matter. But we’re the lucky ones. Not everyone in the world, or the United States for that matter is as lucky as us here in New York. And as farmers, we know it.
As dairy farmers, we rely on good soils and land to grow crops for our cows. Over 60 percent of the feed we feed our cows is grown on our farm. If we could grow more, we would. Ideally, we need about 2 acres of land for every cow on the farm. But good land is hard to come by. And here’s why.
Watch this short video from Ag in the Classroom that uses an apple to explain the dilemma we’re in – and not just us dairy farmers, but anyone that wishes to grow their own food. As a human race, we are limited by viable land.
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So what do we do? As not only a caretaker of animals, but a caretaker of the land, we’ll do just about anything we can to help preserve our natural resources – and we are! In order to ensure that we are making use of all the latest and greatest practices known, dairy farmers work closely with their county Soil & Water Conservation, along with other local, state and national partners. These off-farm experts know just what to do and how to do it and are available to assess our operations and suggest best management practices that are specific to our farm operation. Larger farms are more formally regulated by the state through a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) permit to ensure they do right by the environment by properly managing waste and keeping clean water clean.
The agricultural industry has also responded with never-ending research and new technology. Modern day tractors are more sensitive to land, sporting wider tires or tracks to lessen soil compaction. New types of tillage equipment lessen the disturbance of soil and thus reduces soil erosion. GPS (global positioning systems) allow farmers to precisely apply fertilizers and crop protectants to prevent over spraying. New manure application techniques enable manure to be directly injected into the soil, which ensures more of the nutrients stay in the soil, rather than be potentially washed away, also helping protect our water sources and reducing odor. Strip cropping and buffers are planted or left wild to prevent erosion and help protect waterways. And much, much more!