Dairy operations are moving out of populated areas by the dozens, and cattle and chicken operations tend to prefer more and more remote locations! The reason is because of development, new housing and city expansion, and complaints of the odor, effluent, and potential disease resulting from these facilities. As both an appraiser and environmental consultant we must stay abreast of issues that can impact value.
One banker in Stevenville, Texas told us that “Dairies are moving to West Texas and New Mexico to avoid high land costs and environmental issues.”
The problems are obvious. A typical milk cow will produce 6 gallons of milk a day, but 18 gallons of manure a day. In New Mexico, dairy cows produce 5,400,000 gallons of manure per day.
Marcy Leavitt, with the New Mexico Environmental Department says: “More and more dairies have contamination underneath them”. This is often caused by poor linings or inferior construction of the dairy plant, according to Kreg Welch, President of Holstein Supply of Dumas, Texas. His company builds dairy and cattle feeding operations. “If a dairy has a lagoon system, it must be able to withstand a 100 year flood, be lined either with plastic or impervious clay to keep it from leaching into the water table. Also, microbes can be added to digest the manure, and this with an aeration system can be very effective. None of the dairy operations that we have built have water pollution violations.” Said Welch.
Some cattle, chicken and dairy operations use their manure to fertilize farm fields. “this must have a nutrient management program in place, with limits of phosphorous to be applied, and it must be done at the right time of the year.” Said Kreg Welch of Holstein Supply.
The New Mexico Environmental Department says: “2/3 of dairies pollute the water”. So New Mexico is adopting stricter rules, following suggestions of reputable developers like Kreg Welch. Between Las Cruces and El Paso, on Interstate 10, there are some 30,000 dairy cows. Towns such as Dexter, New Mexico appreciate jobs, but report: “The water is brown, it stinks, and our children get infections. Finally our water table was declared unfit for humans." reported a Dexter resident.
In places like Yakima Valley, Washington, or Brown County, Wisconsin, Hutson, Michigan, or Dexter, New Mexico, polluted wells, diarrhea, and ear infections are common. In Oklahoma, the Attorney General sued 13 poultry companies in 2005, because of damage to watersheds in Oklahoma.
Yet the communities need the money. In New Mexico, for example the dairy business contributes one billion dollars per year to the economy. And the industry is becoming more concentrated. At a time when small to medium size operations were scattered over the country, none of them seemed to create a big problem. It was scattered out. But as the companies “mass produce” milk, chickens and cattle, in enclosed areas where they live a lifetime in their own feces, never allowed to walk a pasture or drink from a running stream, the discharge is huge. Brown County, Wisconsin has 41,000 dairy cows that produce 260,000,000 (million) gallons of manure each year.
One must look at “greed vs need” aspects. Big business is profitable, but must be done correctly.