Okeechobee livestock agent, Lauren Butler, Regional Dairy Agent, Colleen Larson, and Gary Ritter, the Assistant Director of Government and Community Affairs for Florida Farm Bureau hosted a team from the National Parks Conservation Association. Their goal was to gain a better understanding of how agriculture plays a role in protecting our waterways. The group visited Larson Dairy Barn 8 and Williamson Cattle Company.
At Larson Dairy they learned about technology and best management practices that help conserve water used on the farm and protect waterways near the farm. The dairy’s use of freestall barns to house cows helps the cow and water conservation and protection. In the barns, cows receive shade, fans, and sprinklers all to keep them comfortable. The barns are cleaned (or flushed) with recycled water 3 times per day. All of the excess nutrients from the barns are collected and stored in storm water treatment ponds. That water can then be treated or used to fertilize crops at the farm.
Another water saving technology used at the farm is direct load. This means that the milk is loaded directly onto a milk truck instead of into a milk tank at the farm. This allows the farm to save hundreds of gallons of water each time the parlor and milk room are cleaned.
At Williamson Cattle Company the group learned about the important role natural spaces play in water quality. Williamson Cattle Company participates in the WRS program storing and filtering water through the natural grassland on the ranch.
Farmers and ranchers are continually working to help protect the land and waterways that keep their operations sustainable. UF/IFAS extension and Florida Farm Bureau are working together to help educate consumers, non-governmental organizations, and youth about the importance of agriculture to our natural resources.