Touch the Soil News #671 (feature photo – USDA)
Folks in Oregon are in an uproar over the recent Oregon DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) decision to permit a new 30,000 head dairy. The dairy is located in Eastern Oregon (Boardman) about 10 miles from the Columbia River.
The Columbia River is the largest river on the West Coast that drains waters from millions of square miles into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon. The Oregon DEQ has reported over 4,200 comments from the public, many of them in protest. Boardman is in a rural and remote area far from the majority of Oregon’s population centered around Portland.
To be called the Lone Valley Ranch Dairy, the 30,000 cows will produce some 187 million gallons of waste annually and consume some 320 million gallons of fresh water annually. While it seems big, the Lone Valley Ranch Dairy will be close to an existing dairy of around 70,000 cows – the massive Three Mile Canyon Farm.
The main reason these two mega-dairies are where they are is simple – it is a vast region of mega crop farms that can raise the feed for the 100,000 cows of the two dairies.
Doing the Numbers
On average, half of the cows on a dairy are young stock – younger dairy heifers that will replace the older retiring cows. That said, half of the Lone Valley Ranch Dairy’s animals (15,000 producing cows) will only produce about 40 million gallons of milk a year. Americans, on a per-capita basis, consume around 600 gallons of milk a year for cheese, yogurt, ice cream, fluid milk and other products. This means the Lone Valley Ranch would only supply the total dairy needs of some 70,000 people. Considering the U.S. population increases an average of 2,300,000 every year, the Lone Valley Ranch Dairy would only serve about 3 percent of the new population growth. To meet all the population growth, the U.S. would need over 30 more dairies the size of Lone Valley Ranch every year moving forward.
What Should Be Done?
What do you think should be done? Is the decision by the Oregon DEQ the right one to allow the dairy to be built? Should folks be allowed to have dairy cows in their backyards in the city so no new dairies have to be built? Should Americans embrace smaller families so there is something left of the environment for future generations? Should we abandon milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and cottage cheese in favor of just drinking water?
Following is a video of the Three Mile Canyon Farm at harvest. It illustrates the thousands of acres (most of them in feed crops and some potatoes) necessary to feed the dairy cows.