A lot of positive reactions circulated at an open house last week to demonstrate new manure-handling technology on Big Sky West Dairy in Gooding County, Idaho.

The technology -- which includes a digester, a screening system, chemical flocculation and band presses -- reduces phosphorous and solids loads in the lagoon, providing benefits for nutrient management and odor control.

"I think it's the beginning of the future, where we can manage micronutrients coming out of manure," said John Bruinsma of Pacific Dairy Centre, a British Columbia company that manufactures milking and manure equipment.

The recycling component is also good for public perception, he added.

"We're recycling every bit of the manure; that's really good," he said.

His associate, Jim Peters, said all of the dairy industry will have to embrace the technology.

"It's still growing, it's still changing, (but) we're going to have to do this stuff. It's getting stiffer and stiffer as far as regulation," he said.

Don Bunke, U.S. sales manager for GEA Houele Inc., a Quebec company that manufactures "green" equipment and some pumps used at Big Sky, was enthusiastic about what the dairy is trying to accomplish.

"They're passionate to improve the dairymen's plight, not only to make it work, but make it economically possible," he said.

"Whether the rest of the world realizes it or not, they're leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the dairies, at least in the U.S.," he added.

Marv Patten, Dairy Bureau chief at Idaho State Department of Agriculture, knows well the environmental regulations and challenges that dairymen face. He sees Big Sky's move to embrace technology as encouragement to other producers to make an economic investment in new technologies.

"The word of mouth and understanding of what it can do, site specific, is an advantage for the whole industry," he said.

What is learned on the dairy, and through others who pioneer new technology, will lead to additional improvements in how manure and nutrients are managed, he added.

-- Carol Ryan Dumas

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