While proper facility management and good sanitation form the foundation for an overall odor control program, don't stop there. Several other tools exist.
"People do smell with their eyes," says Leonard Meador, environmental management consultant for Global Eco-Tech in Rossville, Ind. So, if someone drives by your dairy and sees rusty equipment, buildings in need of painting, overgrown weeds, and a dead cow at the end of the lane, they will form a negative impression. On the other hand, if they drive by and see a well-kept facility, they will form a positive image of your operation.
"First impressions are powerful tools," says Mike Veenhuizen, agricultural engineering consultant, Livestock Engineering Solutions in Greenwood, Ind. "And, people use those impressions to draw conclusions - both right and wrong - about your operation." So, as a livestock operation that generates some odor due to the nature of the business, it's in your interest to put your best foot forward.
Fresh paint, neatly-trimmed driveways, well-kept animals and pens, and a farm sign with your name and number listed are a good start. When you maintain a positive image, people driving by will be less apt to "assume" they smell something. However, if they do, and they want to complain, your name and number is listed on the sign, so they don't have to ask everyone around town who runs that "stinky" dairy.
Screens - a row of trees, wooden fences and even other building structures - can be used to create visual and filter screens.
Visual screens are used to block the public's view of lagoons or other areas of the farm. Filter screens, on the other hand, are a physical barrier that helps dissipate odors. When the air current encounters a screen, it must go up and over it. This rising of the air current, which carries odor from your farm, forces the odors to mix with more rapidly-moving air at higher levels. Thus, the odorous air stream becomes diluted.
Whether building a new dairy, or merely adding another building, where you place it can have serious odor consequences.
For example, Veenhuizen worked with one large pork producer who had built his facilities on top of a hill. However, each evening when temperatures cooled off, odors would get trapped, and a concentrated odor stream would travel down the hill to the eight neighbors living in the valley below. A change in a couple of management practices, and installing some screens to help dissipate odors, made a world of difference and complaints dropped off.
The direction of prevailing winds, topography and air drainage patterns are critical considerations in site selection.
Producers today must maintain an open dialogue with neighbors. Tell your neighbors that you are in the business of producing quality milk for human consumption. Let them know that as a livestock operation, odors do occur, that you have a management plan in place to minimize odor emissions, and that if they have a concern or question, to please call you.
After all, says Veenhuizen, "it's real easy to get mad at someone you don't know." But, when your neighbors know you, it's easier for them to come directly to you with any problems that may arise.