A bill filed in the Minnesota Legislature may be the first step in recognizing the problem of stray voltage on dairy farms.

One of the sponsors of the bill, State Representative Bruce Anderson, says prospects for having the bill heard in the next legislative session are good. 

It’s something that dairy farmer Joe Kenning, of St. Cloud, Minn., would like to see. Kenning told Dairy Herd Management that from the early 1950s to 1984 he had numerous problems on his farm from a transmission line that ran about 250 feet from his house. He measured the magnetic fields with ground stakes and copper wire and sometimes found readings as high as 100 to 250 milliamperes coming from the ground. That, he said, was a big problem and affected his cows.

“Our (somatic cell) count was a million and half to 2 million” while that was occurring, he said. “Our veterinarians were out here all the time.” Then, when the utility company moved the line in 1984, the somatic cell count dropped to 280,000, he says.

But ground currents from surrounding homes are still a problem, he adds.

Rep. Anderson also spoke to Dairy Herd Management. He said a dairy farmer from Waverly, Minn., came to visit him in March 2010, which got the ball rolling for the current legislation. That farmer, Anderson says, has lost many of his top-producing cows to stray voltage. “He cannot continue to run his operation when he is losing cows like this.”

“These farmers are lost without someone who will stand up for them,” Anderson adds.

House Bill 1157 would establish a task force made up of farmers, agricultural groups and utility company representatives to make recommendations to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The Commission would then come up with proposals for investigating and remediating complaints from dairy or livestock operations that suspect stray-voltage problems.

Basically, the bill is intended to bring groups together to discuss the problem and come up with solutions, Anderson says. He acknowledges that it is not a strong bill and really has no “teeth” in terms of enforcement.

But it is a first step.