Dairy Report: Using Anaerobic Digesters for Dumped Milk

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Methane digesters capture methane gas ( Jim Dickrell )

Using Dumped Milk to Feed Anaerobic Digesters

Several milk producers are still having to dump milk right now because of a lack of demand from restaurants, schools and processor capacity.

So where should you dump that milk beside a lagoon? Some might think anaerobic digesters might be a good idea. That's because the high levels of fat and protein in milk can be a good feed source for digester bacteria and boost methane production.

But experts say you should be careful before you do that.

First, you have to consider biology that too much high-energy milk to the digester can cause microorganisms to die off. Also, there are regulatory issues to consider. If your digester is producing gas to generate Renewable Fuels Standards credits putting milk in the digester will change the type and value of those credits.

How Dairy Will Reach Net Zero

Dairy farms have cut their greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 20% in the last decade or so. But will they be able to reach net zero emissions by 2050?

Mike McCloskey is the co-owner of Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana and also serves on the Innovation Center for U-S Dairy's Environmental Stewardship Committee. He believes reaching net zero emissions on an industry-wide basis is achievable and well before 2050. He says it can be achieved through cow care and efficiency, feed production, manure handling and nutrient use and renewable energy production. McCloskey saying it's not a one size fits all. He says it's the collective effort by everyone that will get us there.

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