Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Ethanol CAFO Connection?

I think our son was playing "veterinarian" this morning. Having worked super late last night for one client, I slept in... only to be awoken by our 6 year old carrying a pH test strip.

"Look Mommy, it's green! Shadow's healthy! She's okay! My dog is okay!"

If you don't know what a saliva pH test is, basically you take high quality litmus paper, hold it on your tongue ...then, after taking it out, watch what color it turns. If it turns the proper shade of green, your pH balance is good.

It's simple. And it doesn't tell the whole story. But it can be an indicator for potential health risks...

An article in the L.A.Times this past Friday (Nov 17) has brought new research to the masses -- which indicates the potential health risks associated with factory farms.

According to a series of scientific studies published last week, factory farms:
"...are poorly regulated, pose health and ecological dangers and are responsible for deteriorating quality of life in America's and Europe's farm regions..."

The article further states that CAFOs (which they refer to as large feedlots):
"...are contaminating water supplies with pathogens and chemicals, and polluting the air with foul-smelling compounds that can cause respiratory problems, but the health of their neighbors goes largely unmonitored, the reports concluded."

The Dairy CAFO planned for Jasper County adjoins one of the fastest growing Residential areas in North Jasper County. The Jasper County Zoning Authorities have already recognized this area is appropriate for residential purposes -- as indicated by the numerous homes within several subdivisions which adjoin and/or are located in close proximity to the planned CAFO.

We're talking A-2 residential zoned property here... not farm zoned... one and two acre lots, with beautiful homes -- dream homes -- whose backyards will overlook the 15,000 cow/calving operation.

And I thought the Jasper County BZA was "just plumb stupid" for approving a hog CAFO adjoining a wildlife preserve area. On the doorstep of a new 5-year study launched last week to investigate the health risks to CAFO workers and surrounding area residents, I sincerely believe those Jasper County BZA members who plan to approve this monstrosity need to undergo thorough psych evaluations.

You know who you are. You're the same ones who accepted numerous calls from the hog CAFO owners prior to their public meeting, during which you failed to provide facilities large enough for the hundreds of concerned citizens who showed up, the area residents you treated with such contempt.

I say to you: "Give your heads a shake!"

But then again, you approved the new ethanol plant going in on the outskirts of Rensselaer. If you think a 15,000-head CAFO won't put pressures on water up here, just wait until you see what happens down there in your area when that plant starts pumping out 10 gallons of waste water for every 1 gallon of ethanol it produces.

Oh, and if you truly think the by-products from that monstrous plant can be used for feed for all these Dairy CAFOs you've been approving to go in to the north of you -- think again. There's a little known problem with mixing those by-products in with the feed. It happens to increase the phosphorous load in the manure produced by the animals eating it... a situation that's already causing problems for CAFOs ...or haven't you read the USDA report?

"When including CDG (corn distillers grains) into dairy diets producers should understand that although they contain many valuable nutrients, these feeds may also contain high levels of both phosphorus and sulfur. Although it is unlikely that these levels would contribute to the loss of any milk production or health problems, producers should be mindful of the importance of dealing with these minerals. Recently, the land application of dairy manure has risen to national attention and continues to face growing scrutiny because manure may accumulate minerals and has the potential to contaminate surface and groundwater. To avoid these problems, producers should ensure that their waste management plan attempts to avoid excessive accumulation of minerals and allows for maximum crop use of the nutrients contained in the manure."

You see, it brings us right back to the BIG CAFO problem that started all the fuss in the first place -- what to do with all that manure?

And, to the Dairy CAFO owners, when you feed CDG to your Dairy cows, think about how "fattening" your milk and cheese might become:
"Because CDG may contain as much as 13% ether extract (an estimate of crude fat), the high level of fat is one factor believed that may affect milk fat synthesis and as a result limit the inclusion of CDG into dairy diets."

Or ...maybe you haven't heard... Heart Disease is the LEADING KILLER here in the good ol' USA -- and fat reduction in diets is going to get a whole lot more publicity in the months and years ahead. But hey, you've got some pretty good advertising spin artists working for you. Maybe you can do another "drink milk to lose weight" campaign. heh-heh

Just as a sidenote, forget using the ethanol plant byproducts for hog (or poultry) feed. There's a slight problem...
"There are problems involving amino acids and fiber that limit the use of distiller's grains with pigs and poultry to 10-15 percent of the diet,"

So, BZA, due to your less than capable (in my humble opinion) planning decisions in Jasper County, we're about to have 3 problems on our hands:

1. What to do with all that manure?
2. What to do with all that CDG?
3. What to do with all that waste water from CAFOs and ethanol plants?

Be sure to dot your "i's" and cross your "t's" before you let this 15,000-head Dairy CAFO into our area. You might find Jasper County swimming in by-products that aren't too easy to hide from the public eyes.

Maybe you should perform your own "litmus test" before the next meeting? It's a friendly suggestion.



Anonymous said...

Your comments on the nutrient concerns of CDG and byproduct feeds is misinformed. The reason of concern for limiting the amount of CDG fed to ruminants (cattle) is not because the high fat or mineral content will cause a similiarly higher level in their milk or cheese, but because too much of the unprotected fat can disrupt ruminant microbes from breaking down forages (fiber fermentation). It is usually safe to keep CDG levels under 8 lbs per head per day depending on what other sources of fat are fed. The milk will usually have a LOWER percent of butterfat because of a metabolic acidosis from the digestive upset if excess fat is fed. Byproduct feeds are in more demand now too because of the high corn and soybean prices due to competing use for ethanol and biofuels.

Modern farms that take soil analysis and apply chemical or organic (manure) nutrients to crops often test manure and use balance sheets to determine how much to apply to meet (not exceed) crop needs. Some small and almost all large (CAFO) farms in my state use nutrient management plans. You should become more educated about modern agriculture and how we in agriculture address environmental issues. By the way, I am not a CAFO operator and don't plan to become one. We have a small dairy and crop farm - a family farm and I am a former nutritionist and agriculture extension educator. I don't like to see misinformation against any type of agriculture operation used in an activist way.
Residents near large agriculture operations have a right to ask questions and voice concerns. There can be some valid concerns. Most of these can be addressed and minimized with good planning and implementation of approved best management practices. If the proposed operation is doing that, you might have to deal with some occassional nuisance issues, but not usually the health and environmental claims that the anti-ag activists use in their fear campaigns. Keep the dialogue open, ask the right questions and be open minded about the diversity in agriculture. Visit with your extension service and conservation commission to get a more accurate picture of agriculture operations in your area.

kmyers said...

Thank you for contributing your information on this important subject.

I sincerely appreciate it.

For the record, the nutrient information regarding CDG (also called DDGS in ag circles) came directly from the USDA website. Those are not my facts and figures... the figures are theirs. If they are mistaken, you might want to contact them and let them know.

While you are at it, you might also want to contact Mickey Latour, the Purdue University Extension animal scientist who was interviewed for this insightful article, "To Many DDGs Will Spoil the Bacon" on May 7/2007, explaining the difference in the quality of food/meat from animals fed higher levels of DDGS (aka CDG). Here is the link to the article.

In the article, Latour cautions on the results that will happen if farmers plan on feeding their livestock more DDGS, particularly as they relate to the important Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio.

Considering heart disease is the number 1 killer worldwide, and with your strong background in nutrition, I'm sure you could better explain how detrimental to health this can be.

The article does a pretty good job explaining what happens to the ratios -- but does not explain what can happen to humans when they consume foods that are extraordinarily high in their n-6 to n-3 ratio.

I could make the attempt, since I have scads and scads of research materials on the subject, being a writer in the health and wellness field for more than 10 years now... but it would be nice to see someone with formal education and experience on the subject explain it here for all readers.

With so many new ethanol plants going into full production this year, I'm quite certain there are many farmers that will be encouraged to use the byproducts (distilled grains) for feed.

I would hope they get both sides of the story and don't make their decisions to use more DDGS based on marketing hype, abundant availability and (supposedly) lower costs alone.

You bring up an excellent point regarding the high corn and soybean prices.

Even crop farmers are getting hit hard this year owing in part to supporting industries hiking their prices in anticipation of the higher profits they see crop farmers might make this year. Have you seen the cost for specialty fertilizers? And the high price of gas doesn't help, either. Now add the new corn check-off program which some farmers are calling nothing more than a new "tax." The bottom line is, this might be a good year for some crop farmers, but will it make up for the bad years both past and future?

Contrary to what you might believe, I don't look at only the small picture. As much as I am against the location of 2 particular CAFOs in this region -- I do try to keep an open mind and look at the BIG picture as well as the small picture.

Perhaps it's a gift, or maybe it's a curse, but one of the reasons I am powerful at what I do (my writing career) is because I can see how all pieces fit together and understand the domino effect very well.

Far too many people look at their own small picture and do not tie it into how their picture (particularly their actions) affects the world around them, in my humble opinion.

You might like to brush me off as an activist, and you're entitled to your own opinion. Personally, I don't see myself as such however, I do become very passionate on the subjects of health, the environment and the overall well being of all life on this planet.

And the domino effect of feeding livestock too much DDGS could be far reaching, based on research currently available.

When it comes to our food supply, the stakes are high -- no pun intended.