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Image of dairy farming matters.

As development increasingly encroaches on traditionally agricultural areas, a dairy expert in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences urges farmers to find ways to understand and be considerate of their non-farming neighbors.

Some dairy farms are losing the respect of the public and people do not want them as neighbors, points out ASAE member Robert Graves, professor of agricultural engineering at Penn State. He believes producers should be concerned about maintaining a positive image for themselves and for dairy farming.

"What actions do dairy farms take to protect the air and water quality from discharges of manure or other pollutants?" he asks. "Is the smell of manure the first sign that a dairy is nearby? Are animals wallowing in mud and manure along streams, is silage leachate running down road ditches or do milk house drains discharge into streams? A farmer might see that pasture with the stream running through it as a convenient place to overwinter some heifers. But his neighbors and water-quality regulators might see this as a lack of concern for the water quality in the stream."

Graves believes dairy farmers should ask themselves the question, "Would you like to live next to your farm?" He contends that farmers should consider the impact on neighbors or passers-by when they drive equipment on the highway, agitate and spread manure, apply lime on a windy day, or operate noisy equipment.

Graves also asks, "Are your 24-hour-a-day workers, the cows, treated properly? Are cows living in a clean, dry and comfortable environment with adequate quality feed and drinking water? Does your milking equipment and procedure treat your cows with respect or do they dread milking time? In what areas of your farm could the cows receive a little better treatment?"

It is not just the cows Graves is concerned about. He believes how dairy farmers treat their human employees also affects the image of agriculture in the community. "Are workers treated with respect?" he asks. "How are the working conditions? Are they convenient, conducive to doing quality work, and safe? Are all workers treated as important individuals?"

Things may be different when the neighbor next door or down the road is not a farmer, Graves concedes. Producers and nearby residents need to learn more about each other and build mutual respect.

For more information, contact Graves at 814-865-7155,
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Title Annotation:Update
Author:Graves, Robert
Publication:Resource: Engineering & Technology for a Sustainable World
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:May 1, 2005
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