Water, manure seen as problems with C-Dairy expansion

One neighbor of a proposed 5,000-head milking operation northeast of Neillsville said he’s afraid his wells will run dry. Another says he doesn’t believe there’s enough land available for the Grassland Dairy-owned C-Dairy to handle the millions of gallons of manure such a large farm would generate. And, a former Department of Natural Resources employee who once worked on water pollution cases against Grassland’s main plant near Greenwood said she doesn’t think the business can be trusted to protect the environment.
Those were some of the sentiments shared with DNR agricultural runoff specialists at a Nov. 28 public hearing at the Grant Town Hall. The hearing was called to gather public input on C-Dairy’s application for a Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) permit that would allow it to almost double its dairy herd size at a farm along County Highway C east of Highway 73. Grassland now has 2,803 “animal units” at three separate farm locations near the main C-Dairy site, but is asking for a permit that would allow it to consolidate the sites and milk 5,085 cows and keep 915 more head of young stock. The hearing was a statutorily-required step the DNR is taking before it decides if it will grant the permit.
The small Grant Town Hall meeting room was filled to near-capacity with local farmers, neighbors of the existing C-Dairy farms, and representatives of companies that work with Grassland Dairy and C-Dairy. The main opposition to granting the permit had to do with water and manure.
According to DNR ag runoff specialist Mark Kaczorowski, C-Dairy’s current WPDES permit allows it to milk 2,744 cows a day, while the new application would bump that number to 5,085. It is also allowed 59 calves under the current permit, but seeks to expand to 915. Although C-Dairy owns just 733 acres at the site, Kaczorowski said it has 4,682 additional acres “controlled” under manure management agreements with land owners. That land would have to be adequate to absorb manure and process wastewater from a farm that would be permitted for 7,302 animal units.

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