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Dairy Sustainability: Small Changes, Huge Impact

May 2015 | Minnesota | 0 comments

Sometimes it’s the simplest solutions that create the most buzz.

In the case of Dorrich Dairy in Glenwood, Minnesota, innovation comes in the form of tiny wasp larvae. The six-legged insects may be small, but they’re having a huge impact controlling the farm’s fly population, improving cow comfort, minimizing the use of pesticides and reducing the 400-cow operation’s impact on the environment.

Dorrich Dairy has been in the Vold family since 1899. And the current generations are embracing both tried-and-true and cutting-edge methods of protecting the farm’s natural resources to ensure that the land stays viable for the next generation — and beyond. The family’s efforts have been recognized with a 2015 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award for Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability.

“Continuing our family’s tradition as stewards of the land is immensely important to all of us,” says Suzanne Vold, who farms with her husband Brad, his brother Greg and Greg’s wife Charity, and the Vold brothers’ parents, Dorothy and Richard. “That tradition is centered around honoring the commitment we’ve made to the environment, our animals and our neighbors. Richard and Dorothy honored that commitment, and so are we. We all want to be able to pass our farm on to the next generation. We’re constantly working to find the most effective methods of protecting our natural resources.”

One of those methods is as old as nature itself: letting the circle of life play out. Since 2009, the Volds have been introducing wasp larvae into fly nests. Once the wasps hatch, they eat the fly pupa, then lay eggs to begin the cycle again. The strategy has drastically reduced the need for synthetic chemicals to control flies and has cut insecticide costs by 85 percent.

In addition to successfully implementing this integrated pest management system, the Volds have embraced numerous other approaches designed to make a measurable impact on the environment, their community and the farm’s future, including:

  • Protecting  water quality through frequent crop rotations;
  • Planting corn in smaller-than-usual 15-inch rows to crowd out weeds;
  • Aggressively scouting pests; and
  • Using a high-tech soil-mapping system to continuously measure pH and electrical conductivity to determine the precise amount of nutrients to use.

It’s a holistic approach, all designed to maximize yield and minimize the farm’s environmental footprint.

“We’re constantly collecting data to adjust and readjust,” says Greg Vold. “Combining the latest technology with our family’s more than a century of experience farming really allows us to find and put into action the best solutions.”

“We owe it to the next generation to find ways to make this all work as efficiently and as effectively as we can,” Suzanne Vold says. “It’s as simple as that.”

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