Utah Dairy Farm Recognized Nationally For Sustainability
Bateman Mosida Farms was recognized nationally for being one of the most sustainable dairy farms in the U.S.
I visited the dairy’s maternity barn in Utah County where a dozen calves rested in preparation for taking their first steps while trying to escape from their pens. Brad Bateman is a fourth generation dairy farmer.
“‘Course the price of milk in the end has to play in... sustainability, because if we’re not profitable, we can’t be sustainable,” he said.
The four Bateman brothers and their father, Wayne, were honored in Chicago this past May by the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment and Awards program. The program is part of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, an industry-wide effort to measure and improve the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the dairy community.
The family-owned farm is nestled along the southwest side of Utah Lake. The dairy is the largest in Utah and predates statehood. The farm is also the first in the state to be recognized nationally for their new sustainability practices, including water conservation and solar panels. The dairy farm recycles by using a manure and sand reclamation system that captures nutrients from calves and cows to use as fertilizers.
Brad said sustainability and efficiency go hand-in-hand when it comes to keeping his family business afloat in the global market with roughly 7,000 head of cattle. The dairy industry competes in a global market, and a lot of the dairy products made in Utah are sold around the world. For example, milk powder produced in the U.S. ends up in almost every country. World prices, to a certain extent, are setting the prices of domestic prices in the U.S.
“That’s unfortunate,” Brad Bateman said. “And of course the Russian embargo has hurt us bad. The government decides that they are going to punish Russia and in fact, they punish us here in America."
Russia banned most dairy products from the United States and the European Union in August of 2014.
"We produce a commodity, we understand that, so we’re price takers," Brad said. "We just take the price that we’re given."
He said because milk is a commodity, the Bateman brothers can't set a profitable price for the milk they sell.
“Prices go up and down, hopefully the downturn is not long term and things turn around,” he said.
Right now, the price of milk is not keeping up with inflation. In fact, sometimes the Bateman family business takes a loss. The price of milk today is $1.89.
“25 years ago it was also $1.89,” he said. “Look how everything else has gone up, so we have to be efficient. We have to be good. We have to be better. That’s part of the efficiency.”
Cows are giving double the amount of milk than they did 30 years ago. This may be because milk-production techniques have become more efficient, like improved nutrition for the livestock.
To help improve efficiency and address the rising costs of energy, the owners of Bateman farm are in the process of installing new solar panels, which are expected to take care of 90 percent of electrical needs, including cooling systems to keep the cows from overheating.
“We felt like as a hedge to the future that we would produce a percentage of our electricity here and pull that off the grid and control a portion of our electricity through the solar system,” he said.
Just a few years ago, the unusable feed from the cows was discarded, put in landfills and burned. But these days, the Batemans are recycling everything they can.
“Here on the dairy, we reuse a lot of things,” he said. “This manure that these cows generate ends up on the land. We use very little commercial fertilizer because we use the manure."
The manure is used on the land to raise crops to feed the cows. After the cows eat the feed, the feed is recycled back into manure through the cows.
"We just keep that cycle going," Bateman said. "These cows are amazing animals how they can take grass and turn it into milk that is highly nutritious and full of calcium and protein. I think it is an amazing story that we have.”
Even with these sustainable measures, Bateman wonders about the future of the dairy industry.
“Ultimately, there will always be a business here," he said. "But to what extent? That’s yet to be seen."