Video: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Alliance Dairies Wins Commissioner's Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award
Ron St. John, originally of Oakfield, New York, was raised with agriculture values. He moved to Florida in 1986 and built Levy County Dairy, which is now the site of Southpoint Dairy. In 1990 he joined Sandy McArthur in creating Alliance Dairies. It was the first dairy permitted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in North Florida. Today, it is the largest free-stall dairy in one location in the state and employs more than 140 people. Alliance’s Holstein herd consists of more than 6,000 mature cows and accompanying youngstock. The dairy site is 2,100 acres, with an additional 4,500 acres owned and rented for replacement heifers and crops.
Alliance is committed to using best management practices (BMPs) as part of the company’s sustainable agriculture mission. All water is recycled on the dairy (except for cleaning, cow cooling and consumption). In addition, more than 80 percent of sand used in bedding is recycled. Effluent (liquid manure) is applied as organic fertilizer, which is then recycled through plants that use these nutrients. The crop is then harvested to feed the cattle. Manure solids are composted and used as bedding for the dry cows and as fertilizer to grow grass in the dry irrigation pivot corners. Alliance cows eat about 33,000 pounds of by-products such as canola meal, soybean meal and hulls, brewers grain and citrus pulp.
Alliance Dairies has implemented the use of a methane digester to convert cow manure into electricity. A digester holds manure in an air-tight tank and heats it up. Bacteria in the manure thrive and consume solids while releasing methane gas. The methane gas is captured at the top of the digester and burned in a generator just like natural gas. The excess heat from the generator warms the digester. As a result, 70 percent of the farm's energy is supplied by the methane digester.
Ron St. John has demonstrated innovation and leadership by becoming the first dairy farmer in the Southeast to use a methane digester. His vision has paved the way for research and implementation of technology at other dairy farms in the future, making the industry more sustainable.
This article originally appeared on FreshfromFlorida.com, here.