Wisconsin- Large Dairy Farms and Locals Debate

Lee Bergquist reported on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday that, “Lee Kinnard’s new barn stretches the length of six football fields. It’s so big he once flew a drone inside to get a bird’s eye view of all the cows.

“The family farm milks 6,500 cows in Kewaunee County, where the cattle population has grown faster than anywhere in the state.

“Since 1983, cattle numbers in the county have jumped by 62% to 97,000 at a time when the statewide cattle population has tumbled by 20%, according to the state agriculture department.”

The Kinnard dairy farm stages cows in long barns with a sleeping area made of a recyclable sand mixture for comfort and stability. Photo by Rick Wood, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The article noted that, “But the size of dairy herds and managing cattle waste have become increasingly contentious in northeastern Wisconsin and figure prominently in a larger debate over how best to address water problems tied to farming.

“Tucked beneath Door County, Kewaunee County has emerged as the flash point in these tensions. At the heart of the debate: Can manure from so many cattle be safely spread on the land?

Bergquist pointed out that, “But becoming one of the state’s largest dairy farms has wounded relations with some neighbors and spurred a protracted court fight. Also, by virtue of its size and the attention it receives, Kinnard Farms has helped fuel controversy over truck traffic, odors and pollution from farming when it is done on a grand scale.”

The Journal Sentinel article added that, “In Wisconsin, the number of concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, has grown by 400% from 50 in 2000 to 252 in 2016, agency figures show, and has played a key role in growing milk production as farm numbers are falling.

“In a report, University of Wisconsin-Madison economists estimated that farms of 500 or more cows accounted for 40% of state milk production in 2013 compared to 22% in 2007.”

For more on state activity relating to large animal production operations, see these BartellPowell updates: Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, and North Carolina.

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