- Associated Press - Saturday, December 26, 2015

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The pioneering Hoard’s Dairyman Farm is encountering new manure problems and has agreed to drain a 5 million gallon lagoon in hopes of keeping the animal waste from leaking into groundwater.

It’s the latest development in a longstanding struggle by the farm to secure its football field-sized concrete containment system, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1mGcJHN ).

The farm, which is just outside Fort Atkinson in Jefferson County, has long been a laboratory and editorial resource for Hoard’s Dairyman, a national dairy farming magazine. While manure serves as a valuable fertilizer on cropland, it can be a source of surface and groundwater pollution if handled improperly or things go awry.

“It’s been a huge, very unhappy experience,” said Brian Knox, CEO of W.D. Hoard & Sons Co.

The farm was founded in 1899 by William D. Hoard, an early enthusiast of growing alfalfa as a feed for cattle who founded the magazine and served as governor from 1889 to 1891.

The lagoon normally takes in the manure from the farm’s 400 or so cows until it can be spread on cropland. But as part of an existing agreement with the county due to past manure problems, the farm started emptying the lagoon this month after tests from a pipeline connected to groundwater under the manure pit showed excessive levels of nitrogen.

“We thought it was getting better, and then this happened,” said Mark Watkins, the county’s director of land and water conservation.

Watkins said it is not entirely clear what effect the manure is having on the shallow aquifer, on which the lagoon was inadvertently built.

He said either underground water or the weight of the manure is creating cracks in the concrete. The lagoon has been shut down and repaired several times, he said. In July, crews began refilling the lagoon with manure and no problems were detected until this month when it was about 75 percent full.

Knox estimated that Hoard has spent “well into seven figures” for construction and repairs.

The manure will be applied to land that can accommodate it and trucked to other locations.


Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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