Manure Handling Procedures in Mexico Compared to Wisconsin
Eric Ronk is a dairy science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is from Denmark, Wisconsin. Eric compares manure management as he knows it in Wisconsin to some of the places he visited in Mexico.
This summer I had an internship working for the UW-Extension office in Green Bay as a research intern but I did all my research at the Department of Natural Resources. My research involved looking at manure spills throughout the state of Wisconsin for the past five years and accurately documenting them. While in Mexico I was very interested in learning about their manure handling procedures to see how they compared to Wisconsin. When I was at several of the large farms I tried to ask as many questions as I could about how they handled their manure. Most of the small farms used all their manure on their crops as fertilizer. Sometimes they would compost the manure for a while before they spread it on the field because they thought it provided better fertilizer. The large farms would usually keep it on one huge pile or use it in irrigation. Manure handling in Mexico really varied a lot from Wisconsin and this was very clear in the farms of San Felipe, La Hondanada, PROAN, and PROLEA.
While visiting the farms in San Felipe, the highlands of Central Mexico, we visited several small Indigenous farms. Most of the farmers in San Felipe collect their manure from their animals and spread it as fertilizer. When we were walking up the trail we ran into a farmer transporting his manure in bags on top of a donkey. Manure is very vital to their crops because they cannot afford to buy synthetic fertilizers."
La Hondanda and PROAN both had very similar manure handling procedures. La Hondanda was a 630 cow organic jersey farm that produced its own dairy products. PROAN Dairy consisted of 5,000 dairy cows but spilt up into two 2500 cow farms. Both farms use all the milk house waste water and manure from the parlor in an irrigation sprinkler system for their fields. All the cows were housed on lots or pasture. PROAN takes their manure out of the lot and places it in huge rows to dry. Dried manure can account for 15 percent of the original total.
PROLEA was an intermediate cooperative that we visited which offers feed, dairy products, animal storage and equipment rental for local farmers. They featured a custom heifer growing facility that used gutters to remove the manure from the pens. When I asked the owner what they did with the manure he stated that the manure traveled through the gutter to a pit. The pit separated the liquids and solids. The solids were used to make bricks and the liquids were used for irrigation. But when I went to look for the pit I did not find one. Instead I found a ditch of manure that lead to a stream.
I was really surprised by the lack of manure management in Mexico. Manure management may cause several resource damages in the future with the expansion of operations. Businesses and farmers could really add profit to their facility by using better manure management practices. In the United States, there are a lot of proactive things being done with manure. For example, manure digesters can create energy from the methane gases and provide dried bedding for the farm. Large farms in Wisconsin that have over 1000 animal units are considered a CAFO. In order to be a permitted facility they have to use a very specific nutrient management plan and even get inspected by the DNR. Mexico has rules that are in place for resource protection but hardly any of them are enforced. This is probably the largest difference in manure management between Mexico and Wisconsin."
Cheese Plants & Their Characteristics
The cheese makers of Aculco and ALPURA have several similarities and differences. They are obviously both cheese plants but their competitiveness between each other varies because of their size and location. Cheese plants in Aculco and ALPURA each contribute to serving the need of Mexican consumers of dairy products. ALPURA is a large scale company that has several cheese factories across the country that produces several different dairy products that include cheese, yogurt, milk, and cream. ALPURA was founded in 1970 when a group of farmers joined together to improve the quality of milk production in Mexico. Today, they are the second largest Mexican dairy food producer. Currently, there are over 180,000 cows located on 144 farms throughout Mexico. ALPURA processes over 2 million liters of milk a day while controlling their own transportation and labeling. In the near future, ALPURA will be beginning to export UHT milk to the United States. They are also trying to become more “green” by building their own electricity plant and are working on a program that would start giving carbon credits to their farmers for manure. The cheese makers in Aculco are on a much smaller scale then ALPURA. There are several small cheese plants owned by different people. For example, Ramon owns his own small cheese plant in Aculco. He utilizes milk from local dairy producers. Ramon uses some of the same techniques of ALPURA but just on a much smaller scale. He produces a few different varieties of cheese that are freshly made and sold in the local market the next day. Even though cheese makers of Aculco and ALPURA compete to sell their products I really do not believe there is much competitiveness. Aculco cheese producers look to sell their products in the local markets where as ALPURA is selling it across the country and even exporting to other countries. Officially they are competing against each other but in reality they can co-exist because of their target consumers. Local people will probably buy more local cheese because it should be fresher and cheaper. But ALPURA has such a large selling base that it doesn’t matter if they don’t win over the local people because chances are most people buy booth. In this scenario they both contribute to serving the need of Mexican dairy consumers.