What goes into a dairy cow, must come out.
Unfortunately, part of what they eat is their own bedding. At the UBC dairy farm in Agassiz, where cow comfort is always being studied, that bedding is made of sand.
And as such, sand is a very valuable commodity. It’s also a commodity that has been a loss in the past, as it passes through the cows into their manure.
But not anymore.
The UBC farm is the first in Canada to own a sand recovery system. They unveiled the large machinery in late January, hosting hundreds of farmers from as far away as Alberta as part of the BC Dairy Expo Farm Tour.
“This is the first system of its kind in Canada,” said Nelson Dinn, operations manager at UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre.
Sand makes a wonderful, inorganic bedding material, he said, offering good traction to keep the cows from slipping. It also beats out organic materials that harbour things like mould. But it can also be costly.
“Previously, we had no recovery in place,” he said.
The new system, created by DariTech, doesn’t just separate sand from manure, it also manages to recycle water within its own operations, making it that much more of a sustainable machine.
“We are minimizing the use of our fresh water,” Dinn said, while making more room on site to store nutrients. It easily manages the waste of 400 dairy cows, operating eight to 10 hours a day.
The sand, organic material and water are each extracted through a series of steps, including the use of a Sand Cannon and a separator (the DT-360), and stored for later use. Dinn said the cost of the machine should eventually be offset by the savings in sand over time.
He’s proud to be operating the first in Canada, and is hoping that sharing how the machine works with farmers from across the western provinces will result in more producers looking at sustainable options.