Environmental Stewardship - Minimizing Risk and Being Prepared

Dr. Maurice Eastridge, Dairy Specialist, Ohio State University 

We live in a world full of risks -it's just a factor of life. Yet, a general mindset seems to have settled among us that we demand a risk-free society. Of course, we know that this is not possible. Risk is defined as the "possibility of loss or injury" and is associated with uncertain outcomes. We can purchase insurance for almost any risk. Purchasing insurance just transfers the financial burden of a loss, should it occur, to another party. Insurance can neither replace life nor fully compensate for pain, suffering, and quality of life. So, it is very important for all of to be active in controlling risks, thereby reducing the potential for loss or injury. Controlling environmental risks on dairy farms should address the following:

Manure storage facilities:

Designed to provide adequate containment (i.e. not leaking)
Provide sufficient capacity
Provide adequate ventilation when appropriate

Land application of manure:

Apply proper amount for conditions
Identify and implement needed setbacks
Control drainage systems

Silage storage:

Control seepage
Provide adequate ventilation when appropriate

Control all potential sources of runoff

With all of the best efforts, accidents to occur and then rapid efforts are needed for response to the loss or injury. Therefore, all farm owners need to have in place an Emergency Action Plan. If there is a fire, we fully expect the fire department to respond immediately, to be well trained, and to have a plan that all of the department's staff knows "like the back of their hand". On the farm, an Emergency Action Plan also is very critical. An emergency action plan to avoid environmental risks relative to manure storage and handling on livestock farms should contain at least four items (Iowa State University): 1) a plan of action to prevent the release of manure or prevent environmental contamination, 2) a detailed map of the site and application fields 3) a list of contact names and numbers included with the plan and posted near the phone, and 4) a clean-up plan. In addition to developing an Emergency Action Plan to address manure management, the plan should also address any medical emergency, potential weather-related emergencies; electrical, plumbing, or other mechanical failures; animal health emergencies, including biosecurity; and milk hauling and processors contacts. Items to consider in developing a plan of action to an emergency are: 1) assess the situation, know what factors are at risk (human health, animal welfare, the environment, or livestock structures), 2) reduce risk through implementation of the planned steps, 3) contact appropriate authorities to report emergencies or accidents, and 4) assess damages.

The motto of the Boy Scouts of America is "be prepared". We learn a lot as a child, whether in the sand box, from parents, youth organizations, etc. These lessons still apply throughout life - we need to be prepared to reduce risks and to respond to emergencies when they do occur. If you don't have an Emergency Action Plan, don't plan to do the Plan (because you may never get around to doing it) - why not start on it now.