Saturday, November 5, 2011
I'm still here......
It has been over a year since I last wrote. I have been distracted with the dirty business of trying to stay in business. Milk prices have been good, but feed costs have been very high, and now we are having problems with our water. So there still isn't any profit to be made in the dairy business. There is no extra money for tractor repairs, building repairs, replacing the 15 year old carpet in our home or paying for our children's college education.
The worst part is trying to stay in business when we have very high levels or manganese in our water because of the natural gas drilling in our area. Manganese is a heavy metal and if left alone it would settle to the bottom of the water table, but something is keeping the water stirred up. This picture is of water from an outside water tap that isn't turned on every day. So in the past year my family quit drinking the water after I started experiencing stomach problems. When we started drinking bottled water the problems went away. How do we provide bottled water for over 400 head of cattle? You can't! The cows milk production dropped by 20 pounds per cow because cows don't like the taste of the water. Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences printed a paper entitled "Water Facts #12 Interpreting Drinking Water Tests for Dairy Cows." The following is a quote from that paper. "Iron and manganese are very common pollutants that can occur naturally in groundwater or from nearby mining activities. Both cause severe staining and a metallic taste to water, resulting in reduced water intake and reduced milk production. Iron levels above 0.3 mg/L and manganese concentrations exceeding 0.05mg/L are sufficient to cause unpleasant tastes in water. These metals do not cause any direct health effects to animals." Our manganese level is 0.5mg/L. That is 10x the limit. We had the gas company and the Department of Environmental Production test the water and they both said yep you have high manganese levels, but they won't take responsibility for it because it is a naturally occuring element.
So now we are trying to find a way to get out of farming. We have a very large mortgage and we need alot of money to come in to make the payments. One option is a lease that we signed for the stone quarries on our farm, but the permitting is very slow. Another option is selling the cows and leasing the buildings out. But who do you lease the buildings to? You know the old saying "If you can't beat them - join them", well our area is being taken over by the natural gas industry and there is nothing we can do about our water so this morning I sent out letters to 8 different companies that are involved in the drilling, and pipelines and will be needing a place from which to operate their business while in the area. It is a waiting game to see which will happen first - the stone quarry company will start sending us royalties - the buildings will be leased - or we loose the farm! Tick....Tock....Tick....Tock. Time is running out.