Being sustainable includes making decisions that are best for the local community and that make economic sense in addition to the handling of limited resources. When the Gray family of Grayhouse Farms in Stony Point, North Carolina, decided to build a new dairy six years ago, the choices they made weren’t just for environmental reasons. The family also sought designs that provided an economic return for their milk farming.
Milk Farming and Sustainability
When it came time to build the new facility, brothers Jimmy and Andy Gray designed a dairy focused on conservation and efficiency. The family implemented water and soil conservation practices.
“We want to be the good neighbor. We want to be the good steward–taking care of not only our land but the water that comes through it,” said farmer Jimmy Gray on the decision.
The farm today grows and manages all aspects of a cow’s needs.
The freestall barn design helped triple cow numbers while improving overall cow comfort, an important aspect of dairy farming when it comes to producing a quality product. The facility for their 1,120 cows was also built to maximize cow comfort, from ventilation and fans to rubber matting, sprinklers, and sand bedding.
A flush system cleans the barns with water pushed through the barn while capturing manure and sand for reuse. The flush manure management and sand separation system allows sand to be recycled nearly 100 times, and a four-stage lagoon is designed to best utilize nutrients and water. This flush system replaced the tractors that would normally be needed to move through the barns, decreasing the daily use of fuel, too.
Soil conservation practices include growing cover crops and no-till farming. Land that is not well-suited for farming is not ignored. Rather, the family cares for this property to focus on wildlife conservation. The Gray family manages woodland and wetlands on their property to increase biodiversity and maintain the health of the land. This benefits the Gray family today and the cows on their farm, but it also sets up future generations of Gray farmers for success. Sustainability is a focus that improves a farmer’s job in the short and long term, and the Grays are proof of that.
For more information about dairy farm sustainability, explore our Sustainability and the Dairy Industry section.