Our Jersey dairy cows play a central role in our farm's closed loop system.

Our Jersey dairy cows play a central role in our farm's closed loop system.

Jeff Wendler, Director of Dairy Operations

Threemile Canyon Farms blends high-technology milk production with careful herd oversight and environmental stewardship to make it a model for sustainable dairy practices.

Our dairy plays a key role in our farm's closed-loop system in which farm wastes are recycled and fed back into the system to produce high-value agricultural products. This allows each activity to sustain and improve the other.

How the closed-loop system works

  • Our 24,000-cow dairy herd is fed on peels and culls from the off-site processing of our potato crop, as well as other feed crops we grow. Feed crops allow us to rest the soil in our potato fields and provide all-vegetative feed for our dairy herd.
  • The nutrient-rich manure from the dairy provides a reliable source of organic fertilizer and compost. We apply the compost on our fields to improve the soil's structure and water-retention properties, resulting in more pest-resistant crops, reduced erosion and less water use. The organic liquid fertilizer is injected into our irrigation system to fertilize crops, allowing us to substantially reduce the use of crop protectants and increase our production of organic crops.
  • The newest step in the closed-loop system is our innovative methane digester. It is extracting methane gas from manure. The digester provides a renewable energy source to heat water at our dairy and helps improve air quality.

'Threemile Canyon Farms commitment to Social and Environmental responsibility as well as product excellence makes us leaders in our industry now and well into the future.'

Our best dairy practices include:

This storage tank holds 1,000,000 gallons of flushed waste and is processed daily.

This storage tank holds 1,000,000 gallons of flushed waste and is processed daily.

  • Zero artificial growth hormones: Threemile Canyon Farms' cows are not injected with rBST or any other artificial growth hormones to increase milk production.
  • Buffers: Our 180-acre dairy operation is located in the center of the 93,000-acre farm complex, providing sufficient buffers from neighboring communities.
  • Milking: Our milking parlors blend high efficiency with healthy and humane treatment of our herd. Round-the-clock milking occurs from two, state-of the-art carousel parlors.
  • Balanced diet: Our dairy herd is fed a balanced ration of commodities raised on the farm - corn, alfalfa and other feed crops - supplemented with culls, peelings and other leftovers from processing our commercial potato and onion crops. Our cows are fed no animal byproducts.
  • Protecting water resources: Our dairy barns are engineered so that moisture cannot penetrate below a depth of two feet, thus protecting ground and surface water resources. We worked cooperatively with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and the Oregon Department of Agriculture to establish a zero-discharge permit.
  • Waste recycling: Flushable cement alleys and pipes carry dairy wastes to a separate facility, where solids and liquids are separated. The liquids continue on to lined lagoons where they are diluted and pumped through the farm's irrigation system onto crops as liquid fertilizer, allowing us to greatly reduce our use of crop protectants. A portion of the solids go into our methane digester pilot project. Excess solids are composted and used as bedding and fertilizers.
  • Herd oversight: We raise our own replacement dairy cows in a 4,500-calf nursery, eventually giving us 25,000 replacement milkers. Every cow has a micro-chip and is tracked through our computerized database, which contains detailed health history records on each animal. We have complete life-cycle data on our entire herd - important information for consumers and our customers.
  • Independent certification: To make sure that our dairy practices are held to the highest standards, we receive certification from independent sources including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Animal welfare: Our farm has voluntarily participated in Validus animal welfare certification. This process follows stringent guidelines to ensure socially responsible on-farm practices.

We depend on our dedicated and well-trained staff to oversee the farm's 4,500-calf nursery.

Healthy cows: Getting it right from the start

Threemile Canyon Farms has its own 4,500-calf nursery. Our workers keep detailed, computerized records on every calf as they monitor health, feeding regimens and animal welfare. Our farm takes a proactive approach to keeping our calves healthy by anticipating and heading off problems. The nursery begins the extensive birth-to-death oversight the farm practices on its dairy herd.

Herd management: Using the latest technology

We take advantage of the latest animal identification technology by using electronic identification (EID), scanners and handheld computers. The EID system allows us to keep more accurate records on each animal. Our heifer database lets us retrieve the history of any given animal as well as find heifers eligible for a variety of procedures including treatments, enrollment in reproductive protocols, pregnancy diagnosis and potential sales.

The EIDs are small buttons placed on the left ear of each heifer at birth. These buttons have a tiny radio transmitter that is read by the scanners, which in turn transmits the information to handheld computers.

The scanners and handheld computers are used in the field by our employees and the information retrieved is transmitted to the main computer, updating our central database. By investing in this technology, we have been able to save money and make more efficient use of our workforce.