Hatfield 7 Dairy: Seven generations of protecting the land for the future

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CENTERBURG, Ohio – It is Hatfield 7 Dairy Farm because when Ron and Sally Hatfield’s two sons decided to come back and farm with their father, they were the seventh generation of Hatfields to be involved in farming the land.

b> That was in October 1993.<

With two more families making their living from the farm, decisions had to be made and farming practices had to change dramatically.

The decisions the Hatfields made in planning the enlargement of their Licking County dairy farm from 80 to 660 cows, and the ways they went about making sure their land would be protected has now been recognized as exemplary.

Hatfield 7 Dairy Farm, run by Ron Hatfield and his two sons, Gail and Lee, received one of the five Ohio Environmental Stewardship Awards presented this year.

Award winners.

The five families recognized for their stewardship received the awards June 13 in ceremonies at the Statehouse Atrium in Columbus.

The awards are presented annually by the Ohio Livestock Coalition in cooperation with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, the Ohio Dairy Farmers Federation, the Ohio Pork Producers Council, the Ohio Poultry Association, and the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association.

Ron Hatfield has been on the progressive end of the dairy business from the beginning. When he decided to expand from 30 to 80 cows in the mid1950s, he installed the second elevated milking parlor and pipeline in Licking County.

But when the family started talking about incorporating the farm and expanding so that Gail and Lee could return to the farm, one of the first decisions was whether or not the farm could accommodate the manure that would be generated in the kind of dairy operation they were planning.

Handle manure.

They needed to plan for holding ponds, and they needed to make sure there was enough land available for the manure to be used as nutrient.

They were interested in participating in the Livestock Environmental Assurance Program in order to get some cost-sharing on the construction of the ponds, and cooperated with the Licking Soil and Water Conservation District in designing the manure management system they would use.

Ron Hatfield said they dug 14 or 15 test holes in the area where they planned to construct the ponds to make sure the ground was suitable. Not only did they find clay, he said, but in some places there was gray clay.

The two ponds hold 700,000 gallons and 900,000 gallons, and are used to collect not only the manure, but all the wastewater from the dairy operation.

Water used for the dairy plate cooler is recycled back into drinking water for the cattle.

Used by neighbor.

When the ponds are pumped, the liquid manure is applied to their farm fields, and to those of a neighbor who has retired from dairying to devote his farming to grain.

The neighbor was willing to purchase two tank trucks to haul the manure the Hatfields offered him free if he could haul it himself.

“I have had several people in this area ask about manure,” Hatfield said, “but they had no way to haul. Our neighbor was willing to buy the trucks in order to get the manure.”

With the two farms combined, the Hatfield 7 Dairy has 1,500 acres for manure application.

Hatfield said he has also worked out a way to grow the corn he uses for silage that he feels makes better use of the nutrients that they apply.

By planting in 15-inch rows, with plants 12 inches apart, he said he not only can get 34,000 plants per acre, but each plant has its own discrete environment and can utilize the nutrient in the soil more efficiently.

Plants spaced out in this way also canopy faster, he said, and therefore conserve more of the moisture in the soil.

To get the same population of plants with 30-inch rows, he said, they would have to plant them 6 inches apart.

Gradual expansion.

When the Hatfields began expanding, the plan was to bring the herd to 650 at a gradual rate. They reached that number a little over a year ago.

They started by building a double 10 parlor, even though they only 79 cows to milk in it the first night.

Then they bought bred heifers in lots of 50 – 150 bred to freshen over three months in the first lot.

In 1997, they renovated their original barn and built a six-row freestall barn, and have since added three more. They installed tunnel ventilation in their barns, and have an insect-control program in the barns from spring through fall.

Manure is incorporated into the ground using a disc ripper, and minimum tillage is employed in the farm fields. There are also wooded lots on the farm maintained for wildlife habitat.

Hatfield said he thinks his farm will meet the requirements for whatever inspection and licensing regulations will be required under new environmental codes.

It will be a matter of knowing what the rules are, he said, and of both sides being aware of what is necessary.

“I had the milk inspector on the farm yesterday,” he said. “It’s really the same thing.”

But he approves of the idea of putting environmental regulation in the hands of the state department of agriculture. Like taking the milk inspection function out of the hands of the local health department and giving it to the department of agriculture, he said, he thinks environmental inspection will work in the hands of people who are aware of agriculture.

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Producers recognized for environmental stewardship

COLUMBUS – Ohio producers recognized for their exemplary environmentally friendly and responsible farms with the 2001 Environmental Stewardship Awards were:

* C. Ray Noecker, Ashville, Pickaway County, swine producer recognized by the Ohio Pork Producers Council. Noecker operates a fourth generation family farm on the banks of Turkey Run Creek, a tributary to Walnut Creek. He has a 100-sow farrow operation, 100 brood cows, a 250-head beef finishing facility, and farms 1,200 acres.

* Alvin Shoop, McComb, Hancock County, sheep producer recognized by the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, raises Cheviot and Shropshire sheep on a three-generation farm. He rotates his 120-head flock among pastures to prevent over grazing.

* Hatfield 7 Dairy, Ron, Sally, Gail, Amie, Lee, and Jennifer Hatfield, Centerburg, Licking County, dairy producers recognized by the Ohio Dairy Farmers Federation;

* Hertzfeld Poultry Farms, Tom Hertzfeld, Waterville, Lucas County, poultry producer, recognized by the Ohio Poultry Association. Hertzfeld Poultry Farms markets 480,000 dozen eggs a week from the 850,000 layers at three farm sites. The farm composts about a third of its manure, mixing it with leaves from the city of Bowling Green. The farm is also the first in Ohio to begin using a new, experimental product that protects air quality by reducing ammonia emissions.

* Ryan Farms, P.J., Paul, Joe, and Jeff Ryan, Hillsboro, Highland County, beef producers, recognized by the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association, for their 400-head finishing operation, which they run along with a 100-sow farrow hog operation, and farming 1,000 acres. They have added grass filter strips, grassed waterways, earth diversions, subsurface drainage, and a waste storage facility to their farm along Brush Creek, a state priority area for biodiversity.

The awards were presented in ceremonies June 13 at the Statehouse Atrium in Columbus.

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