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CNMP is more than an acronym

Thad Konzen’s CNMP is brand-new –– so new, he’s still figuring out what it might mean to the two dairy operations he manages near Oakdale.

CNMP is more than an acronym

Thad Konzen’s CNMP is brand-new –– so new, he’s still figuring out what it might mean to the two dairy operations he manages near Oakdale.

The second-generation dairyman is herd manager for KB Dairy No. 1 and KB Dairy No. 2, a partnership formed by his father, Paul, and Mike Barry.

What’s a CNMP? It’s a comprehensive nutrient management plan –– to Konzen, it’s a plan to help him manage the nutrients from his mostly Holstein, 600-cow dairy herd the best he can.

“We just put the plan together, so we’re still learning. We know it will help us use and disperse our manure properly, where it will do the most good,” he says. “Sampling the fields will help us know where and how much fertilizer is needed, and help us plan to use manure instead of commercial fertilizer as much as we can, to save money on fertilizer.”

Konzen worked with Dan Lamb, a technical service provider hired by Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS. The CNMP is meant to help Konzen address all of the operation’s liquid and solid manure and water-quality issues.

Key Points

• CNMPs are programs that make the best use of manure and other fertilizers.

• NRCS offers cost-share and technical help for nutrient management.

• California dairies must keep the nutrients they produce on the farm.

Walk the fields

“The CNMP requirements aren’t difficult, but not easy, either,” Konzen says. “You have to spend a fair amount of time walking the fields together, and going over irrigation schedules and crop needs to get a good handle on how much water and manure should be put on each field. We had enough time to bond,” Konzen jokes.

The CNMP came about after earlier work with the NRCS. Joe Mota, an NRCS soil conservationist who works out of the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, says Konzen has made good use of NCRS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. “KB Dairy installed a concrete slab for silage storage, did some land leveling, and installed tailwater return systems to keep irrigated manure water on the farm. The practices, including pipes and pumps, were all cost-shared by EQIP, and each of those practices will help keep the nutrients from KB Dairy on their farm,” Mota says.

“If your liquid manure gets into a creek or canal, you can be fined,” Konzen says. “I don’t know how much, and don’t want to find out.”

Konzen captures solid manure in a settling pond, where liquids are separated. He cleans the solids out twice a year and spreads them on fields. The liquids are routed to liquid storage ponds, and then pumped to oat and corn silage fields. All the pastures are set up for irrigation –– earlier work with NRCS upgraded pasture irrigation systems to use manure as well as canal water. Konzen harrows corrals several times a week to keep them dry, and then scrapes the solid manure from them. It’s stockpiled on cement pads until winter, when it’s re-used as free stall bedding.

Still in process

“We’re still in the process of planning for a larger concrete slab for manure storage,” Konzen says. “I’d also really like to put in flow meters so we know exactly how much manure water is going on our fields, instead of estimating. And I’d like to get more valves on our irrigation systems.”

Konzen initially worked with NRCS for cost-share funding, but says the technical help the agency offers is equally important. “It’s been a rough couple of years in the dairy business, so the cost-share is helpful. But I value the manpower, too. We’re looking at some expansion, and they’re helping us evaluate where we can handle the extra manure safely. NRCS offers the funding, but they want to be sure you’re using that money in the best way. They work side by side with the water board to help dairymen be environmentally sound. They’re a great group to work with, and we’ll continue to work with them,” Konzen says.

Brown is the public affairs director for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in California.

Konzen receives national award

Th ad Konzen was one of six in the country named a Progressive Farmer in 2008 in the National Farmers’ Organization’s dairy division.

The award cited his implementation of employee incentive programs that include bonus pay for high-quality milk. The award called him “quality-minded,” which he says includes his thoughts on manure use. “They wouldn’t want to give an award to someone who is environmentally handcuffed,” Konzen says.

— Anita Brown

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CHEESE CONNECTION: Thad Konzen now sells all his milk to the Hilmar Cheese Co., based in Hilmar, where more cheese is made than at any other site in the world. The company specializes in Cheddar and American cheese, but also makes Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, colby, colby Jack, flavored Jacks, mozzarella and Hispanic cheeses.

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MAKING MANURE WORK: Thad Konzen, left, works with Joe Mota and others at NRCS to carry out a comprehensive plan to put all the nutrients that KB Dairy’s cows produce to good use.

This article published in the February, 2010 edition of CALIFORNIA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.

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