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Prototype Dairy Farm Proud to Be Lagoon-Free

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GOLDSBORO — On a unique dairy farm run by the state, cows aren't couped up very often. Usually they are roaming the fields. Advocates of the concept say these cows make better milk and more of it. They hope the success of one lagoon-free farm will catch on, potentially saving the dairy farm's future.

It's easy to assume that the milk you drink comes from North Carolina. But it might have come from several states away. The cost of feeding cows and the low cost of milk have forced the industry nationwide to dwindle.

"In 30 years time, we've lost 90% of our dairy farmers in North Carolina," explains David Iles. "And we've also lost 90% of our dairy farmers nationwide."

One state-run prototype farm might be the industry's salvation. The big difference is the cows spend most of their time outside in surrounding fields, not couped up indoors. It's cheaper to run, and supporters say it's better for the North Carolina environment. The reason is that the animal waste is spread over a broad area, not enclosed in a liquid lagoon.

"When you have the waste in a concentrated area, it's more likely to get into the service water and underground water," says system superintendent Rex Sasser. "In this way, it's scattered out over a larger area, and we don't have as much trouble."

The cows come in twice a day to be milked and to get out of the sun. Advocates say happy cows make better milk, and more of it. If enough small family farms pick up on the idea, advocates say North Carolina dairies could become profitable again.

"This affects not only agriculture, not only dairy cows, not only milk, it also affects this great food supply we have in our state," says agriculture commissioner Jim Graham. "People take it for granted."

The state gathered a number of interested parties together Friday afternoon to take a look at the prototype farm. Advocates hope many of the people who came out will tell their influential friends how to create a similar situation, with the hope of bringing back the industry.

The farm is geared especially toward small family farms, who may be able to compete with the larger operations.

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Brian Bowman, Photographer
Kerrie Hudzinski, Web Editor

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