Dairy Pollution Sparks 'Manure War' in New Mexico
The picture on many milk cartons shows cows grazing on a pasture next to a country barn and a silo — but the reality is very different.
More and more milk comes from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), where large herds live in feedlots, awaiting their thrice-daily trip to the milking barn. A factory farm with 2,000 cows produces as much sewage as a small city, yet there's no treatment plant.
Across the country, big dairies are coming under increased criticism for polluting the air and the water. In New Mexico, they're in the midst of a manure war.
Everyday, an average cow produces six to seven gallons of milk and 18 gallons of manure. New Mexico has 300,000 milk cows. That totals 5.4 million gallons of manure in the state every day. It's enough to fill up nine Olympic-size pools.
The New Mexico Environment Department reports that two-thirds of the state's 150 dairies are contaminating groundwater with excess nitrogen from cattle excrement. Either the waste lagoons are leaking, or manure is being applied too heavily on farmland.
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