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Sharing sustainability practices earns Minnesota farmer national recognition

The efforts of Steve and Cheryl Schlangen have earned an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. The Stearns County farm is one of four farms to be honored nationally as part of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards.

Steve and Cheryl Schlangen standing together
Steve and Cheryl Schlangen operate a dairy farm at Albany, Minnesota.
Courtesy / Associated Milk Producers Inc.
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ALBANY, Minn. — Steve Schlangen makes an effort to share his sustainability practices.

The Albany, Minnesota, dairy farmer says he is “just trying to find ways to encourage other farmers … to try things that might work for them.”

Those efforts have earned Steve and Cheryl Schlangen an Outstanding Dairy Farm Sustainability award from the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. They are one of four farms to be honored nationally as part of the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards .

“Their enthusiasm for sharing ideas and results with others has earned them a national reputation as leaders in regenerative agriculture,” U.S. Dairy said in its announcement of the awards.

Some of the sustainability practices at Schlangen Dairy Farm include adding a manure stacking slab to help better manage manure use.

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“We had issues with getting it applied at the right time and right the place,” Steve Schlangen said.

With the slab, they don’t have to worry about nutrients from the manure leaching out.

“We can wait until the time is right after harvest and can put it on and work it in,” he said.

Injecting liquid manure also has made the farm more efficient, using a hydraulic system to control the flow.

“Last fall, we didn’t do much tillage at all except for the manure injection,” Schlangen said.

That saves time and fuel over the spreading manure and then having to work it in.

The Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy says the Schlangens can count more than 30 conservation practices that also include LED lighting, cover crops, buffer strips and control basins.

Schlangen Dairy Farm has been operating since 1986 near Albany, west of St. Cloud, where they have about 60 cows and farm about 200 acres.

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Steve Schlangen is the current chairman of the board of Associated Milk Producers Inc., based in New Ulm, Minnesota.

He also is part of the Headwaters Agriculture Sustainability Partnership, a central Minnesota group that tries to find sustainability practices that also enrich farm operations, including a return on investment case study of 11 Stearns County farms.

He said the emphasis on carbon storage is something dairy farmers need to find a way to capitalize on.

Schlangen said he understands that not every sustainability practice works at every farm but “everyone could do something, I think.”

An awards celebration is scheduled in conjunction with the Dairy Sustainability Alliance Fall Meeting, Nov. 14-15, in Glendale, Arizona.

Related Topics: MINNESOTADAIRYAGRICULTURE
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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