Hawaii Dairy Farms will be the state’s first pasture-based, rotational-grazing dairy. This sustainable dairy model will responsibly raise free-range cows on grass to produce fresh, local milk for Hawaii residents.
Good for the land, good for quality milk
Our focus will be on farming healthy grass for our cows, which will be the primary food source for the herd. The cows will eat approximately 70 percent Kikuyu and other grasses, supplemented with 30 percent grain and supplemental nutrients. Kikuyu grass grows into a thick mat that easily soaks up nutrients, prevents erosion, and provides the cows with optimal nourishment.
The farm will be divided into 119 paddocks that allow for six groups to rotate through their own sets of 18 pastures over 18 days. This will support ideal grass growth for our cows’ nutrition, even application of manure for proper grass fertilization, and optimal nutrient management.
Responsibility and accountability
From the beginning, we have been working closely with county and state regulators on obtaining the necessary permits and providing our plans for review.
- State Department of Health’s review of our draft Animal Waste Management Plan
- Building permits from County of Kauai
We recognize the community has questions about the dairy’s potential environmental impact. We are preparing an Environmental Impact Statement as the highest level of environmental scrutiny possible to address those impacts – not becase we have to – but because we believe it is the right thing to do. We have submitted our application for an NPDES Stormwater Construction permit.
- In Progress:
- Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) (Read the full draft EIS here)
- NPDES Stormwater Construction Permit
We have also met with numerous community groups and organizations that have expressed interest in our project. Their feedback helped to inform our plans and provided an understanding of potential questions.
As a result, we revised our initial plan to start with fewer cows and give the pasture system time to become fully established. Our revised plan now calls for a committed herd size of up to 699 mature milking cows. The Draft EIS also includes analysis of a contemplated herd size of up to 2,000 mature milking cows. This helps provide a clear picture of the future potential of the farm, if we ever decide to expand the herd. We selected our herd size specifically to ensure any future expansion would require a permit process that included community involvement prior to adding any additional mature dairy cows.
Treated with a high standard of care
In our committed herd size, we will have up to 699 mature Kiwi cross milking cows at the dairy farm.
Cows will be managed in social groups, known as “mobs,” mimicking the natural social order of bovines. Each mob will contain 105-115 cows in our committed model. Non-milking cows, calves and bulls will be managed in partnership with local ranchers offsite.
Cows will spend 22 of each 24-hour period foraging on the pasture. The pasture-based model minimizes stress to the animals, allowing cows to roam freely, and lie down and rest, which are critical to their health and digestion cycle. Walkway surfaces will be topped with crushed limestone to provide a comfortable path under their hooves.
Cow health will be monitored with the assistance of a licensed veterinarian to ensure cows are healthy. As cows are milked, milk will be analyzed by a computerized monitoring system to check cow health and nutrient balance, allowing for early identification of nutrient adjustments or veterinary care, if needed. The cows will not be injected with rBST, rBGH or other artificial hormones.
All milk stays in Hawaii
Our cows will be milked twice a day at our milking parlor, which will house a 60-stall rotary milking platform. State-of-the-art technology will monitor the health of cows, milk quality and pasture productivity for maximum efficiency.
The milk will be stored on site at the farm in refrigerated storage tanks until tanker trucks take it away for processing. We will not process or bottle the milk produced on the farm. The milk will be shipped and sold to a processor on Oahu for bottling before being redistributed statewide due to lack of existing facilities on Kauai. While this does incur use of fossil fuels for shipment, it is significantly less than importing from the mainland. It also reduces the overall time for milk to get from farm to table.
Enriching the land using technology and best practices
Manure is precious for our operations as a natural and renewable source of nutrients for the grass. It will only provide approximately 30 percent of required nutrients for pasture growth. We will use additional fertilizer to help grow nutritious grass.
We will manage manure and protect nearby water resources using the following:
GPS-controlled irrigation system — The irrigation system, which uses global positioning system (GPS) receivers, will allow precise application of diluted manure from the effluent ponds onto the pasture. This technology controls the flow of the nutrients so they do not impact open waterways and the cows’ water troughs. We will only irrigate and fertilize when the pastures need it and weather conditions permit.
Expanded setbacks, fencing and dense plant buffers — We will construct fenced 35-foot-wide vegetation buffers on both sides of drainage ditches to keep cows safe and to filter sediment from modest drainage.
Active monitoring — We will conduct ongoing monitoring of surface and coastal waters to aid in farm management. We will not apply diluted manure as a natural fertilizer within 50 feet of drainage ditches, nor will it be applied before or during rainstorms that could result in runoff, or when the soil is completely saturated.
Smart design — We incorporated data of area historical rainfall in our farm design to accommodate extreme flooding/drought. The effluent ponds have been expanded to exceed regulatory compliance, which is based on a 25-year, 24-hour storm event plus the average rainfall in the valley for the longest continuous rain event. With no more than 699 cows in our committed herd size, the effluent pond capacity goes far beyond the regulatory requirement and provides an additional 100 days of storage.
There has been no storm event that would exceed the capacity of the effluent ponds since rainfall has been recorded in Mahaulepu valley. In the event of a catastrophic disaster, we added an emergency containment berm and spillway with capacity for roughly 30 days that exceeds the expanded capacity of the effluent ponds' design and operation.
No impact to residents and resorts
Resorts, stores, homes and recreational areas are too distant for visitors and residents to be adversely affected by odors from our farm’s operations. For the committed herd size of up to 699 mature dairy cows, the odor detection limit extends approximately 1,670 feet (about one-third mile) outside the Dairy boundary, and approximately 2,780-feet (about half mile) for the contemplated herd size. All of the potentially affected area occurs on land owned by Mahaulepu Farm.
The reason why odor will be minimal is the rotational grazing dairy farming system, which is a very different model from conventional feedlot dairies of Hawaii’s past. On our proposed farm, cows’ manure will be evenly deposited throughout the pasture as natural fertilizer. It will quickly break down into nutrients for the grass, therefore eliminating the potential for large sources of odor. We will also keep the effluent ponds aerated on a consistent schedule to control odor.
In addition, a windbreak/shelterbelt, which utilizes rows of trees, will be planted along the prevailing wind pattern of the effluent ponds to help mitigate any odor from traveling off the farm.
Click here to learn more about the scientific odor study in our draft Environmental Impact Statement.
Harnessing the power of the sun
The farm will install and use 500 kw of solar power.