ELLINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut’s largest dairy farm is going high-tech and taking steps to save the environment. If you think raising cows is old-fashioned and low-tech, well that’s just bull. The Oakridge Dairy Farm has come a long way since it was founded.
“I’m a fifth-generation farmer,” said Seth Bahler, owner of the Oakridge Dairy Farm. “My great-great-grandfather started this farm back in 1890, and we want to see it here for another 50 years.”
Which means investing in technology. Cows are milked on a robotic carousel system, and around the neck of all 2,800 heads is what is essentially a bovine Fitbit.
“So, we know how many steps she takes every day,” Bahler explained. “It helps us with the health of the cow. It helps us if it’s too hot. You can see the panting, you can see how much she’s eating.”
They have also invested in a wall of giant fans to keep them cool because the whole idea is happy cows make better milk.
In addition to milk, cows produce some other things that are not so nice to talk about. Among them is methane, which is actually bad for the environment. It contributes to the greenhouse effect. At Oakridge, however, they are turning that methane into something good.
Behind the cow barns, they are building a giant circular tank. It’s called a methane digester. It’s the first of its kind in Connecticut. It will soon be filled with manure. Manure is rich in methane because a cow only digests about 75% of the energy in its food.
Oakridge is unveiling this new methane digester, on Wednesday, June 7, at their location, 33 Jobs Hill Rd. in Ellington. The unveiling includes a tour from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
“What we’re doing is replicating the cow’s stomach, putting it in a big giant tank,” said Bahler. “Taking that tank, holding it there, mixing it up and there are methane bugs in there, eating that energy and creating gas.”
Creating natural gas, to be exact. Once it is running, they will make enough to fill a tanker truck every day. That, and all the solar panels and other ecological steps around the farm, means Oakridge is getting closer to its goal of being carbon neutral. And that’s no bull at all.