The owners of a dairy farm in the town of Dunn has gotten the go-ahead to nearly triple the size of its herd.
On Monday night, the Dunn County Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously approved the special exception permit needed by Squires Farm to expand its herd from about 1,000 to 2,970 animals.
Located at E6393 240th Ave., the four generation farm is owned by the Doug Ullom family.
“It was started by my father-in-law in 1967,” Ullom said. “Four of our sons are married and are part of the farm. ... I have grandsons and a grand-daughter who work on the farm, too.”
He explained that the expansion is needed to allow the family continue to farm. “It supports six families,” Ullom said, noting that his in-laws are still alive and his father-in-law, who’s in his 90s, still works on the farm. “It’s quite a legacy we’ve got started.”
A special exception permit is needed whenever a herd increases by at least 20 percent. And because it exceeds 1,000 animals, it will be classified as a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO.
The milk from the Squires Farm is sold to the Eau Galle Cheese Factory in southern Dunn County.
During the public hearing, Charles Lindsay told the board he has lived about a mile west of Squires Farm for about 19 years.
Lindsday expressed concerns about air, surface and groundwater pollution: “And of course, the proximity of the facility to a major rivers.”
Another issue he raised is the what would happen should the cheese factory no longer needed the farm’s milk and its location near Alfalawn Farm, another and much larger CAFO.
“The demand for milk from dairy farms across the United States is on the decline,” Lindsay said. “I question the need for this extra production in such a small area.”
Don Roberts, a former organic farmer, said he was forced to retire from his Ridgeland area farm because of contamination of the watershed by a manure spill from a nearby, 500-cow dairy operation.
“I’m concerned about the lagoon that will be created to handle these animals,” Roberts said.
The 16.4 million gallon liquid manure lagoon that will be built on the Squires Farm is located next to the dairy operation, but just over the border in the town of Spring Brook. As an unzoned township, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Board of Adjustment.
The Department of Natural Resources has approved the farm’s manure management plan and the manure management permit was issued by the Dunn County Land Conservation office.
In July, the DNR approved the manure management permits needed by Cranberry Creek Dairy to expand its operation in southern Dunn County from 2,107 to nearly 6,500 animals by the end of 2018.
Board chair Mark Dietsche pointed out that the proposed expansion is a relatively small one when compared with other local CAFOs. And he said he was comfortable with granting the special exception permit.
“This is a very rigorous application,” Dietsche said. “The process takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money and is a big investment.”
As for adding conditions to the permit, Dunn County Planning and Zoning Administrator Bob Colson said, “The statutes are very clear about what we can and what we can’t do. And it is compliance based, so it’s very difficult to go beyond what they statutes say they need to do.”