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The Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) has named the Schulte Dairy of Norway Price Creek Watershed Cooperator of the Year. The award recognizes farmers in the Price Creek Watershed who have implemented conservation practices that help protect water quality.

“Austin Schulte has been partnering with the Price Creek Project since it began and we’re pleased with the work he’s done to improve manure management and to reduce the impacts on those downstream,” said Hank Wehrman of the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District. Schulte milks just under 200 cows on his dairy south of Norway.

To reduce nutrient losses on crop ground, the dairy uses cover crops on every acre. Combined with minimal tillage, the cover crops protect the ground from soil erosion between corn or soybean plantings. In 2010, the farm closed all open cattle lots, moving animals to buildings for better manure management. A failing septic system was replaced in 2016. Most recently, the dairy installed a new manure management system that includes a two-stage process to separate sand bedding and solids from the manure.

Rose Danaher, Watershed Project Coordinator, said the new system allows more precise manure application to the crop ground and it reduces the risk of manure contamination to Price Creek. “The new lagoon and separation system will increase the farm’s productivity and improve water quality,” she said. “It’s a win-win.”

The Price Creek Watershed Project was established in 2008 so that farmers, landowners and businesses could work together to remove the bacteria impairment from Price Creek. 12 years later, more than 50 landowners have partnered to install conservation practices along the creek. Funding comes from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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