Reduce, reuse, recycle are the three “R” words we follow in our cities and towns, but they’re big on dairy farms as well. Dairy farmers work hard to reduce, reuse, and recycle in a variety of ways, and one of those ways is how they use water.

Water is vitally important on a dairy farm, in part because cows drink a lot of water. But it’s needed for many other things, too. When cows produce milk, water is used to cool it so it stays safe on its journey from farm to fridge. Then, that same water is used to clean dairy equipment and barns. And it’s used again to irrigate the crops that ultimately feed the farmers cows. That means a single gallon of water is used four times or more on a dairy farm – so you might say its reused and reused and reused and reused.

Because cows eat very differently than humans, food byproducts that might otherwise go to waste can provide a healthy diet for cows. These byproducts can include sugar beet pulp, almond hulls, cotton seeds, and soybean meal, along with many other types of feed.

On a dairy farm, even a cow's waste doesn’t go to waste. Manure can be composted and used as bedding for cows, or it can be used as fertilizer for crops.