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Dairy giant eyes Rock County property

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ANN MARIE AMES
June 1, 2010
— Nebraska’s largest dairy farmer is eyeing the Rock Prairie east of Janesville to build a facility that would milk 4,600 cows.

Tod Tuls, owner of Double Dutch Dairy near Shelby, Neb., is “considering” a parcel at the northeast corner of Highway 14 and Scharine Road in Bradford Township, his attorney Anna Wildeman said.


The 160-acre parcel is owned by Thomas and Sandra Metcalf, according to Rock County tax documents.


Wildeman would not say whether Tuls is considering other locations.


Tuls has had a preliminary conversation with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about his interest in building in Wisconsin, said Mark Cain, wastewater engineer with the department.


Tuls has not applied for the necessary DNR permits to build a large dairy farm, Cain said. Cain expects the application around Aug. 1.


The DNR oversees wastewater management for large farms.


The county oversees manure storage facilities.


The town of Bradford would oversee parts of the project as well. The town in 2006 adopted a livestock-siting ordinance based on the state’s law, Town Clerk Sandra Clark said. The ordinance requires a conditional-use permit to operate a facility with more than three animal units per acre or 500 animal units, Clark said.


“Animal units” is a term used by the DNR to equally measure animals such as cows or chickens. One dairy cow is equivalent to about 1.4 animal units.


Bradford Town Board chairman Ron Duffy sat in on Tuls’ meeting with the DNR, but Tuls has not formally approached the town, Duffy said.


“He really hasn’t engaged anything regarding the township government,” Duffy said. “My understanding is he’s dealt with local farmers and gotten letters of intent to use their land for forage production and waste disposal.”


UW Extension livestock agent Randy Thompson also listened in while Tuls talked with Cain.


While Tuls’ plans are preliminary, the possibility of such a large new farm is a huge deal for Rock County, Thompson said. The county has 12,500 cows, so the addition of 5,000 would make a big difference, he said.


Tuls is Nebraska’s biggest dairy farmer, said Dairy Council of Nebraska spokeswoman Stacey Fletcher. Tuls milks 10,000 cows on two sites near Shelby, Neb., about 80 miles west of Omaha, Fletcher said.


Rock County’s biggest dairy herd to date is Larson Acres, which operates on two sites in Magnolia Township. When an ongoing expansion is complete, the Larson herd will include 5,275 Holsteins.



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