Green Valley residents hear dairy expansion request

Horsens Homestead Farms seeks to almost double AUs
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Leader photo by Carol Ryczek Civil engineer Jennifer Keuning describes the proposed expansion to the Horsens Homestead Farm at an informational meeting Tuesday in Green Valley. The Shawano County Land Conservation Department hosted the meeting, which is part of the license application process for the expansion. The dairy operation is asking to add 795 animal units to the farm.

About two dozen people gathered at the Town of Green Valley Community Center on Tuesday to hear details on a request for a county license to expand the Horsens Homestead Farms.

The Horsens operation, at W1980 County Road C, Cecil, is asking to increase the livestock on their operation from 981 animal units to 1,776. An animal unit (AU) is a way to measure an animal’s impact in terms of food and waste; larger animals may be given an AU number higher than one; calves would be assigned a lower number.

Scott Frank, Shawano County Land Conservation Department conservationist, noted that the meeting was to provide information to adjacent landowners and others in the community, not to make a decision on the license. He said questions would continue to be accepted at the county land conservation office through April 26. The decision on whether or not to grant the permit will be made by June 23, he said.

The decision on the license will be based on odor management, waste and nutrient management, runoff, and setbacks for farm and waste storage structures, he said.

Jeff Horsens, one of the owners of the dairy, said the family has been working on the plan to increase the size of the farm for about three years. The plan will allow two sons to join the operation by expanding the number of cattle.

“Our goal is bringing in two more family members — we looked at how the family would be in the future. With more family and low margins we need more income producing units,” he said after the meeting.

Horsens said the expansion would also be an upgrade in animal management and technology.

“It takes it to a whole new level,” he said.

Jennifer Keuning, a civil engineer representing GHD, the engineering firm that has been designing the expansion, covered most of the details of the plan.

The expansion would include a new cross-ventilated barn with robot milkers, a feed storage area with channels to collect runoff into a concrete pond; concrete-lined waste storage and additional concrete slabs for calves. She said that any rainwater that hits a concrete surface will be collected.

Horsens said the project would make the farm a “zero discharge” operation.

“Nothing will run off the farm,” he said.

It was not runoff but concern for the impact on groundwater that brought the only voice of opposition at the meeting. Dennis Muck, of Cecil, said he feels the request for a permit should be denied because of its potential impact on groundwater.

The limestone rock layers in the Green Valley area are “especially vulnerable to contamination,” he said, as evidenced by problems in similar areas in the state, such as Door or Kewaunee County. He asked that the county stop licensing large farm expansions until there is a good evidence that groundwater can be protected.

Bob Krause, town planning commission chair, said groundwater concerns can be monitored through the township’s subsidized well testing program. He said he has not received any complaints about the Horsens operation and called the family “good stewards” of their land.

“It is a very well-run dairy,” he said.

Frank noted that while he appreciated the discussion, the fate of the application will be decided only on whether or not the project meets construction standards in the license.

The complete application is available at the Land Conservation Department website. There are multiple links. Pages 1-14 can be found at http://www.co.shawano.wi.us/i_shawano/pu/1_horsens_homestead_farms_llc_a....