Installing and maintaining subsurface drip irrigation on blackland clay soils comes with a few unique challenges. But with a growing dairy operation committed to producing as much of its feed demand as possible in-house, along with a commitment to conservation and environmental stewardship, getting the most out of every drop of water makes drip irrigation a logical choice.

Precision agriculture technology makes the chore a bit more manageable, says Jeff Fowler, crop manager for Daisy Farms, a Paris, Texas, operation that supplies raw materials to the Daisy Brand dairy product company.

The site is permitted as a 10,000 head dairy, says herd manager Jody Maxwell.

“Feeding a large dairy herd will take a lot of silage and forage production, Fowler says. A combination of subsurface drip irrigation and GPS technology—as a means of installing drip tape accurately as well as assuring precision planting, harvesting, spray application and system monitoring—makes the job a bit easier.

“Drip irrigation is close to 100 percent efficient,” Fowler says. “We put water straight to the roots; we get no runoff; we don’t need as much water. When we put on a half-inch, we get a half-inch. We don’t have to apply three-fourths of an inch to get what we need.”

Conserving resources is important to Daisy Farms, Fowler and Maxwell say. The company installed the dairy close to Paris, Texas, to serve as a model of a modern, well-run, environmentally friendly facility. Farm management takes that commitment to heart.

“We try to stretch water as far as we can,” Fowler says. “Water is not unlimited.”

He also uses the drip system to dispose of waste water from the dairy. “We run treated nutrient water through the system. The end product is clean and we have had no emitter clogging problems yet.”

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Cy McGuire, designs/consultant with Eco-Drip says the filtration system for Daisy Farms is the same type he would use for drip irrigation in West Texas.

“We have to use the nutrient water anyway,” Fowler adds. “This is the safest way to use it. We certainly don’t want it to run off into streams, lakes and ponds.” He says spraying the water through a center pivot system also could result in odor, another issue the company wants to avoid.

“We're basing our waste water irrigation on a comprehensive nutrient management plan, which is required by the state. We pay attention to the weather and we don’t apply nutrient water before a big rain.”