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Darlington dairy hopes to add bigger dairy next door
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DARLINGTON - The owner of a large-scale dairy farm applied with the state Department of Natural Resources to create another, bigger dairy no more than five miles away from its current facility in Lafayette County.

Jim DiGangi currently oversees the milking of 2,600 cattle at Darlington Ridge Farms, 24425 St. Peters Road. The farm was established in 2008 and also harvests 2,000 acres of corn and alfalfa. DiGangi, a third-generation farmer, manages the large-scale dairy with his wife, Katie. Now, the couple has decided to construct a 3,500-cow farm called Oak Ridge Dairy adjacent to their current farm. DiGangi said he and his wife Katie see this as a next step in a long line of farming heritage dating to their respective grandparents.

"We enjoy what we do," DiGangi said. "This is a natural progression for us. This is what we do, and this is our home."

Applications for the new farm have to be submitted to the state level because any dairy expected to handle more than 1,000 cattle in Wisconsin is designated as a concentrated animal feeding operation. Applicants have to submit plans to the DNR, including manure management, building plans, outlined maps, detailed plan narratives and soil tests. This is done to regulate the impact a CAFO may have on the land where it is built. Regulation conducted by each large-scale dairy has to be updated and provided to the DNR on an annual basis.

Oak Ridge Dairy will sit on 95 acres within the town of Seymour, which is located nine miles southwest of Darlington, immediately west of County DR. Lafayette County Conservationist Terry Loeffelholz said the application for manure storage and other storage facilities by DiGangi is proposed to be built in 2016, though DiGangi declined to give a specific date for when construction will take place, only specifying in an email that building will take place once the process of obtaining permits has been completed.

Concerns over the inclusion of a large-scale dairy farm have caused problems for Todd Tuls, a farmer from Nebraska who applied to build a 5,000-cow dairy farm within the town of Sylvester in Green County named Pinnacle Dairy. The Tuls currently manage Rock Prairie Diary, located east of Janesville. Sylvester created a science committee to study the effects of large-scale dairies on the groundwater and air quality after a group of concerned citizen questioned whether or not the inclusion of a dairy farm of such a magnitude would negatively affect their water supply. Subsequent municipalities within the county have followed suit.

Since April 2014, DiGangi said he has been working with the DNR on the design of the new farm. DiGangi said in a followup email that he and others have been protective of the environment when extensively designing a nutrient management plan and the farm's construction. They have also prepared collaborative plans with nearby landowners to spread manure along additional farmland.

"Through collaboration with local farmers and land owners in our townships, we have all worked together to allocate nutrients and resources in the form of a symbiotic relationship," DiGangi said in his email. "We have been sincerely blessed to have these opportunities within our local agriculture community, and look forward to continuing these relationships going forward."

Though nutrients will be managed separately within each facility, DiGangi sees the close proximity of their current farm as an advantage during the transition. While he acknowledged there are always challenges in change, DiGangi said utilizing management from Darlington Ridge at Oak Ridge Dairy will be beneficial to the new large-scale dairy farm.