About DES

The Cornell PRO-DAIRY Dairy Environmental Systems (DES) program, works closely with members of our multidisciplinary team along with select New York State, U.S., and international dairy industry leaders to identify, develop, document, and introduce and disseminate innovative methods in dairy housing and waste management systems targeted to enhance animal performance, animal well-being, system efficiency, environmental compliance, and overall farm profitability. These efforts are accomplished with the overall vision of furthering individual farm and industry-wide growth and sustainability.

Program efforts are accomplished by conducting industry-applied research with the objective of furthering the understanding and development of dairy housing and waste management systems (with the current focus on anaerobic digestion) and by monitoring relative research and extension work performed by nation-wide and international counterparts. Findings are disseminated by conducting on-farm training and demonstrations of new technologies and by developing and delivering written, oral, and web-based materials. Additionally, expertise is provided through educational programs offered by county and regional Cornell Cooperative Extension employees and agriservice and agribusiness entities.

Overall, program initiatives have resulted in dairy producers and their advisors being better positioned to make informed business decisions in the areas of cow comfort/well-being, renewable energy, waste (nutrient) management/treatment, air emissions, and farm safety. Impact indicators are testimonials from dairy producers and their advisors and observed changes in business behavior.

DES Team

  • Pete Wright
    • Email: pew2 [at] cornell.edu
    • Phone: (585) 314-5314
    • 425 Riley-Robb Hall
  • Lauren Ray
    • Email: ler25 [at] cornell.edu
    • Phone: (607) 351-2151
    • 425 Riley-Robb Hall
  • James Morris
    • Email: jwm87 [at] cornell.edu
    • Phone: (207) 892-2886
  • Angela George
    • Email: ag2292 [at] cornell.edu
    • 425 Riley-Robb Hall

(Recent) Former Employees

  • Curt Gooch
  • Jennifer Bockhahn
  • Jason Oliver
  • Tim Shelford
  • Kristen Perano
  • Jenny Pronto
  • Ashley Stappenbeck
  • Sam Steinberg
  • Christine Georgakakos


Sponsored Projects

Evaluating Different Manure Management Practices in Controlling Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance from Dairy Farms

Sponsored by: Subcontractor to University of Buffalo; USDA-NIFA
12/01/2015 – 11/30/2020

New York State Manure-Based Anaerobic Digestion Assistance Implementation

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority
5/1/2016 – 5/31/2021

Quantifying Cattle Manure-AMR Perceptions and Treatment System Variabilities to Develop a Novel Communication Framework for Conveying AMR Science and Mitigation Opportunities

Sponsored by: Subcontractor to the University of Maryland; USDA-NIFA
06/01/2018 – 05/31/2022

Development and Characterization of System Solutions to NY’s Dairy Manure Management Challenges

Sponsored by: USDA-NIFA via Cornell CALS Hatch and Smith Lever Funds
10/1/2019 – 09/30/2022

Past Projects

Quantifying and Demonstrating Scrubbing H2S from Farm-Based Anaerobic Digestion Systems

Sponsored by: Northeast SARE
1/9/2015 – 8/31/2018

Expansion of Our Dairy Anaerobic Digestion and Commercial Greenhouse Synergy Software: Addition of Economic and Environmental Considerations

Sponsored by: National Institute for Food & Agriculture (NIFA)/USDA
10/1/2016 – 9/31/2018

Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Dairy Production Systems of the Great Lakes Region

05/2013 - 02/2018

Comprehensive Investigation into the Use of On-Farm Generated Renewable Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Energy to Mitigate the Effects of Environmental Stress on Dairy Cows in New York State

New York State Energy Research Development Authority
09/2012 - 2/2018

National Facilitation of Extension Programming in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation for Animal Agriculture

02/2011 - 01/2016

PRO-DAIRY Increases Agricultural Engineering Capacity for BMP Implementation

Sponsored by: Lake Champlain Basin Program
10/1/2016 – 12/31/2017

Excess phosphorus nonpoint runoff is negatively impacting Lake Champlain. One potential source of this runoff comes from animal agriculture within the Lake Champlain watershed. To reduce the potential pollution farms are encouraged to accelerate the installation and maintenance of Best Management Practices (BMPs). In response to a request for proposals, we used our experience to increase the private sector agricultural engineering capacity in the Vermont Lake Champlain Basin (LCBP) by developing and holding two one-day training sessions. The BMP topics presented focused on manure storage, manure transfer, barnyard runoff control and milking center waste management. Program opportunities from NRCS and VAAFM as well as practical private agricultural engineering operations were included. The farm visits focused on the priority BMPs on farms that have successfully installed and maintained them as well as farms that yet need to install them. Design reviews of private sector engineering BMPs were also completed to improve the agricultural engineering components. The private sector firms can now better adapt agricultural engineering projects that are compliant with current NRCS-VT standards into their service model.

Deliverables: Two classroom/on-farm training sessions and related extension/outreach materials.

Feasibility of Reducing a Dairy Farm’s Manure Enterprise Costs using a Wet Gasification Technology

Sponsored by: Cornell Jump Start Program
06/2017 to 11/31/2017

An innovative wet gasification technology company, working with the Cornell Jump Start Program, wanted to see how their pilot project would benefit a dairy farm in upstate NY. At the same time an upstate dairy farm was looking for a technology that would reduce their manure hauling costs in anticipation of an expansion. The farm’s existing manure management system was compared with the new technology to see if it was a good fit. Wet gasification converts “solid” (moisture content less than 75 percent) manure into a fertilizer ash, water, and energy leaving less manure to haul. Although in this case the economics weren‘t favorable the possibilities of manure treatment to reduce the cost and impact of manure spreading were worth investigating to help both the farm and the technology company determine their best options.

Deliverables: Final report and related extension/outreach materials

Coupling Dairy Manure Anaerobic Digesters with Commercial Greenhouses – Assessment of Technical and Economic Feasibility

Sponsored by: Federal Formula Funds – Hatch
10/2012 to 9/31/2015

The technical and economic synergistic relationships were investigated by this project. Instrumentation was installed on multiple on-farm anaerobic digester systems and commercial greenhouses to measure and record energy/heat generated/demands of the anaerobic digesters and energy/heat demands of commercial greenhouses over multiple year periods. This data, along with other available was used in part to develop software packages that can be used to look at each system independently and in a synergistic ways. Future work has been proposed that includes integrating economic and greenhouse gas footprint modules into the existing software packages.

Deliverables: Final report and Anaerobic Digester/Commercial Greenhouse Synergistic Tool (web posted)

Anaerobic Digestion Monitoring at Synergy Farms

Sponsored by: Wyoming County (New York) Industrial Development Agency
3/2012 to 11/2014

A newly constructed mixed anaerobic digester, located on a 1,800-cow dairy farm in Wyoming County, NY, was monitored for two years using the ASERTTI/USEPA monitoring protocol as a basis for monitoring. The project quantified on the conversion of influent to biogas and the efficacy of using the biogas to produce electricity using a 1.4 MW engine-generator set. Additionally, some basic economic evaluation was performed. The digester processed manure from the farm and a substantial amount of imported substrates from off-farm. The digester was the first of its kind constructed in the US (technology from Denmark).

Deliverables: Final Report and extension/outreach materials generated from the project

Anaerobic Digestion Technology Training Programs

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
8/2009 to 12/31/2014

The Anaerobic Digester Workforce Development Project aimed at developing and delivering high quality educational programs targeted to a range of workforces within the dairy farm-based anaerobic digestion sector of the clean energy field. Included in the project plans, are five technical short-courses that will provide educational training to persons who are involved in the planning and implementation of dairy farm-based anaerobic digestion systems and to those currently or who will soon be managing existing operating systems.

Deliverables: Final Report and extension/outreach materials generated from the project

Dairy Power Coordinator Project

Sponsored by: USDA & NYSERDA
10/1/2010 to 9/31/2012

This project was to support the development of anaerobic digestion in New York State as a follow-up to the Innovation Center for US Dairy’s Dairy Power Summit held in Syracuse, NY in October 2009.

Highlighted Deliverables:

  1. White paper on the challenges and opportunities for small farm anaerobic digesters,
  2. “Got Manure?” national conference on integrated manure treatment systems with a focus on anaerobic digestion,
  3. Got Manure? Pre-conference NYS tour of on-farm integrated manure management systems, and 4
  4. USDA-NRCS Agricultural Air Quality Task Force Annual Meeting (2012) pre-meeting tour.

The Effect of Rumensin® on the Stability of Manure-Based Anaerobic Digesters

Sponsored by: Elanco Animal Health
12/2010 to 06/2012

This project, funded by Elanco Animal Health, aimed to investigate the effect of Rumensin®, a dairy cattle feed additive (antibiotic), on the performance of cow manure-based anaerobic digesters. Laboratory-scale (4.5 L) anaerobic digesters were fed manure from cows dosed with increased levels of Rumensin®. Relevant measurements, such as biogas production and composition, were taken to assess the effect of the antibiotic on the digester system. Project findings are used by Elanco and PRO-DAIRY to advise farmers on how to introduce Rumensin® to their dairy herd in a manner that minimizes or eliminates upsetting manure-based anaerobic digester systems.

Deliverables: Final report to Elanco

Biogas Distributed Generation Systems Evaluation and Technology Transfer

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
4/1/2001 to 06/30/2010

Conceived, developed, and implemented a methodology to evaluate the performance of five on-farm, manure-based anaerobic digester systems in New York State for Phase I of the project. Subsequently, four of the same digesters and one new digester system were monitored for one year following the then newly released Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions (ASERTTI) performance evaluation protocol. At each farm, the performance evaluation of the anaerobic digester system included three main areas:

  1. the conversion of biomass to biogas,
  2. the conversion of biogas to useful energy, and
  3. system economics.

Deliverables: Final reports and extension/outreach materials generated in part from the project.

Feasibility Study of Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Utilization Options for Lewis County Community Digester Project

Sponsored by: Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County
4/22/2009 to 6/30/2010

A feasibility study was conducted through funding provided by New York State Senator Joseph Griffo of the 47th District in New York State to assess the multiple biomass-related components including: resource assessments, sampling and laboratory analyses (biochemical methane potential and nutrient concentration investigation), methane production estimations and trucking analyses. The scope of work also included biogas to energy conversion quantifications, digester site option investigations, and economic profitability analyses.

Deliverables: Final report and extension/outreach materials generated in part from the project.

National Air Emissions Monitoring Study – Northeast Dairy Component and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Assessment

Sponsored by: Dairy Management Incorporated (via Purdue University)
4/1/2007 to 5/1/2010

The National Air Emissions Monitoring Study was conducted to meet a key requirement of the US EPA Air Emissions Compliance Agreement and Final Order. Commercial livestock operations across the country were monitored for two years for the regulated emissions of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5). Five dairy sites were monitored include a dairy farm in Central New York State; this farm was also monitored for greenhouse emissions for the last six months of the project.

Deliverables: Collected raw data to Purdue University/Final data set to US EPA

Transferring Technology from NYSERDA Agricultural Innovation Manure Projects

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
1/1/2003 to 3/31/2010

NYSERDA commissioned several waste-to-energy projects in New York State and this project was to analyze and report on the data collected from these projects by Cornell and others, and develop and deliver extension/outreach materials to farmers and their advisors.

Deliverables: Develop and deliver extension/outreach materials and web site

Task 2: Evaluation of Anaerobic Digesters Located at Emerling Farm and Sunny Knoll Farm Following the ASERTTI Protocol

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
3/1/2007 to 6/30/2011

Two New York State on-farm dairy manure-based anaerobic digester systems were monitored for one year following the Association of State Energy Research and Technology Transfer Institutions (ASERTTI) performance evaluation protocol. At each farm, the performance evaluation of the anaerobic digester system included three main areas: 1) the conversion of biomass to biogas, 2) the conversion of biogas to useful energy, and 3) system economics.

Deliverables: Final Report and extension/outreach materials generated in part from the project

Feasibility of Anaerobic Digestion of Sand-Laden Dairy Manure

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
12/23/2005 to 3/1/2007

Sand is widely used for bedding dairy free stalls due to its superior ability to provide a comfortable surface for cows to lie on and also due to is non-organic composition. Anaerobic digestion is a prudent method to treat manure providing requisite odor control for many dairy farms that have long-term manure storages. However, the co-existence of sand bedding and anaerobic digestion on the same farm is not been possible do to challenges in handling sand-laden dairy manure. This project looked at the possibility of separating bedding sand pre- and post-digestion.

Deliverables: Final Report and extension/outreach materials generated in part from the project

Treating and Handling Manure on Dairy Farms to Protect the Environment

Sponsored by: New York State Energy Research Development Authority
4/1/2000 to 7/30/2004

This project consisted of developing a conceptual design, designing, constructing, and operating two innovative dairy manure treatment systems, one a bio drying system and the second a fixed-film anaerobic digester system. Subsequent to project commissioning, each was extensively evaluated to determine the efficacy of treatment manure and also for their economics.

Deliverables: Final Report and extension/outreach materials generated in part from the project
Contact: Tom Fiesinger, NYSERDA Project Manager, (518) 862-1090 Ext 3218