Neighbours kick up a stink over dairy farm
The neighbours of Bermuda's biggest dairy farm will get the chance to air complaints about what they claim is an “unbearable” cow manure smell and “epidemic” fly problem at a meeting tomorrow.
Disgruntled residents who live near Green Land Dairy Farm, on Store Hill, in Smith's Parish, allege that the stench and fly problem has become worse since planning approval was given for a covered cow shed and, alongside it, a manure pit.
But farmers Valter and Lidia Medeiros insist the pit is not the problem. They told The Royal Gazette that since taking over the farm in November 2014 they had fewer but happier cows, living in better circumstances.
The smell, according to the couple, can be affected by the direction of the wind and comes mainly from the spreading of manure on the land, a process they say happens roughly every three months and is done in accordance with the law by being ploughed into the soil.
Mr and Mrs Medeiros will attend the meeting tomorrow, at 5.30pm, at the Department of Environmental Health on Hermitage Road, along with residents, environmental health officers and area MP Michael Dunkley, the former premier, whose family milk business is the sole customer of Green Land Dairy Ltd.
The Royal Gazette met with two residents, neither of whom wanted to be named, to hear about the complaints.
The first said her family had lived nearby for about five years and previously used to catch a “mild smell” about once a month.
“It's literally unbearable most of the time now,” she alleged. “We can't sit outside and have dinner. We are embarrassed to entertain outside. It's manure with a chemical smell. You can smell it clear as day and it almost burns your nostrils.”
The other resident, from a different household, said the land on the corner of Store Hill and Middle Road had long been used as a dairy farm but “didn't really bother anybody” until recently.
“They have completely industrialised the process,” he claimed. “The practices have changed. There are a lot of people that live in the area and the fly epidemic is out of control. If you go outside, there are thousands of them. It raises the issue of why don't we have better regulation of animal farming.”
A private Facebook group set up last month called Neighbours of Green Land Dairy now has 86 members, some of whom have shared their grievances.
One woman posted on November 4: “Another evening ruined by cow stink.”
Four days later, another wrote: “Quality of life is being wrecked by the stench and flies from the farm. My heart goes out to those who live closer. A dairy farm in a high-density area is not OK.”
Green Land Dairy Farm is on government land and Mr and Mrs Medeiros negotiated a 25-year lease with the Government, the first two years of which were rent-free, to allow them to make $1 million worth of improvements to what they said was a “broken-down” facility.
The 13-acre site has 120 cows, compared to 160 previously, and they produce 80 per cent of the island's milk. In April this year, the covered cow shed was completed, giving the animals shelter during the hottest months of the year and thereby increasing milk production.
Mr Medeiros said: “We have about 40 cows less than [the previous owner] and we produce double. The cows are in the shade, they have fans and water mattresses. They have a massage brush. We even have music for them; it soothes them. We had no cows die this summer in the heat.”
Mrs Medeiros said she believed the shed was causing neighbours to think the site was now “industrialised” but it wasn't.
“It's just a fancy word for a building that's gone up. Milking practices have not changed. They [health officials] told us the manure pit had to be 40 feet from the boundaries [of neighbouring properties] which we are and then they gave us the approval to go ahead.”
The pair said they were open to hearing complaints and making improvements but questioned where else the farm could be located.
Mr Medeiros insisted: “We don't want to be bad neighbours.”
David Kendell, director of the Department of Health, said: “I can confirm that the department has been working to mediate complaints and assure improvements. Meetings have occurred as recently as last week and others are scheduled.”