Author Topic: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking  (Read 2055 times)

Offline LittleSeed

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Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« on: November 01, 2011, 08:33:29 AM »
Hi,
My husband and I are looking at a piece of property to eventually start a small scale creamery on in central TN. We just got back from the site and everything looks great! There's only one catch - the well water has Sulfur in it. A lot of it. Not so much that the whole house stinks, but enough to detect a smell and taste in the water out of the tap.

I know that we can have a filtration set up, and we most definitely will, but I was wondering if any of you have had any experience with this?

We can filter the animals the water drink, but we are also concerned with the amount of sulfur that will be present in the forage they are eating. Unless we find someone with some knowledge on the subject, we won't really be able to know until some fresh stuff comes up in the spring and we can sample it.

Any insights on sulfur water and dealing with it in a dairy would be highly appreciated! Thank you :)

Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #1 on: November 01, 2011, 09:09:32 AM »
Sulfur is a natural bactericide (think sulfur drugs) and will most likely interfere with the starter bacteria used in cheese. I would also guess that the sulfur in the cows drinking water would effect the flavor of the milk. Pretty much everything that they consume goes into the milk in one way or another.

Sulfur in suspension can't be "filtered" out effectively. You could use an activated carbon "filter" to take out some, but an RO (reverse osmosis) system would be your best bet in the creamery. Filtering or RO are not practical for the cow's watering supply.
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Offline ellenspn

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #2 on: November 01, 2011, 02:56:42 PM »
Sometimes the sulfur is from sulfur fixing bacteria.  Have your well tested and possibly bleached to control it. 

Most of the time it's  the bedrock where the sulfur is coming from and some treatment can get rids of the smell, but usually not very well.
Ellen Bloomfield
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Offline linuxboy

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2011, 07:54:52 PM »
Aerate it. If you pump it to a tank and put in sprinkler heads for dispersion, it should take most of it right out and make it suitable for everyday use. Talk to a local ag water guy, they should figure out a good design for you.

What did the water test at for the ppm? 2000? Higher? You may need to supplement with copper, which you can do through copper sulfate (not desirable, better to use other copper complexes) in the feed and water, and longer term by using copper oxide wire particles.
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Offline Tomer1

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2011, 05:35:16 AM »
Yep, oxygenating the water should help out alot. active carbon... not so much.
Im not sure I would want copper sulfate in my water the same way as I would not use it in my wine In case
I encounter persistant h2s.

I remember visiting romania as a kid ,there was a place pumping sulferic drinking water stright from the ground where the "health turists" drink it.  smelled disgusting.

If you let the cows drink it as is (and if they are willing) you will likely pick it up in the milk.

Look at the bright side,water are expenssive and you've got them for free.
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Offline linuxboy

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2011, 08:49:12 AM »
Quote
copper sulfate in my water
I meant for the cows and goats, for their drinking water. Too much sulfur interferes with copper bioavailability. For goats, especially, this can cause issues, such as off flavors in milk, fishtailing, coat discoloration, et
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Offline Tomer1

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2011, 02:27:04 PM »
Oh I see.
Can animals uptake more copper then humans before reaching a state of toxicity?
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Offline linuxboy

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #7 on: November 02, 2011, 02:32:35 PM »
Depends on the species, and to a lesser extent breed and genetic line. For example, goats need much more than sheep. And goats with black coats tend to need more than ones with lighter coats.
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Offline LittleSeed

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #8 on: November 02, 2011, 04:48:29 PM »
Thanks for your advice and thoughts! We've spoken with a few well driller/water treaters in the area of the farm and they're going out at the end of this week to test it for us. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

From the people we've spoken with (from the Ag ext. and water professionals) it seems that it should be something we can treat in a way that will work for cheesemaking and for watering the animals. One of the people from the Ag Ext. said that as long as it isn't "black sulfur" we'd be fine. I looked online and couldn't find anything about black sulfur and the water dudes I spoke with didn't know what the heck he was talking about either... Thoughts?

I guess we'll find out in a few days. I'm going down for another visit this coming weekend with my step Dad. He's an engineer and is going to look at the old buildings on the premises and help figure everything out... I hope we get this one!

Thanks again!

Offline linuxboy

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2011, 11:59:27 PM »
Quote
they're going out at the end of this week to test it for us.
Great, that's the way to go. Post results here if you want feedback.

Ag Ext is wrong, sorry. It is as I said, depends on the levels and animals. Too much sulfur affects bioavailability. I have seen milk quality be poor and birth difficulty from copper imbalance alone.

Black sulfur likely means a sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide in water can bind up and produce ferrous sulfide, or interact with organic materials and other metals. They're talking about corrosion, likely. Yes, that is a big deal, but also treatable.

So glad you have community to help. You sound like us... went to the city, had fancy jobs, now going back to the country :)
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Offline Sailor Con Queso

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2011, 11:10:14 AM »
Correcting the water for your livestock is one thing, but making it usable for cheese making is a whole different ballgame. If that is going to be a big part of your future plans and you intend to sell cheese, the sulfur is a big problem. You have to consider the taste that is passed thru the mother's milk, but you will also have to deal with the problem of direct water usage for washed curd cheeses, etc.

If it is possible to really "fix" the problem for your animals, I would consider putting in a cistern for cheese making and domestic use. Even then I would do mechanical and carbon filtering, at least in the cheese room.
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Offline LittleSeed

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2011, 09:33:45 AM »
Thanks so much for your insight! It's great to be able to draw on all of your experience - I truly appreciate it :)

Here are the results from the water test done last week:

Hardness: 15 gpg
Iron: (clear water) 1.5 ppm
Sulphur: .5 ppm
TDS: 290 ppm
PH: 7

They said the Sulfur level isn't very bad at all. 0.5ppm H2S. But that Iron is very high and that the combination makes it seem worse than it is. He said most of the corrosion inside the house on the fixtures was from the hard water. We have 15 grains, which is extremely hard. In fact, the upper limit on the hard water scale is at 10.5 gains, so we're well into "hard" territory. For that he recommended a water softener.

The set-up would be as follows:
Install chlorinator to treat the raw water out of the well.

The water pumps into a galvanized 120 gal storage tank (already in the well-house)

The water oxidizes in the tank for 20-30min to separate the Iron and Sulfur

As that tank fills it will spill into another 120 gallon tank (which we would need to purchase). The goal is to have that water completely oxidized so we aren't pulling in any water that hasn't yet been treated.

The water will then go through a carbon filter to remove the oxidized Iron and Sulfur. That waste will be pumped onto the ground outside the well-house, unless we pipe it elsewhere.

After the carbon filter the water will go through the softener.

Then we can set up multiple pipes to feed the house and the creamery.

Sounds like it's something we can work with but there's still the question of whether the sulfur in the soil will come through the forage to taint the milk. A woman from the NRCS is going out this week to test the soil for us, so I guess we'll find out soon!

Quote
You sound like us... went to the city, had fancy jobs, now going back to the country
linuxboy - you're dead on :) I'm from VT and my husband is from NM. Through different paths we both ended up in NYC with fancy jobs that we now are very much disillusioned with. When I was a kid in the woods, I craved glamour - now I'm a fashion designer who craves dirt and the woods. Ha!


Offline linuxboy

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Re: Sulfur Water and Dairy Animals and Cheesemaking
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2011, 09:54:16 AM »
Sounds like a decent setup. Has all of the elements you need to make it work. You might also want to get a bigger tank for water storage and pump from there... depends on GPM and seasonality.

For the milk, it's not exactly right that sulphur in plants or soil is going to make it to the final cheese. In a way, it's true, it affects health and bioavailability, which may influence milk. But it's not like your cheese will taste like eggs. The rumen is an amazing fermentation vat. You can take very small actions that mitigate the impact of high sulphur, such as supplementing with additional trace elements, or by planting browse and forage that will help offset mineral imbalances.

Also, testing the soil is a good first step, but it should ideally be done in combination with your browse/forage strategy. They're going to eat plants, not the soil, and plant uptake rates differ based on the plant.

You can look up soil data here
http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/HomePage.htm

What I'm trying to say is that it's very doable to come up with a great working solution. Those numbers are not terrible. It's not like you have high boron or something difficult like that.

Good luck. Sounds exciting. It's even better once the building starts :)
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