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Almond husks, or hulls, naturally split open as the nut matures on the tree. The almond industry has donated 19 truckloads of hulls and shells to the dairy at California State University, Fresno.

Almond industry gives hulls, shells to Fresno State’s dairy

The 19 truckloads of byproducts will be used in feed and bedding.

If you do the math, 19 haul loads of 25 tons each represents a lot of product as members of the Western Agricultural Processors Association and the tree nut industry are donating a year’s worth of hulls and shells to the California State University, Fresno Farm Laboratory, a dairy operation since 1954.

The school dairy, one of only a few dairies left in the United States fully run by students, said the donation would go a long way toward decreasing bottom line costs to feed and care for a herd of 320 — from babies to 135 cows used in the milk string, i.e., fed twice a day and milked twice a day.

According to the University of California, Davis’ Nutritional Value of Almond Hulls for Dairy Cows report: “Research has shown that the nutritive or energy value of average hulls is equivalent to early and mid-bloom Lucerne hay and about 70% the value of barley on an energy basis. Hulls are also a good source of digestible fiber and sugars.”

“Despite the limitations of working within a university system, we’re supposed to operate as a normal commercial dairy, so it’s pretty much impossible for us to make a profit, and the continuing WAPA donation is greatly appreciated,” said dairy coordinator Kyle Thompson.

“Part of our mission is to support the next generation of agriculturalists,” said Roger Isom, WAPA President/CEO. “Trying to be a self-sufficient learning lab requires not only internal creativity, but the involvement of outside help and since our organization represents a number of entities in the almond industry, we jumped on the chance to assist. In less than a week, we had a volunteer hauler company and 18 months’ worth of donated hulls and shells with a new load scheduled to arrive at the dairy every 2-3 weeks.”

Processing line funded

In addition to the current assistance effort, the group has also supported funding the creation of a tree nut processing line — including a shaker deck — to go along with an existing whole citrus packing line.

“There’s so many hullers and processors of tree nuts throughout California that we need to develop our own educated workforce and now students can learn how the different technologies work,” said Isom.

One company, Western Milling in Goshen, manufactures mixed feeds for dairies with one of its clients being Fresno State. 

“We decided our contribution would be to procure freight from each point of origin and deliver it to the dairy,” said Kris Vandermaari of Western Milling.

“The 2019 crop was a good one that produced roughly 2.5 million tons of almond hulls to be used in dairy cow mixed rations,” he said. Some of the shells are also utilized as animal bedding.

“We’re an educational dairy with no full-time employees. We’re completely run by students,” said Thompson, technically a dairy science program coordinator who functions as dairy director.

“I use the analogy of a bowling alley with kiddie bumper rails,” he said. “Students can bounce off the rails as often as they need to as long as they keep heading in the direction of the pins. I’m happy to guide them while they make their own decisions and they are the ones who make this dairy work. 

“Every time a donation opportunity like this appears, it helps offset the costs of improving a student’s education.”

For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.

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