April 11, 2017, Charles City, IA — A revised resolution aimed at protecting the health of workers at large animal confinement operations was discussed by the Floyd County Board of Supervisors recently, and its sponsor hopes changes will result in more support this time. Supervisor Mark Kuhn introduced a resolution at the board meeting the end of February to set worker health safety requirements for applicants seeking to get a state construction permit for a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO). READ MORE
April 11, 2017, Raleigh, NC – North Carolina lawmakers are taking steps to protect the world's largest pork producer from lawsuits accusing its subsidiaries of creating unbearable animal waste odor. The 2014 lawsuits by about 500 rural neighbors of massive hog farms allege that clouds of flies and intense smells remain a problem nearly a quarter-century since industrial-scale hog farming took off. READ MORE
April 10, 2017, Windsor Heights, IA – Plans to enable farmers and consultants to submit manure management plan updates electronically will lead off the April 18 meeting of the Environmental Protection Commission. The meeting begins at 10 a.m. at DNR’s Air Quality Bureau, 7900 Hickman Road in Windsor Heights, IA. READ MORE
April 3, 2017, Chicago, IL — Four new measures proposed in the Illinois legislature would tighten the state’s environmental protections on hog confinements and give local citizens more input in the permitting process as well as standing to challenge the massive facilities in court. The legislation, announced March 28, was proposed in response to an August investigation by the Chicago Tribune. The bills would represent the first significant reforms to the state’s 1996 Livestock Management Facilities Act, which has been criticized for failing to keep up with the dramatic growth of swine confinements. READ MORE
March 29, 2017, Charles City, IA – A proposal by Floyd County Supervisor Mark Kuhn to change parts of the county's ordinance on concentrated animal feeding operations was opposed by the county's two other supervisors March 28. Iowa law limits local control of the operations. Kuhn said his proposal does not regulate livestock operations but offers options for protecting operators. READ MORE
April 25, 2017, Sacramento, CA – The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued an administrative civil liability penalty of $75,600 against a Visalia-area dairy for failing to file its 2015 annual report on the impacts of its dairy operations on water quality. The board also adopted a cease and desist order against the operation for failure to comply with requirements set forth in the Dairy General Order.The cease and desist order requires the owners to resume compliance with all the requirements of the Dairy General Order, including filing annual reports, or face the possibility of additional civil penalties and/or judicial enforcement from the California Office of the Attorney General."Fully complying with all requirements of the Dairy General Order is needed to protect water quality," said Clay Rodgers, assistant executive officer for the Central Valley Water Board. "Annual reports are a vital component of the Dairy General Order because they inform the board about manure handling activities at dairies, and nutrient management planning on dairy cropland.""It is critical that dairies adequately implement the requirements of the Dairy General Order including submitting annual reports that show they are taking the steps necessary to protect water quality. In assessing the penalty and adopting the cease and desist order, our board is recognizing a discharger's responsibility to comply with orders issued by our board, including submitting required documents."According to the CVRWQCB, the owners of the dairy have failed to file annual reports required by dairies regulated under the Dairy General Order since 2009. Further site inspections have determined the owners have failed to implement many other requirements of the Dairy General Order.The Dairy General Order, first adopted by the Central Valley Water Board in 2007 and revised in 2013, requires dairies to handle waste in ways that preserve and protect water quality. The order contains a number of requirements, including standards for manure and dairy wastewater storage, and criteria for the application of manure and dairy wastewater to cropland. The order also contains reporting requirements for regulated dairies, including the submission of annual reports, submission of a waste management plan, implementation of a nutrient management plan, and implementation of groundwater monitoring. Failure to submit any of the required reports is a violation of the order.
April 18, 2017, Kansas City, MO – Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) and Vanguard Renewables recently announced a strategic partnership to help bring anaerobic digestion technology to more farms across the country.
April 13, 2017, Yakima, WA – A Lower Valley dairy is being sued over claims that it has violated the federal Clean Water Act for years, including contributing to the impact of a manure-related flood in the Outlook area earlier this year.
April 5, 2017, Hartford, CT – Connecticut’s dairy farmers could soon become the newest alternative energy producers, thanks to an innovative “Cow Power” initiative promoted by State Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr., co-chair of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee. Passing unanimously out of the committee, the Cow Power bill – SB 999 – promotes the use of cow manure as a renewable energy source through the process of anaerobic digestion. The bill also creates an easier, cheaper and faster state and local permitting process for farmers who are interested in adopting this technology. “‘Cow Power’ is a term for the conversion of cow manure into electricity, enabling farmers to make money by adding a new, desperately-needed source of farm revenue,” said Senator Kennedy. “Instead of storing tons of manure in open cesspools that contaminate the water supply and release tons of climate-destroying methane into the atmosphere, farmers can place the animal waste in an anaerobic digester located on their property.” An anaerobic digester is a large metal tank that uses bacteria to convert manure and food waste into valuable biogas, which, in turn, provides fuel to a generator that produces electricity that can be used by the farmers or sold on the power grid through virtual net metering. This can allow farmers to assign surplus energy production from their generator to other metered accounts at retail, not lower wholesale, prices. “Farm-based anaerobic digesters now number over 250 nationwide and have already become significant sources of electricity in places such as Lancaster County, PA, and Vermont,” said Senator Kennedy. “In addition to becoming a valuable and diversified source of electricity, anaerobic digesters solve many other problems, such as eliminating farm odor, reducing manure-based water pollution, and creating a by-product that is non-toxic and pathogen-free that can be used or sold as animal bedding or fertilizer. We need to cut through the red tape, streamlining and simplifying Connecticut’s permitting process to accelerate this technology and save our farms.” SB 999, which will initially establish a pilot program for three farms in Connecticut, is welcome news for Connecticut’s farmers. The state’s 111 registered dairy farms are seeking new revenue sources to preserve their farms as they struggle to compete with much larger dairy operations in the Midwest, where labor and land costs are cheaper. “This is a natural process that kills pathogens, recycles nutrients, and more,” said Henry Talmage, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, at the public hearing for SB 999. “In addition to generating electricity, installing agricultural anaerobic digesters destroys methane and reduces overall carbon emissions, making it outperform other Zero-Rec emitting technologies.” The goal of the pilot program is also to identify the best technologies, examine economic risks, and modernize Connecticut’s future digester permitting pathway. Now that SB 999 has passed the Environment Committee, it moves to the floor of the state senate for further action.
April 4, 2017, Kewaunee County, WI – A scientist who's looked into widespread well contamination in Kewaunee County says he's now urging owners of tainted wells to find another water source. U.S. Department of Agriculture microbiologist Mark Borchardt recently published findings that indicate cow manure is the leading cause of groundwater pollution in Kewaunee County. But he found that human waste from sanitary systems is spoiling drinking water there, too. READ MORE
April 3, 2017, Albany, NY – Cows, whose methane-emitting flatulence has been cited as a culprit in global warming, now are being blamed, along with New York’s State Department of Environmental Conservation, for contaminating the state’s water supply with manure. Riverkeeper and four other groups, including fly fishers and the Sierra Club, sued the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany County Supreme Court, demanding it strengthen a general water permit for large farm operations to bring it into compliance with the Clean Water Act. READ MORE
April 11, 2017, Dixon, IL — Taking safety precautions is vital for cattlemen working with barns that have pit manure storage. “There are many good reasons for using liquid manure systems,” said Ted Funk, professor emeritus of the University of Illinois. READ MORE
March 13, 2017 – Steve Eickert, of Andover, Iowa, is planning ahead to ensure safety for employees, pumping contractors and himself a few weeks from now when work gets underway to transfer and apply 1.2 million gallons of manure stored in the pit under his cattle confinement building. Eickert is among several livestock feeders and commercial applicators working together to improve safety and increase awareness of deadly hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas released during manure handling. READ MORE
March 2, 2017 – Over the past three years, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Intensive Livestock Working Group (an alliance of eight of Alberta livestock and poultry organizations) have been collaborating to build a simple, personalized farm management decision-support tool designed to help manage phosphorus run-off. The Alberta Phosphorus Management Tool, expected to be available in late spring, is a free, Excel-based tool for assessing phosphorus run-off risk. The tool will also provide producers with management solutions that include both a relative cost and environmental efficacy ranking. READ MORE
February 2, 2017 – Hydrogen sulfide gas is a serious issue both in and around barns with liquid manure storage. The decomposition of organic matter in manure results in the release of several gases: ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen sulfide among them. Most of the time these gases are emitted at low levels, but any time manure is being agitated or pumped, or the surface is disturbed, hydrogen sulfide can be rapidly released. READ MORE
Wood chip pads were already part of the Irish, British and New Zealand waste management scene, but it wasn’t until Tom Basden – an extension specialist with West Virginia University – noticed many beef producers were having winter time pasture issues, that the system was introduced to the U.S. In the mid-Atlantic, there are many small to medium farms (50 to 200 head) that are pasture-based, cow-calf operations. The cows go out to pasture spring through fall, but when they are brought back into the barnyard to be confined for the winter, environmental issues arise, leading to potential regulatory issues. But, if the farmers were to put the animals back in their pastures it would create damage to the fields. “There were a number of issues, both from a production standpoint and from an environmental and regulation standpoint,” says Joshua Faulkner, farming and climate change co-ordinator at the University of Vermont. “Tom noticed that in Ireland, Scotland and the U.K., they were using what they call ‘wood chip out-wintering areas’ – which we’ve shortened to wood chip pads – for managing cattle in the winter time. Then after a little more research, we found these are actually used in New Zealand too. Instead of a concrete barnyard, they have a wood chip barnyard on small to medium size dairies.” The West Virginia University Extension Service decided to build two wood chip pads, based on information gathered from Ireland. One was constructed on a private farm and the second at the West Virginia University animal science research farm. Later, when Faulkner left West Virginia University to take a position at the University of Vermont, he continued the work on the project, having three more wood chip pads installed, including one at a buffalo farm in New Hampshire. The construction of all the sites was similar to the one constructed in Ohio County, West Virginia, which was approximately 80-feet by 80-feet and next to a feeding barn. It was excavated to a depth of roughly 20-inches with the subgrade having a 0.5 percent slope to the west. Broad parallel ridges crossing the width of the area were formed into the subgrade of roughly 10-foot intervals to encourage drainage into perforated drainage pipe, also placed at 10-foot intervals between the ridges. The subgrade and drainage pipes were covered by a layer of drainage stone (maximum one foot in depth). The drainage system directed effluent away from the heavy-use area via gravity to a holding tank, which was buried to prevent freezing. (In some of the other sites, the effluent to drained to grass filter strips.) A mixture of regional hardwood species were chipped and placed on the drainage stone (about 10-inches thick) to provide a trafficable, durable, and well-drained surface. “The first one we built was directly adjacent to a roofed winter feeding barn,” says Faulkner. “Then the second one is the biggest by far and it’s on the university research farm, which is a dairy farm, but it’s all dry cows and heifers.” These first two pads have been in operation for about five years. The newer pads were built further north, and Faulkner and his team are still waiting to see the results after they have gone through a hard winter, with sub-freezing temperatures for weeks. But there are plenty of findings being collected from the mid-Atlantic wood chip pads. “The biggest advantages we’ve seen are those compared to concrete,” says Faulkner. “With these, we see about half of the runoff with wood chips compared to concrete because the wood chips tend to soak up the water. As the water evaporates, the chips become dry and sponge like and will soak up the next rainstorm and evaporate it. With concrete, everything runs off.” Also, the effluent that drains off wood chip pads is weaker than the effluent that drains off concrete slabs. “Most of the phosphorous and nitrogen seem to stay in the manure solids and stay in the wood chips, so you kind of capture it that way, and you get this really diluted wastewater.” In some cases, the runoff is collected and then used on the fields later or directed to a grass filter strip. “The phosphorous [in the waste water] doesn’t seem to be high enough that we have to worry about it building up in the soil like you would with stronger wastewater,” says Faulkner. He also sees the wood chip pads as a good possible fit for small dairies that already have storage structures for runoff in place. The chips that have absorbed the nutrients are also a key piece of the system’s value. “Our recommendation is that at the end of the winter, just after you’ve released cattle back on the pastures, when pastures are ready for grazing, you scrape off the top two or three inches of the wood chips. Those chips should have most of the manure,” says Faulkner. “The chips can then be composted through the summer and then spread and used as a fertilizer on your fields. Then top dress with another couple two or three inches of wood chips before you stock it again – in the fall before you go into your next winter season.” There hasn’t been much testing on the quality of wood chip compost, but Faulkner says from what data he has seen it’s a fine source of fertilizer. “It’s not like a straight manure because it does have the wood chips in it. So, it takes longer to compost. And, you also want to make sure it composts long enough that you’ve broken down the wood chips before application on your hay field.” Faulkner and his team are already seeing keen interest by farmers in the wood chip pads, in part because of their resistance to concrete. “Concrete is fairly permanent, and farmers are concerned about general cow comfort. The wood chip pads have been documented to lead to higher weight gain in beef cattle, and it just seems to be better for animal health and comfort.” Faulkner has seen the cattle’s reaction firsthand. “At the farm in Ohio County, WV, where we first installed, and the gates were open, so the cattle could leave the wood chip pad whenever they wanted. They would just be hanging out on there, lying down. It wasn’t muddy like the rest of the field. It wasn’t slick and wet. It was just really nice, well-drained, comfortable, and firm.” There are other reasons the wood chip pad might be a good alternative to concrete. Besides animal comfort, muck doesn’t build on top and require continual scraping, like it does with concrete. Instead the manure works its way into the chips. The wood chip pad is also much less expensive to install. “Based upon the two West Virginia systems, we saw that a wood chip pad would cost about $163 a cow, and a concrete about $463 per cow,” says Faulkner. “You do have the cost of replacing wood chips every year to top dress it, but I think there’s reduced management cost because you’re not scraping the concrete every few days with a wood chip.” Faulkner and his team also think there is a value in raising livestock outside. He says studies from the U.K. have shown that unless it’s bitter cold or extremely wet, cattle are perfectly adjusted to being out in the weather and the farmer can avoid air quality issues and potential respiratory problems. Some farmers, however, are concerned that if they move from an all-pasture system to a wood chip pad system, they could be exposing themselves to environmental regulations that they are currently exempt from. “That’s true,” says Faulkner. “Some farmers would rather damage their pastures than risk some sort of environmental consequence. And I understand that. But we feel like the wood chip pad is healthy for the animals and if it’s constructed, designed, and managed well there’s no risk.” In fact, during spring 2016 in Vermont, the state actually helped cost share and pay for the wood chip pad. “Its was paid with environmental conservation funds and the only stipulation was that we needed to capture the wastewater – all the drainage water needed to into a small holding pond instead of sending it to a vegetated grass buffer strip,” says Faulkner. “It did raise the cost of the project, but they paid for most of it, so it worked out pretty well.” Faulkner and his team are pleased with the ongoing support of the West Virginia and Vermont Extension Services, and will continue to look for funding to continue the studies. “Top of the list will be an in-depth economic analysis and to also look at animal comfort, and try to quantify those,” says Faulkner. “But even without additional research dollars, we’re doing outreach, and workshops at our extension system, both in Vermont and West Virginia and just generate interest. And we will assist with design for any farmer who is interested.” Faulkner would love to see many more wood chip pads being built around the country. “I’d love to see farmers start to transition away from concrete as the only options, and start to consider these types of barnyards for winter ‘heavy use’ areas.”
Forget about cleaning cattle pens. An Ohio feedlot owner has taken the approach of housing his herd in a well-ventilated barn on slatted concrete floors. Manure collects in pits below the cattle pens, with the partially enclosed barn offering the cattle shelter from the elements. Rom Hastings – co-owner of Hastings Farms General Partnership, along with his wife, Jodi, and son, Cody – says he doesn’t need to clean the barn except to pump out the collection pits below the concrete slatted floor once a year. The movement of the cattle within the pens propels the manure through the slats. “As far as a slatted floor and manure collection pit operation, that is kind of unique for this area,” says Hastings. “At the time that the barn was built, it was probably state-of-the-art in the county … the cattle sleep and stand on those concrete slabs and the slabs have never been scraped since the barn was built, no power washing, nothing.” Nor is there is any bedding used in the barn pens, which Hastings says is what he appreciates most about the barn enclosure. There is no need to handle and haul bedding out of the facility with this management system. And because the barn is well-ventilated, there is no requirement for fans or fly control. Also, in terms of potential accumulation of frozen manure on the floor in cold weather, Hastings says it has to be zero degrees for several days before he notices any accumulation. A technical review of slatted concrete flooring suppliers shows that today, there are a number of suppliers aiming their products primarily at the hog and dairy industries, however, there is little or no mention of the beef cattle industry. For its time, it appears that this manure management method adopted by the Hastings for raising beef cattle was definitely breaking new ground. The barn enclosure was designed by Hastings’ father and the landlord who owned the farm back in the early 1980s, with the expressed purpose of having a facility big enough to house a fairly large herd but with the need for minimal effort to manage the manure. At the time, Hastings, his father, and the landlord were partners in the cattle business, with Rom purchasing the farm in the early 1990s, eventually setting up a partnership with his wife and son. The building design came about from investigating other barn enclosures as well as working with experts at Ohio State University (OSU). The structure cost about $1 million to build in the early 1980s. Hastings says to build the same structure today, depending on the approach and who builds it, he estimates that it could be built for about $1.5 million. When people think of raising cattle, they often picture places like Alberta or Texas. But Hastings says the part of Ohio where he is located has a long history of cattle farming, although like so many other branches of agriculture, cattle businesses have had to get bigger to survive. Hastings Farms is probably the largest beef cattle endeavor left in their county, with many smaller operations having shut down. The approach of raising cattle in an enclosure with a manure collection system below the floor is markedly different from places like Texas, where large cattle herds sometimes numbering in the thousands are typically raised in open pens in feedlots. The accumulated and packed manure is scraped out and usually land applied as needed. Hastings says his approach of providing an enclosure offers his cattle herd with protection both winter and summer in an area that really needs it. The Ashville, Ohio, area where the farm is located typically accumulates about 25 inches of snow per year. Ashville is about 15 miles south of the state capital of Columbus. “In the summer time, the barn offers protection from the heat and in the winter time its protection from the elements,” he says. Feeding the cattle is also easier. Storage silos were constructed right next to the enclosure and in addition to the cattle, the barn roof protects an alleyway that is wide enough to accommodate a tractor and mixer wagon used to fill the concrete feeding bunks daily. Currently, Hastings Farms manages a cow-calf operation essentially for breeding stock consisting of two herds with 30 head of cattle per herd raised on pasture – one being on rotational grazing and one not. The maturing calves from this operation are raised in the barn enclosure. The farm also purchases 300 yearlings annually that it raises within the barn. They consist of about 90 percent Black Baldy cattle, the rest being some Herefords and cross Charolais. Each yearling comes in at about 800 lbs and they feed them to 1,350 lbs. The cow-calf herd on pasture are a Black Angus cross breed. Hastings says he purchases the yearlings from beef cattle farmers who don’t have the land base to grow the food necessary to raise their cattle to full maturity. He does have that capability. Hastings Farms also manages a large, no-till, cash crop business on 4,300 acres of corn and soybeans, and about 200 acres of winter wheat. Of that cropland, the farm owns 1,600 acres, with the rest rented. All the feed used in the cattle operation is grown on the farm, and the manure pumped from the barn collection pits is applied and rotated typically on a four-year rotation as organic fertilizer on Hastings cropland. The all-wood barn structure which houses the yearlings and maturing calves from the breeding herd measures 60-feet wide by 300-feet long. It is enclosed on three sides with the south side of the barn left open. The north side is walled in and windows installed about five feet above ground. Where the north sidewall meets the roof, there is about an 18-inch space for good ventilation from the rising manure fumes. The roof is metal and insulated to control how much the enclosure heats up in summertime. Inside the barn, there are eight pens. Each pen, measuring 30-feet by 36-feet is capable of housing 40 head of cattle, meaning that there typically are about 320 head of cattle in the barn at a time. An alleyway runs along the front of the pens so that feeding equipment can drive into the barn to deposit feed into concrete bunks placed in front of each pen. The cattle in the pens stand on concrete slats, with the manure they generate dropping into 10-foot deep pits below each pen. There are a total of four pits below the entire cattle pen space, with each pit collecting manure from two pens. The concrete slats – manufactured by United Precast Industries located in Mount Vernon, Ohio – are replaceable, and fit together in segments. Each segment measures 4-feet by 10-feet and there are 216 concrete slabs in the entire structure. Hastings says they went about 28 years before having to replace some of the concrete slabs, and that was only because the edges on some of the slabs were starting to chip off, making it harder for the cattle to walk on. Since the barn was built, they have replaced about 25 slabs. There is spacing on each concrete segment of about 1.5-inches for the manure to fall through. Although beef cattle are hooved and can sometimes become nervous about certain types of materials beneath their feet, which is why Texas gates are so effective, Rom says that the cattle in his barn don’t react nervously walking on the slatted concrete floor. However, he is careful about how mature the animals are before he houses them in the barn to avoid the potential of younger cattle catching their hooves in the openings. “The slatted floor is flat,” says Hastings. “The only thing is that the cattle need to be 500 lbs or bigger to be housed in there. You don’t want any small, weak calves in this facility because the smaller animals tend to have more hoof damage.” Once a year, Hastings uses a Houle agitating pump to mix and remove the manure from each pit and load it into a 5,300-gallon Houle tank for land application. There is no water added to the manure collected in the pits, which have a capacity to collect manure for an entire year before needing to be cleaned. The pits are pumped out either in July or September, with the manure surface applied either on harvested hay or wheat crops. Hastings says luckily the farm is still allowed to surface apply the manure in his county without incorporation because his farmland is generally flat, with not a lot of concern about potential surface runoff. The entire process of pumping out the pits and land applying the manure only takes about 40 hours, or four 10-hour days. The manure is land applied at 4,000 to 5,000 gallons per acre on a four-year rotation. The manure feeds about 100 acres per year. “On farms where the manure is surface applied, I’d say that it cuts down my fertilizer costs by 30 percent or more,” says Hastings. The organic fertilizer is supplemented with commercial fertilizer as needed, based on soil sampling conducted every 2.5 acres. Over the 35-year history of the barn enclosure, it has proven its worth for manure management as well as providing a comfortable environment for the herd. Because the enclosure is properly ventilated, the cattle raised inside have experienced no health issues.
April 27, 2017, West Palm Beach, FL – A firm hoping to operate a horse manure recycling facility between Wellington and Belle Glade withdrew its application April 26, killing, at least temporarily, a solution Palm Beach County thought it had found to the problem of how to dispose of waste from its bustling equestrian industry. After initially and enthusiastically backing a request for the facility, commissioners reversed themselves when farmers complained that the location of the facility in their midst would keep them from selling their fruits and vegetables. READ MORE
February 6, 2017, Champaign, IL — Illinois Manure Share, created by the University of Illinois, is a manure exchange program that brings gardeners and landscapers searching for organic materials for use in composting or application in contact with livestock owners. The program, initially intended to help commercial farmers find markets for their manure, has evolved over time. Today, most of the manure providers are horse farms and many of the buyers are from the Chicago area. READ MORE
November 9, 2016 – Nutrient management encompasses the entire life cycle of the animal. The tendency is to think about the cycle as crops to feed to product — milk or meat — to manure and back to crops. However, animal mortality is another step that falls within the nutrient management cycle. READ MORE
October 5, 2016, Toyota City, Japan – Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and contact lens manufacturer Menicon Co., Ltd. (Menicon) have jointly developed a new liquid livestock manure composting product that will join the resQ45 series of TMC-Menicon jointly developed manure composting systems. The product, called the New-Tokubetsu-Kyuko Liquid (new special express liquid enzyme), will be sold by Toyota Roof Garden Co., Ltd. It will be distributed through Toyota Tsusho Corporation's (Toyota Tsucho) livestock feed sales channels. In Japan, where around 80 million tons of livestock manure are generated annually, concerns about the adverse impact of manure on the environment, including its offensive odor, water pollution, and greenhouse-gas generation, have created widespread awareness for the need to find ways to properly process, and to effectively utilize manure. In January 2013, Toyota and Menicon launched a jointly developed powder livestock manure composting product called the New-Tokubetsu-Kyuko, which had significantly shortened the composting period from around one month to around two weeks, while substantially reducing the generation of malodorous ammonia gas by between 50 and 90 percent (in the case of poultry waste). However, since the dispersion of powder composting agents is both a time- and labor-intensive process for large farms with major composting requirements, TMC and Menicon recognized the need to develop a liquid product that can be dispersed more easily by existing liquid dispensers. Using these liquid dispensers, the newly developed New-Tokubetsu-Kyuko Liquid can be dispersed in a manner that is more reliable and uniform as compared to powder. This helps to improve dispersion efficiency and helps to facilitate the creation of better quality compost. As a result, TMC and Menicon believe this new product will help to reduce onerous work on livestock farms, while also providing positive environmental benefits at the same time. Furthermore, since a 100 grams bottle of the new liquid product is able to substitute for an 8 kg bag of powder, this development also helps to significantly reduce the space needed for storage. June 2016 marked the tenth anniversary of the launch of the resQ45 series of manure composting systems, which were developed to help improve the livestock manure composting process. In addition to New-Tokubetsu-Kyuko Liquid, other main products in this series include the Buta resQ for pig manure and the Moo resQ for cows. Total sales of the resQ45 product lineup reached 200,000 bags in April, and annual sales are forecasted to hit 50,000 bags this year.
An overhead view of the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada facility where researchers are studying composting and stockpiling manure. Photo by Contributed photo In North America, antibiotics are routinely administered to livestock for treating cases of disease and in some jurisdictions, they are given at sub-therapeutic levels to prevent disease, improve feed efficiency and promote growth. Manure can contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it’s well known that some manure management practices destroy these bacteria, but does one stand out? Does stockpiling do a better job than composting, and are there other factors that should be considered in your decision to use one method over the other? Tim McAllister can provide insight. McAllister is a principal research scientist in ruminant microbiology and nutrition at the Lethbridge Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Recent studies he’s led on these issues were supported by AAFC’s Sustainable Agriculture Environmental Systems initiative and the Beef Cattle Research Council’s ‘Beef Cluster Funding.’ McAllister’s team included Shanwei Xu, Alanna Smith, Shaun Cook, Andrew F. Olson, Francis J. Larney and Rahat Zaheer (all at AAFC Lethbridge), Srinivas Sura and Allan J. Cessna (AAFC Saskatoon) and George Wang (University of Lethbridge). Cessna and Larney were lead scientists. Among other contributions, Xu drafted the manuscript and oversaw the lab analysis, Sura participated in study design, Zaheer helped track antibiotic resistance genes; Wang, Smith and Cook all provided laboratory analysis and Olson led the field studies. But before we get to their results on stockpiling versus composting, let’s go over some facts you should know about antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “It’s found in all soil,” McAllister explains. “Antibiotic resistance has always existed. Antibiotics are produced by many bacteria to protect themselves from other bacteria, and those bacteria need to be resistant to their own antibiotics or they will harm themselves. The populations they are defending themselves against also become resistant over time. These bacteria are found in the soil, inside animals such as cattle and in many other environments.” So, whether or not antibiotics are added to an animal’s diet, antibiotic-resistant bacteria will be found in that animal’s digestive tract and in its manure. Resistance is a fact, and it’s only a matter of when it develops, in which bacteria and under what circumstances. McAllister understands that while “it’s still a common perception that the prevalence and magnitude of antimicrobial resistance in our environment is related to feeding antimicrobials to beef cattle, we’ve actually found that in several cases, manure from cattle that were not administered antimicrobials contained higher numbers of resistance genes than manure from animals fed antimicrobials.” The good news is that it’s not likely that antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the soil, either naturally occurring or placed there through the spread of manure, pose a significant risk to human health. For that, McAllister says they would have to exchange DNA with other bacteria that could cause human infections, and that would be difficult since most human pathogens don’t survive outside the human environment, or survive for long. “So there would have to be pathogens present, DNA exchange and then humans would have to be directly exposed to the altered pathogens,” he says. “That’s not terribly likely.” Composting manure involves turning long piles (windrows) at least three times over the composting period with the objective of the temperature uniformly staying at, or higher than, 131 Fahrenheit (55 Celsius) for as long a period as possible (at least 15 days desirable). Turning of compost also breaks up aggregates, increases porosity, redistributes moisture and promotes the microbial decomposition of organic matter. Stockpiling has been described as ‘passive composting,’ with manure being placed in large pyramidal piles on the ground or on a concrete pad. Stockpiled manure is not mechanically turned or mixed, leading to regions of anaerobic decomposition. Stockpiling cannot achieve the high temperatures associated with composting and results in a shorter period of internal pile heating. McAllister’s team found that in terms of their ability to kill off pathogens and degrade antibiotic resistant genes, composting provides better results. McAllister believes farmers should definitely do one or the other. “Stockpiling…doesn’t require any equipment other than a loader, which every farmer already has,” he notes. “So stockpiling is a no-brainer for manure management. Letting manure sit at least a month should be standard practice. It also has the economic advantage of lowering the volume of manure that needs to be delivered to the field.” Composting has more costs, he says, but can be worthwhile. “There are investments needed in capital equipment costs, and in ongoing time and labour, but if you have a market nearby, a big city where you can sell composted manure for a good price, you can potentially make an ongoing profit.” [See sidebar for more] Composting or stockpiling aside, another matter of individual choice is deciding whether to spread your manure on your fields. Spreading it certainly won’t add to the prevalence of antibiotic resistance that is already found in the soil, but McAllister says it doesn’t always make sense financially. “You are adding organic matter when you spread your manure, but manure is high in phosphorus, so likely you will have to add N anyway in a separate spreading to balance out the N-P ratio,” he explains. “So, sometimes it’s easier for farmers to just use chemical fertilizer instead of manure. It’s each producer’s decision.” And if you are wondering about what’s occurring with antibiotics added to animal feed that could impact human health, McAllister can also provide an update on that. “Some antibiotics are already considered not safe to include in feed and regulations are in place and followed to prevent this practice, but we need more studies on the antibiotics that are presently approved,” he says. “It’s not in the best interest of animals to take away those antibiotics that help them get better from an infection or protect their health. The important thing to remember – and we haven’t published too much about this – is that we’re finding that the populations of bacteria that live in the environment are different than those that live in an animal. And there are certainly many manure management and food safety practices that we can use to reduce risk to human health, and many [of these practices] are already part of best management practices.” Markets for composted manureComposting on a large scale can be profitable for farmers but is a full-time job, says Van Doan, agri-resource engineer at Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. “Most beef farmers are farmers first…[they compost] for the volume reduction and odor reduction. Plus, if they land-apply the composted manure, they find it’s improving their soil tilth.” Overton Environmental Enterprises compost site manager Gerry Dubé agrees. The Winnipeg-based firm composts by-products from several large companies (such as a potato processor and the Winnipeg horse racing track) and sells it to the public, and also helps several farmers compost their own manure, from those who want to sell manure to those who want to use it on their fields to reduce or eliminate fertilizer and chemical use. “We are trying to convince farmers that composting and spreading composted manure creates a vibrant soil biology and also sequesters carbon,” says Dubé. “They need a better understanding of the whole process and they also need an incentive from the federal government to help them transition from using large amounts of fertilizer and herbicides to this more-environmentally friendly type of farming. The incentive would fit well with the desires of the federal government to reduce carbon going into the atmosphere.”
Bison Compost LLC produced 1.5 million pounds of compost last year from feedlot manure collected from the North Prairie Bison Ranch in North Dakota. Photo by Contributed photo The American bison is making a comeback and a North Dakota-based, start-up company called Bison Compost LLC is hoping this translates into growing sales for their teabag and bulk compost products. Their manure supplier and business partner, North Prairie Bison Ranch (NPBR), hopes it leads to reduced manure disposal costs. After almost being hunted to extinction, the American bison, or buffalo, has become big business for some Great Plains ranches, and was recently named the National Mammal of the United States. NPBR manages a 3000-head custom feedlot near Leeds, ND, where they raise the animals exclusively for a single customer. The feedlot is owned by Dennis Sexhus, his son, Sanford, and Keith Kakela. Bison Compost LLC was formed in 2013 and has three partners: NPBR, Tom and Judy Duenow, and Shelley Mathison-Holmes. Although the Duenows live in Elk River, Minn., and Mathison-Holmes in Winston-Salem, NC, all have roots and past associations with the Leeds area, which is how they found each other to formalize the partnership. The company markets its products under the names ‘Buffalo Earth’ and ‘No. 2 Brew Compost Tea’ for plants. While he has yet to sit down and crunch the numbers to calculate if composting is delivering a net financial benefit to the bison ranch, Sexhus says they have reduced their number of Frontier hydraulic-push manure spreaders from three to one because the composting process reduces their manure volume by about two-thirds. Sexhus says NPBR’s main motivations for taking the composting route were to reduce volume, derive a potential extra income from compost sales, and to help out the environment by switching to compost from land applying raw manure. At present, he says all their raw manure is being composted, but only a portion is being sold. The rest is land applied as organic fertilizer for their cash crops until such time as the compost business builds up its distributor network to take all the compost. “Manure management is a cost for us and is a fairly expensive part of the feedlot business to properly dispose of the manure,” says Sexhus. “We were motivated by trying to turn what was really a liability for us into an asset.” However, he has a realistic view of the costs associated with converting raw manure into compost. “I believe that we are benefiting, but making compost isn’t free,” Sexhus says. “This business is fairly new and our goal is to grow it into a viable business. I do know that there are savings, but there are also costs associated with it.” Prior to the composting venture, the ranch typically stockpiled and land applied its raw manure. It is a combination of animal waste with grass, hay, straw or corn stover. In addition to substantially reducing raw manure volume, compost also has a lot less odor, and is largely free of weed seeds, pathogens, and fly eggs. These are some of the main selling points of compost, not to mention its benefits as an organic plant food where it increases fertility, water-holding capacity, bulk density and biological properties. Describing the manufacture of the bison compost as a “warm weather” endeavor, Sexhus says the accumulated manure from the pens is stockpiled and then put into windrows on a designated, 10-acre, drainage-controlled, composting site provided by the bison ranch next to the feedlot. Tom Duenow says his career as a food business manager brought him considerable experience in recycling, so the idea of recycling manure into compost had some appeal to him. Also, his wife, Judy, had a strong connection to the North Prairie area of North Dakota, having grown up within a couple of miles of the NPBR feedlot. Her family had close family connections with the bison ranch’s owners. Judy also had experience as a business partner with Dennis Sexhus, raising bison in the 1990s before selling out when prices went south. “I started a conversation with Dennis about the possibility of composting and we just rolled it back and forth for a year or two,” says Duenow. “In 2013, we decided to create a partnership and start composting the bison manure.” Mathison-Holmes spends a lot of time in North Dakota and is a strong advocate for women becoming more involved in business. Her family comes from Fargo. She was interested in becoming involved in a recycling business that created value-added end products like compost. In fact, she started a venture in manufacturing and marketing bison compost but lost her source of manure. So she reached out to the Duenows and became part of the Bison Compost partnership. The owners did not have a lot of experience manufacturing premium quality compost, so they turned to the U.S. Composting Council and the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Extension service for technical assistance. They credit individuals like NDSU livestock environmental specialist Mary Berg with providing great and ongoing assistance in helping to launch their business venture. Using an excavator, dozer, and front-end loader from the ranch, the feedlot manure is piled into 200-foot-long windrows on the composting site that are 12-feet wide and 8-feet tall. The site has enough room for 15 windrows as well as room for expansion. Temperature is the critical benchmark measured when manufacturing compost and it is measured frequently. The piles are allowed to heat up to 160 Fahrenheit three times. Each time it reaches that temperature, a Vermeer CT612 compost turner – owned by Bison Compost – turns the piles. After turning, the piles cool down then heat up again. The heat is generated by the microbes within the windrows doing their job of converting the manure into compost. “I like to say that it is kind of a natural pasteurization process,” says Duenow, adding this is how and when the toxins, fly eggs and weed seeds are destroyed. After turning three times and the heat stabilizes at a lower temperature, the compost piles cure for four weeks. The entire process takes between two and three months. The black compost is screened to 3/8-inch consistency through a screener supplied by PowerScreen – located in Rogers, Minn. – before being sold in bulk or loaded in small quantities into teabags. Because of the seasonality of compost production, the company rents the screener once it has a large amount of compost accumulated. Timing the production of compost to stockpile for the entire year is an important part of the planning and marketing process as no compost is produced during the winter yet there may be demand for compost from plant enthusiasts. What Mathison-Holmes brought to the business was the concept of a unique ‘teabag’ compost gardening product. This is a small amount of compost packaged in a teabag. It is dipped in water for about 24 hours and during this steeping process, the compost nutrients are released and ready to use as organic plant fertilizer. While Bison Compost LLC is still in its infancy, Duenow says the owners have already learned some important marketing lessons. Perhaps the most important is the decision to sell their bagger and focus on selling large quantities of the bulk product to other companies who then bag it under the Buffalo Earth name. Part of the challenge they face is being situated in North Dakota, which is quite some distance to market with a limited labor pool. That’s why for now, the company has focused on marketing its compost in bulk both locally and over longer distances as well as marketing it in smaller, more manageable quantities as the No. 2 Compost Tea product. In addition to giving the environment a hand-up by converting the raw manure to compost, Bison Compost is also providing much needed employment for a local organization that works with handicapped individuals. They have the contract to package the No. 2 Compost Tea product. The Duenows and Mathison-Holmes continue to work hard on the marketing front to attract interest outside their local area, and so far, their marketing strategy has worked out quite well. They have sold a large volume of compost to a landscape products company in Minot, ND, which is blending it to create potting mix and garden mix for its customers. Bison Compost also has nursery and garden distributors established in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Northern Iowa, as well as a distributorship established for six states around New York. Last year, the company produced about 1.5 million pounds of compost. Duenow says they generated about $30,000 in sales and they hope to double that amount this year as well as make good progress on establishing a national market particularly for the teabag product. Their target audience is nursery owners, gardeners, individuals involved in soil remediation and reclamation, as well as gardening enthusiasts. While there is no difference in the process of manufacturing compost from bison manure or cattle manure, Duenow says they are hoping to leverage their sales to some extent on the growing profile of the American bison itself. They are also hitching their wagon to the green movement, promoting their product as a natural alternative to commercial fertilizer, from a source where the animals are raised without hormones or antibiotics. To support the start-up, Bison Compost received a $135,000 grant from the North Dakota Agricultural Products Utilization Commission, and Duenow says a considerable amount is being used in their ongoing marketing efforts. “Our name and our product are really gaining more and more interest,” he adds. “It is so much fun to go to shows like Pride of North Dakota and have people come back again and buy our product.”
March 13, 2017, Owasco, NY – A farm that placed poultry manure on the edge of a field has removed it, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The operation was issued a notice of violation by the DEC on Feb. 24 for violating its comprehensive nutrient management plan. The DEC did not issue any fines. READ MORE
March 13, 2017, Raleigh, NC – In a surprising conclusion, a new report finds North Carolina poultry farms generate far more nutrients in manure than do hog farms. The report, produced by the state Department of Environmental Quality, concludes poultry growers produced 56.6 million pounds of nitrogen and 79.8 million pounds of phosphorus in 2014. That amount is three times the nitrogen and six times the phosphorus produced statewide by swine operations in the same year, the DEQ estimates. READ MORE
March 8, 2017, Ionia County, MI — Five fire departments responded to reports of a fire at Herbruck's Poultry Ranch in a manure storage building March 7. Luckily it was nothing more than a hot spot in the dehydrated chicken manure pellets stored there, which led to a smoking wall, said Harry Herbruck, vice-president of operations at the facility. READ MORE
In Europe, where intensive livestock production is common in countries like the Netherlands, Spain and Germany, concern has been raised about its environmental consequences, including runoff of excessively applied nitrate and phosphate contamination of surface water and soil. Manure produced by intensive livestock production can lead to atmospheric emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide, and mono-nitrogen oxides, like NO and NO2, especially when directly spread on cropland. In the 1990s, EU council, parliament and commission met to discuss possible solutions. Those discussions led to the implementation of new, more stringent regulations, including the nitrates directive – better known as 91/676/EEC – which limits application rates of livestock manure to arable land. These restrictions led farmers to look for alternatives, such as composting and biogas production. In the Netherlands, where agricultural production is especially intensive, the issue prompted poultry farmers into action. Together, they came up with a unique solution – convert poultry manure into electricity. “We were producing too much manure in comparison to the arable land we had,” explained Wil van der Heijden MBA, director at Duurzame Energieproductie Pluimveehouderij (DEP), a co-operative of more than 600 Dutch poultry farmers who supply the Moerdijk-based power plant with poultry manure for fuel. “We also had a problem with too much phosphate in the soil and nitrogen in the water.” Van der Heijden is right; Dutch farmers do produce more manure than the arable land around them can use. The issue doesn’t just affect poultry farmers either. In fact, Dutch dairy farmers were recently told they have to reduce herd size in order to comply with EU phosphate regulations. Overproduction of manure has also been a problem for Dutch poultry farmers. Each year, poultry in the Netherlands produce approximately 1.3 million tonnes of litter. Of that, 650,000 tonnes is exported to Germany, Belgium and France for use as fertilizer – a job that is facilitated by traders who make money by taking manure out of the hands of farmers and putting it into the hands of other farmers. For decades, Dutch poultry farmers were at the mercy of these traders, who charged €30-35 ($33.34 to $38.90 US) per tonne for removal. For a 100,000-bird broiler farm, this amounted to €30,000 to €35,000 ($33,350 to $38,900 US) each year, a hefty fee that left many struggling. In 1998, Dutch poultry farmers met to discuss how they could separate themselves from the traders, as well as regulations and borders. Their solution was to join forces with a power plant and turn poultry manure into electricity. In 1999, the farmers formed DEP. The farmer members supply litter to BMC Moerdijk, a company that produces electricity using a fluidized bed combustor. “They wanted to be independent from traders, from the weather, from the borders, and the regulations in Germany and France,” said Van der Heijden. “They learned that poultry manure could be used as fuel for electricity production and they found that there was some experience in the U.K., although very small scale.” From conceptualization to the plant’s opening, it took 10 years for their plan to become a reality. First, explained DEP co-operative director Wil van der Heijden, they had to find the right location, which turned out to be Moerdijk, a town in the south of the Netherlands in the province of North Brabant. Then they had to apply for permissions and subsidies, look for partners and financing, and finally draw up fair contracts, which Van der Heijden said were crucial for reducing risk. Construction on BMC Moerdijk began in 2006 and concluded in 2008. Financing for the plant came from the bank, which fronted 80 percent of the overall cost. The rest came from BMC Moerdijk’s shareholders. Delta, the company that buys the electricity BMC produces, owns 50 percent of the shares. The farmers association ZLTO and DEP own the remaining shares at 33 and 17 percent respectively. While Dutch poultry farmers were once paying €30 to €35 ($33.34 to $38.90 US) per tonne to traders for removal, in 2008, when BMC started production, farmers who joined the co-operative were contracted at €20 ($22 US) per tonne. Immediately, the traders dropped their rate to match that of BMC’s, said Van der Heijden. “We told farmers that we could process their manure for 10 years for between €15 and €20 ($16.65 US to $22 US) [per tonne],” he said. “That’s why they signed the contract. But immediately after that, the traders dropped the price to €20 ($22 US) – and then even dropped to €10 ($11 US) two years later. You can imagine that all the members in 2012 were very angry.” Today, the farmers are happy. They now pay just €11.50 to €12 ($12.75 US to $13.30 US) per tonne. “We dropped the price in 2013,”explained Van der Heijden. “We had to drop the price from €20 to €11 ($22 US to $12.20 US) or €12 ($12.75 US) because they were so pissed off… because they all wanted to move. And if there is no fuel, there is no possibility to produce electricity. So, we had to join them.” Today, BMC processes some 430,000 tonnes of poultry manure – one-third of the total amount of poultry manure produced in the Netherlands – each year. Everyday, 60 trucks supply approximately 2,000 tonnes to the power plant. Using that manure, BMC generates 285,000 MWh of power each year. The plant uses a small amount of the electricity it produces and supplies approximately 245,000 MWh to the electrical grid. The electricity the company produces is enough to meet the needs of 80 percent of all Dutch poultry farmers for one year. BMC Moerdijk doesn’t just produce electricity, though. It also produces ash, which is a by-product of the incineration process. The ash contains highly valuable minerals, like potassium and phosphorus. It is sold to customers in the agricultural and horticultural sectors outside of the Netherlands. Those customers use the ash, sold under the name PeaKsoil, as a fertilizer to improve soil. In its first years of operation, BMC Moerdijk learned several important lessons. First, not all types of manure are suitable for processing. “We thought poultry manure is poultry manure, but it isn’t,” said Van der Heijden. “There are a lot of differences between manure from layer hens and broilers, and turkeys and breeders.” Storage was also an issue. Without storage the company sometimes had to work 15 days off and 15 days on. Today, BMC can store 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes. “It is very important to have stable supply and demand,” explained Van der Heijden. “We also learned that the cooperative structure was useful for this type of corporation. We also learned that fixed contracts are very crucial because otherwise halfway all of the members would have left the co-operative. The fixed contracts were very useful for us and the bank to reduce the risks.” Electricity from poultry manure is a cleaner alternative to direct land application, explained Gerd-Jan de Leeuw, MSc, at a recent visit to the plant. De Leeuw is responsible for the fuel and PeaKsoil at BMC Moerdijk. Electricity production from poultry manure saves on emissions from fossil fuel combustion. Spreading poultry manure on the land also causes larger emissions of NH3, N2O and NOx than combustion does. Finally, the ash that’s recovered has a lower mass and volume than the manure, making it more suitable for export to regions that require phosphate. “All of the minerals, except nitrogen and organic matter, are in the PeaKsoil, so in the ash,” said De Leeuw. “We can sell it as a fertilizer. We sell it to countries where they have a phosphate demand.” Those countries include Belgium, France and the United Kingdom where it has been especially useful in corn and wheat crops. All in all, BMC has proven itself as a sustainable and reliable electricity producer. Dutch poultry farmers, as a result of their cooperation with BMC, have not only complied with their obligation to process poultry manure, but also helped reduce the Dutch phosphorus surplus by approximately 8,000,000 kg P2O5 each year. The company also contributes to the Netherlands’ goal of lowering CO2 emissions and using 14 percent renewable energy by 2020. Finally, BMC has helped reduce poultry farmers’ NH3 emissions by 25 percent since 2008. This summer, BMC was in heavy discussion with DEP, as the 10-year contracts with its members are up at the end of 2017. The discussions were a great success with 87 percent of poultry farmer members renewing their contracts, which will start January 1, 2018. Those contracts expire at the end of 2029. On average, members will pay €6.50 ($7.20 US) per tonne, an amazing reduction since 2007.
November 21, 2016, Lancaster, PA — Pennsylvania poultry experts are planning to work with manure haulers to find ways to cinch up biosecurity. Pennsylvania’s poultry industry has done a lot of disease response planning, but collaboration with manure haulers has so far been a missing link, said Sherrill Davison, director of the avian pathology lab at the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center. READ MORE
Each year, more than 14 million tons of chicken litter is generated in the U.S. Studies have shown that using poultry litter to fertilize crops can be as effective as using synthetic fertilizers. In a new study, researchers at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have calculated how much chicken litter farmers need to apply to cotton crops to maximize profits. “Most research focuses on the amount of poultry litter needed to maximize crop yields,” says Haile Tewolde, lead author of the study. “We wanted to know if aiming for maximum yield always makes economic sense for farmers.” Tewolde and his colleagues found that it doesn’t. Using less chicken litter than what was needed to maximize crop yields actually increased profits for farmers. Profits increased even though crop yields were lower. It might appear that higher crop yields would lead to higher profits. But using more fertilizer also increases costs for farmers. The researchers predicted that once an optimal amount of fertilizer had been applied to crops, any more would raise costs more than profits. The study was conducted in two farms in Mississippi. Researchers applied varying amounts of chicken litter as fertilizer on replicated plots then compared yield and profitability. They also compared the use of synthetic fertilizers and chicken litter. They found that chicken litter applications over a certain level did not result in net economic gains. Instead, it led to economic losses even though yields were somewhat higher. Maximum cotton yields were achieved by applying between 9,000 to 12,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre. In contrast, applying about 7,000 pounds of chicken litter per acre each year was enough to maximize profits. The researchers also confirmed studies that showed chicken litter to be as effective – sometimes more so – than synthetic fertilizers. If farmers can use less poultry litter and still maximize profits, pollution can be managed more effectively.
April 20, 2017, Ithaca, NY – All living things – from bacteria and fungi to plants and animals – need phosphorus. But extra phosphorus in the wrong place can harm the environment. For example, when too much phosphorus enters a lake or stream, it can lead to excessive weed growth and algal blooms. Low-oxygen dead zones can form.Runoff from agricultural sites can be an important source of phosphorus pollution. To help evaluate and reduce this risk, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first proposed a phosphorus index concept in the early 1990s.Since then, science progressed and methods improved. In New York State, scientists and agency staff developed and released a phosphorus index in 2003. Now, a new project proposes a restructured index to build on phosphorus management efforts in that state and beyond."The idea is to account for the characteristics of a field, and help evaluate the risk of phosphorus runoff from that location," says Quirine Ketterings, lead author of the new study.The new index structure improves upon previous approaches. It focuses on the existing risk of phosphorus runoff from a field based on the location and how it is currently managed. Qualities like ground cover, erosion potential, and distance to a stream or water-body all come into play. The index also highlights best management practices to reduce this risk."The new index approach will direct farmers toward an increasingly safer series of practices," says Ketterings. "Higher-risk fields require more and safer practices to reduce and manage phosphorus runoff."Ketterings directs the nutrient management spear program at Cornell University. She and her colleagues used a combination of surveys, computer-generated examples, and old-fashioned number crunching. They used characteristics of thousands of farm fields to develop the new index. Involving farmers and farm advisors was also a key step."As stakeholders, farmers and farm advisors are more likely to make changes if they understand why," says Ketterings. "Plus, they have experience and knowledge that folks in academia and in governmental agencies often do not."This field experience can be vital. "Involving stakeholders in decision-making and getting their feedback makes the final product more workable," says Ketterings. "It may also prevent mistakes that limit implementation and effectiveness."Ketterings stresses that the previous index was not wrong."Farming is a business of continuous improvement and so is science," she says. "The initial index was based on the best scientific understanding available at that time. Our new index builds and improves upon the experience and scientific knowledge we have accumulated since the first index was implemented. It is likely this new index will be updated in the future as our knowledge evolves."The previous index approach could be somewhat time-consuming for planners, according to Ketterings. Further, it didn't always help identify the most effective practices for farmers. The new approach addresses both of these issues."We wanted the new index to be practical to use," she says. "The best index has no value if people cannot or will not implement it."In some circumstances of low or medium soil test phosphorus, the original New York state phosphorus index allowed farms to apply manure and fertilizer in what we now consider to be potentially high-risk settings."The new index approach proposes soil test phosphorus cutoffs and also encourages placing manure below the soil surface," says Ketterings. "These changes will bring improvements in phosphorus utilization and management across the farm."Ketterings also thinks that the new index is more intuitive."It allows for ranking of fields based on their inherent risk of phosphorus transport if manure was applied," she says. "It really emphasizes implementing best management practices to reduce phosphorus losses from fields."In addition, the proposed index approach could make it easier to develop similar indices across state lines, according to Ketterings. This makes sense, since watersheds don't follow state boundaries. Growers could use different practices, if deemed appropriate, for different regions.READ MORE about Ketterings' work in Journal of Environmental Quality.
Liquid manure application in the Midwest typically happens in spring and fall each year. The majority of liquid manure application takes place using a tank or a dragline applicator, providing additional nutrients to crops. Tank applicators transport manure from the livestock facility to agricultural fields and apply manure using a tank-mounted tool-bar. For fields that are close-by, manure can be pumped directly to the dragline-mounted tool-bar. In either case, a pre-determined application rate is used to pump manure through a manifold, which distributes manure to the application points across the tool-bar. “Environmental regulations require producers to make sure manure is being applied to agricultural fields in accordance with their manure management plans,” said Dan Andersen, assistant professor and extension agricultural engineering specialist with Iowa State University. Variations in tank capacities, manure densities and the presence of foam can cause the application rate to be different from the target number, as can variations in drive speed. Application rate should be verified, and both tank and dragline applicators need to be calibrated to ensure accurate application. Both distribution of manure and calibrating the applicators are covered in a pair of new ISU Extension and Outreach publications – “Distribution of Liquid Manure Application” (AE 3600) and “Calibrating Liquid Tank Manure Applicators” (AE 3601A). Both are available through the Extension Store. A “Calibration Worksheet for Liquid Manure Tank Applicators” (AE 3601B) is also available. Calibration of the application rate, in terms of gallons per acre applied, can be achieved using an area volume method. For applicators without automated controls, the volume of manure applied in a given pass should be determined. Knowing the density of the manure and the area covered in the pass, the application rate can be determined. Instructions for determining density and coverage area are included in publication AE 3601A. There are manure applicators that use tractor-mounted automated flow controls to achieve accurate application rates. In these cases, flow controllers use a flow meter with an actuator to govern the flow rate and, subsequently the application rate. “The majority of flow meters are set at the factory for their rated measurements, which can potentially be different when used for manure application,” said Kapil Arora, agricultural engineering specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach. “The flow meters should be verified to ensure they are providing correct flow rate readouts to the flow controls.” Achieving calibration of the target application rates only provides an average amount applied on a per acre basis. This application rate is delivered to the manifold mounted on the tool-bar, which then distributes the manure to the application points. This distribution of the manure across the tool-bar swath should be uniform so the variability among application points is minimal. This distribution should be verified only after the calibration for the application rate has been completed. Split manure application, manure application to soybeans, high total nitrogen testing manures, and use of the Maximum Return to Nitrogen Rate Calculator can all cause the manure application rates to be lower than what was previously being used. “Distribution across the toolbar points can be verified by capturing the discharge from each point for a known time,” Arora said. “Care should be taken to set up the equipment as close to the field conditions as possible. Aim for as low a variation as possible in the captured discharge so that better distribution is achieved across the toolbar swath.” Kapil Arora is an agricultural and biosystems engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Daniel Andersen is an agricultural and biosystems engineer, also with ISU Extension.
According to my youngest child, he’s just too darn healthy.
March 9, 2017, Ada, OH – An inspector with the Ohio Department of Agriculture says there are two common mistakes farmers make when applying manure in crop fields. Kevin Elder is chief of livestock environmental permitting at the Ohio Department of Agriculture. He says the most common mistakes are an accidental manure discharge in tile outlets and applying manure to frozen ground. READ MORE
March 9, 2017, LaFayette, NY — Neighbors in LaFayette are making a stink about a manure storage unit being built to hold animal waste. In the next few months, an area farmer plans to install a manure storage pit on the land. It’s expected to hold 2.4 million gallons of animal waste. READ MORE
February 24, 2017, Wellington, FL – Palm Beach County commissioners approved a land use change that would allow a horse manure recycling facility to operate between Belle Glade and Wellington, the epicenter of the county’s equestrian industry. The land use change will be transmitted to state officials for review and come back to commissioners for final approval in March or April when Horizon Compost hopes to get approval of its zoning application for a facility that would be located on 32 acres eight miles east of Belle Glade and eight miles west of Wellington. READ MORE
Digester RevolutionMany would say that solids are the most critical component…
It’s crappy slogan time for the North American Manure ExpoApril 24, 2017 – Do you think you're funny? Do…
DFA, Vanguard Renewables announce allianceApril 18, 2017, Kansas City, MO – Dairy Farmers of…
From moo to goo: Cooperating microbes convert methane to alternative fuel sourceApril 21, 2017, Richland, Wash. – Oil and gas wells…
World Pork Expo 2017Wed Jun 07, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2017Tue Jul 11, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Empire Farm Days 2017Tue Aug 08, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Dakotafest 2017Tue Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
North American Manure Expo 2017Tue Aug 22, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Farm Progress Show 2017Tue Aug 29, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM