Manure storage lagoons and hurricane-force wind and rain are not a healthy mix. And, as the frequency of severe storms increases, dealing with wild weather is becoming a stark reality for producers in hurricane-prone areas like North Carolina. Many lessons have been learned by the state’s hog producers over the years on how to mitigate the potential consequences of these severe storms.
A recent study from the University of Arkansas shows the U.S. pork industry has made great progress in multiple key sustainability metrics over the course of more than five decades.
At a time when hog producers expected to profit from their labours, a rising supply of American pork and tariffs on U.S. pork exports saw Canadian hog prices drop as much as $55 per animal in June. The Canadian Pork Council estimates the sudden decline resulted in losses of $125 million for the Canadian hog industry between June and September.
Want to know more about your environmental footprint? Get additional information about operational costs? University of Minnesota Extension specialist, Erin Cortus and extension educators, Diane DeWitte, Jason Ertl, and Sarah Schieck are looking to work with producers in confidentially assessing their own operations using The Pig Production Environmental Footprint Calculator - a tool developed with support from and maintained by the National Pork Board.
It’s been almost a week since Hurricane Florence struck North Carolina and some hog farmers are still dealing with challenges left over from the storm. According to a report from the North Carolina Pork Council [NCPC], some hog farmers and partner production companies are going to extraordinary lengths to care for their animals, including living in the barns for days, traveling by boat to do chores and even being shuttled to farms via helicopter. Some are also dealing with manure management problems. “While it’s clear that farmers properly managed lagoon levels in advance of the storm, a small percentage of lagoons have been impacted by the record-setting rainfalls,” the NCPC report stated. “In some cases, lagoon levels are being lowered by transferring liquids off the farm in tanker trucks or by piping to other lagoons with ample storage.” According to a Sept. 23 report from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, five lagoons in the state suffered structural damage, 32 lagoons overtopped, nine lagoons were inundated [no indication of discharges], 18 lagoons are at full capacity [have no freeboard left] and 39 lagoons have zero to 3-inches of freeboard available. “While we are dismayed by the release of some liquids from some lagoons, we also understand that what has been released from the farms is the result of a once-in-a-lifetime storm and that the contents are highly diluted with rainwater,” the NCPC stated. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sets preliminary livestock losses at 3.4 million poultry and 5,500 hogs. “This was an unprecedented storm with flooding expected to exceed that from any other storms in recent memory,” said Steve Troxler, NC Agriculture Commissioner. “We know agricultural losses will be significant because the flooding has affected the top six agricultural counties in the state. The footprint of flooding from this storm covers much the same area hit by flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which only worsens the burden on these farmers.” The department’s environment programs and division of soil and water conservation is assisting livestock and poultry farmers with recovery to ensure environmental impacts are minimized to the extent possible. The department’s veterinary division is helping to assess risk to livestock operations and depopulation teams are on standby and are assisting producers with disposal concerns.
The historic floodwaters from Hurricane Florence are creating widespread impacts across all of eastern North Carolina. Several hog farms have been affected. NC Pork Council officials are aware of one lagoon breach that occurred on a small farm in Duplin County, where an on-site inspection showed that solids remained in the lagoon. The roof of an empty barn on the farm was also damaged. There are also three lagoons at other facilities that have suffered “structural damage.” It’s not known what this damage entails. Nine other lagoons in the state have been inundated by floodwaters. This means the walls of the lagoon are intact but floodwaters have risen over the sides and filled the lagoon. The solids have remained settled on the bottom of the lagoon. According to a report from NCPC, a further 13 lagoons are at capacity due to rainfall and appear to have overtopped. Others are at capacity and efforts are being taken to respond within the state’s regulations and with its guidance. “We do not believe, based on on-farm assessments to date and industry-wide surveying, that there are widespread impacts to the … more than 3,300 anaerobic treatment lagoons in the state,” NCPC officials stated in a release. “Waters from the record-shattering storm are rising in some places and receding in others. We expect additional impacts to be reported as conditions and access allows.” The farmer association added that in the lead-up to the storm, hog producers took extraordinary measures, including moving thousands of animals out of the hurricane’s path. “The storm’s impact was felt deeply across a very large region and the approximately 5,500 swine losses reported … were the result of all aspects of the storm, including wind damage and flooding. We are saddened by this outcome.” “We do not expect the losses to increase significantly, though floodwaters continue to rise in some locations and circumstances may change. Our farmers are working tirelessly now amid persistent and severe logistical challenges to continue the delivery of feed, to ensure power is operating on farms [as many use wells for water], and to reach the barns to provide proper animal husbandry. We believe deeply in our commitment to provide care for our animals amid these incredibly challenging circumstances.”
Ontario’s dairy farmers are working with veterinarians to boost biosecurity and animal care training in their sector.
At the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Global Animal Welfare Forum in Paris, the International Dairy Federation (IDF) in collaboration with the OIE and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released the updated IDF Guide to Good Animal Welfare in Dairy Production.
Manure contains ample amounts of nutrients and is considered to be an integral component of dairy farm nutrient management. Significant amounts of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K) as well as small amounts of trace minerals are present in dairy manure and can be utilized as a main source of fertilizer for dairy operations, thereby potentially reducing input costs.
Rain falls, and that might make some farmers happy, depending on the time of year.
Weather impacts both manure application and loss of nutrients on crop utilization.
Four years ago, dairy farmer Jay Richardson and his wife, Kristi – owners of Son-Bow Farms in Northwest Wisconsin – sat down for a heart-to-heart to discuss the future of their business.
Years ago, it was tradition for farmers to grow a variety of crops on their farm. There was limited food distribution to large grocery stores, and most of the food was grown locally. So, a farmer could be cropping cotton and sweet potatoes in one area of their farm. On another area, graze beef cattle, dairy, or chickens on forage crops like annual clovers, perennial tall fescue, wheat pasture, and native rangeland. Pastures and hayland were rotated with crops so that the same enterprise was not on the same field year after year. Diversity of enterprises on each farm helped create stability in the production system.With the advent of large farming equipment and commercial fertilizers following World War II, it became more efficient from a labor standpoint to grow the same types of crop year after year. After investing in equipment to handle a particular crop like corn, farmers often became more specialized. This led to monoculture cropping, which can have positive effects on yields and efficiency. But, monoculture has some drawbacks, including environmental and social concerns. The need for greater nutrient inputs with monoculture can lead to poor water quality underground or from run-off. Confined operations have the issue of disposing of large volumes of manure. Interest in re-integrating farms to take advantage of the synergies between crops and livestock has increased in the past few decades. Our lab has embarked on researching such integrated systems as a way to improve agricultural sustainability.Crop-pasture rotations are part of an integrated system. Farmers can match the energy and nutrient flows of different enterprises (i.e. types of livestock and types of crops) to meet the desired outcomes. Ruminant livestock consume forages, often on pasture by themselves during much of the year. Animal manures are deposited directly on the land where they graze. Alternatively, they can be confined in areas during parts of the year with conserved forages, e.g. hay or silage. Manures can also be collected from confinement areas and applied to cropland. This recycles and effectively utilizes nutrients throughout the entire system and can substantially reduce chemical fertilizer needs for cropping.Forage grasses used for grazing often have extensive, fibrous root systems. These roots hold soil particles together. All plants take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into simple sugars during photosynthesis. Compared with annual crops, forage grasses form a thick mat over the soil, and can enrich the amount of carbon in soil more than annual crops. Forage legumes are capable of converting nitrogen from the atmosphere and add nitrogen to the soil as well.The large gain in soil organic carbon under perennial pastures is a key benefit of integrated crop-livestock systems. Pasturing is also an important adaptation strategy to overcome drought. Pastures can partially control flooding by improving water infiltration and soil health. Forage and grazing lands have historically provided a sustainable and resilient land cover. Grazing lands are rooted by a variety of grasses and forbs that serve to provide essential ecosystem services: Water cycling Nutrient cycling Gas exchange with the atmosphere Erosion control and landscape stabilizing Climate moderation Food and feed production, and, Aesthetic experience Integrated agricultural systems have the potential to adapt to weather extremes. This can make them more climate-resilient than monoculture systems. For example, integrated crop-livestock systems rely on forages as part of a diversity of crop choices. These forages provide a large benefit for positive balance of carbon stored in soil. Crops grown in rotation with forages can be more profitable, since yields are often enhanced and costly fertilizer inputs can be lower. The presence of forages can reduce nutrient runoff and reduce nitrous oxide emissions.1The diversity of farming operations in integrated crop-livestock systems reduces the overall risk of failure. By having several different crops on a farm, the risk of any one component failing is reduced. This diversity also offers resilience of the farming system against extreme weather events and potential climate change. Greater integration of crops and livestock using modern technologies could broadly transform agriculture to enhance productivity. Integrated crop-livestock systems can also reduce environmental damage, protect and enhance biological diversity, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. Integrated systems likely provide healthier potentially more diverse foods and increase economic and cultural opportunities in many different regions of the world.Diverse agricultural systems that include livestock, perennial grasses and legumes, and a wide variety of annual forages offer enhanced agro-ecosystem resilience in the face of uncertain climate and market conditions.Indeed, there are many good reasons why a diversity of crops and livestock should be produced on the same farm and even the same field within a farm.
Research is underway in southern Alberta to assess how housing feedlot cattle in roller compacted concrete (RCC) floor pens compares to traditional clay floor pens.Traditionally, feedlot pen floors in Alberta are constructed of compacted clay. Annual feedlot pen maintenance requires clay to repair damaged pen floors, which can significantly add to input costs and the environmental footprint of feedlots. Constructing feedlot pen floors with RCC is one possible sustainable solution for stabilizing the pen floors, subsequently improving efficiencies of feedlot operations and animal performance, among other potential benefits.This research project aims to assess the social, environmental, technological and economic performance - positive, negative or neutral - associated with housing feedlot cattle in RCC floor pens versus traditional clay floor pens. Examples of a few objectives being examined are animal welfare, water runoff, emissions, manure volume, durability and strength of pen floor, as well as average daily gain.This project is anticipated to be completed by February 2019. For more information, contact Ike Edeogu, technology development engineer with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, at 780-415-2359.
A week spent in a feedyard pen is helping researchers gain a better understanding of greenhouse gas emissions. Their goal is to improve the national inventory of greenhouse gases and determine potential mitigation measures.
Not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing, scientists report. And in regions with plenty of farm animals, upcycling manure into paper products could be a cheap and environmentally sound method to use manure.
You might wonder what dry weather and feedlot runoff would have in common. On the one hand, a spell of dry weather can cause expanding areas of moderate drought and dry soils. But dry conditions also make for an excellent time to maintain your feedlot runoff control system.
Proper composting is almost an art, and it takes the right combination of many components to work efficiently. In general, you want a particle size of 1/8 to two inches; internal temperature of 110 to 150 degrees F; moisture content of 50 to 60 percent; oxygen content of 10 to 15 percent; carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) 25:1 to 30:1.
Connecticut dairy and compost producer Collins Powder Hill Farm is using a compost aeration and heat recovery (CAHR) technology that really sucks, but in a good way.
What is stockpiling? If you look up stockpile, you’ll find that it means a passive management of solid manure where the material is placed into a storage where it remains until it is either land applied or moved. In either case, the important points to stockpiling are that this is a passive management system, once the manure is stacked it is left alone and not disturbed, and, as a result the pile will become anaerobic.
Animal mortality is a fact of life, and in livestock production the challenge is dealing with the number of animals over time and their size.It is becoming more difficult to find outlets for spent animals, and cost must be considered. Mortality composting has gained in popularity over the years, but with that practice comes concerns related to nutrient management. There were several papers on animal mortality management presented at the Waste to Worth Conference held in April 2016. Craig Williams, Extension educator in Tioga County, gave two presentations on mortality composting. He worked with a swine producer wanting to switch from burial to composting. This operation had a three percent mortality rate, or approximately 250 deaths per year in the finishing operation. The producer built a compost barn with a three-foot center dividing wall. In the first year, approximately 56 cubic yards of wood chips/bark mulch was used. In the second year, this was replaced with 40 cubic yards of sawdust. The compost temperature is reaching 130 degrees, and so far there have been minimal issues in mixing and turning the compost. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
It is often the case that great partnerships are started through the involvement of a mutual friend. That was certainly the situation with the El Paso Zoo and New Green Organics, both located in Vinton, Texas. The pair has formed a relationship that has given birth to something called Zoo Doo.
Urban encroachment on traditional farmland is becoming a big problem. Farmers contend they should be allowed to conduct business as usual because they were first in the neighborhood while nearby homeowners complain that farm odors are wafting into their family barbecues and must stop.
Turkey manure is a great source of nutrients for crops. Farmers understand that turkey waste is not waste at all, but a valuable (though smelly) resource. As a nitrogen and phosphorus source, it outpaces nearly every other livestock type. And aside from nutrients, it adds organic matter to the soil which, over time, improves water holding capacity and infiltration. You might say it’s some good … “stuff”.
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently funded a research study to examine the manure and litter nutrient production in Pennsylvania poultry farms that may be directly affecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Smotherman family began farming in 2002 as admitted rookies to agriculture and raising turkeys. But 16 years later Texas-based Ken and Dana Smotherman, may now be considered industry veterans who are having hall of fame careers, according to their peers.
Custom nutrient management contractor, Pierce Litter, understands that not all poultry litter is the same. The moisture content and nutrient content can vary widely depending on whether the poultry producer is raising boilers, hens, pullets, hens for table eggs, or turkeys.
State Conservationist Terrance O. Rudolph of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Ricky Smith, president of the Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council announced that a sign up for the North Georgia Poultry Energy Efficiency and Nutrient Management Planning Initiative for fiscal year 2019 is under way. The deadline for eligible poultry producers to apply is August 17, 2018.This north Georgia-specific project is one of 88 projects across the country that was selected for funding two years ago through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). The 18-county project area covers Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Dade, Fannin, Floyd, Gilmer, Gordon, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Polk, Rabun, Towns, Union, Walker and Whitfield counties.Poultry producers looking to improve on-farm energy efficiency as well as water and soil quality through nutrient management, should visit their local USDA Service Center and submit their Conservation Program Application (NRCS-CPA-1200) before the August 17, 2018 deadline."We appreciate the RC&D Council's leadership in a successful implementation last year and are excited for them to join us for another year." said Rudolph. "By working together now, we will be better prepared to put the future Farm Bill's resources to work in these north Georgia communities sooner rather than later."The RC&d Council offsite link image covers most of northwest Georgia, but are leading a team of seven public and private partners during this three-year project that spans the northern rim of Georgia."Limestone Valley RC&D is proud to partner with the NRCS on Conservation projects. Year one of the RCPP poultry initiative was an overwhelming success," said Smith. We had numerous applications and we were able to fund several conservation minded farmers. We look forward to 2019 and the continuation of this good work."Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, the RCPP is a partner driven, locally-led approach to conservation. It offers new opportunities for USDA's NRCS to harness innovation, welcome new partners to the conservation mission, and demonstrates the value and efficacy of voluntary, private lands conservation.More information on NRCS conservation programs can be found at http://www.ga.nrcs.usda.govunder the Programs tab.
Auburn University's College of Agriculture, in conjunction with other schools around the nation, will conduct a study to ensure that poultry litter does not pollute surface waters with excessive amounts of phosphorous.The three-year study is being performed to combat the 1.8 million tons of waste produced annually in Alabama from its $15 billion poultry industry.Phosphorous-rich poultry litter is a big concern in Alabama and other states where the litter is used to fertilize fields. If the nutrient leaks into waterways, it can cause toxic algae blooms which can lead to deficient oxygen levels and destruction of life in the water.The study will look at the Sand Mountain region of North Alabama and a row-crop field in Wisconsin, two large agro-ecosystems that are currently having issues with managing their phosphorous levels. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Protecting watersources from manure would be a lot easier if the weather would cooperate. After a relatively good growing season, the conditions since September have been wetter than normal with only short windows between rain events to complete harvest and field work. A challenging corn harvest, combined with wet soils and early snow events has resulted in fieldwork that is behind schedule and manure storages that are full and need to be emptied before the calendar gets to "winter".
Spring in America's heartland is often wet. That makes its soil too soft for planting. One solution to that issue is tile drainage. Growers insert a series of pipes (drain tiles) under their fields, which drains water from the soil into nearby streams and lakes.
Manure applied to wheat crops or to forage crops can be an excellent option, but not in winter on frozen soils.
Fall is quickly approaching and harvest season is almost upon us. With that in mind, many farms will be spreading manure and pits will be agitated and emptied. Because of the still warm temperatures and high humidity, bacterial activity increases in manure, directly increasing manure gas. Manure is an excellent and readily available source of fertilizer for many farms, however, it is important to consider the danger of gas that accompanies working with manure. In June 2015, a father and son duo from Cylinder, Iowa, were both killed from manure pit gas on their Iowa hog facility (Rodgers and Eller, 2015). During a routine pumping of manure from one of the hog facility pits, the son climbed down into the pit after dropping a piece of equipment and was immediately overcome by the manure gas. His father went in after him and experienced the manure gas as well. Unfortunately, neither survived. Similarly, in 2016, a Wisconsin farmer was agitating manure in an outdoor lagoon before spreading on fields and was also overcome by manure gas (Veselka, 2016). These stories are not new and serve to remind all of us about the importance of knowing what manure gas we need to be aware of and how we should respond in emergency situations. What are the gases of concern and why are they dangerous? Four gases of major importance are ammonia (NH3), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). These gases are produced by microbial activity within the manure from the microbial respiration that occurs (rather than use oxygen for respiration, bacteria utilize inorganic sources like nitrogen and sulfur). Ammonia (NH3) gas in high concentrations can cause eye ulcerations and severe respiratory aggravation. While NH3 is typically not deadly, it is important to consider long-term exposure effects on respiratory health on those that are in proximity with it on a day-to-day basis. Just as humans can suffer respiratory effects from inhalation of NH3, other livestock are susceptible as well. In swine, at only 50 ppm, there is an expected decrease in performance and health. Additionally, long-term exposure at 300 ppm+ will cause convulsions (Donham et al., 2010). Carbon dioxide (CO2) may not appear to pose a threat like some of the other manure gases, however, it is dangerous from the perspective that it can replace the oxygen in your blood. Moderate concentrations of CO2 can lead to shortness of breath and dizziness (National Ag Safety Database, n.d.). As this is a by-product of livestock respiration, animals in confined spaces can also be affected by asphyxiation from CO2 similar to people. That being said, when examining an extension article by Donham et al. (2010), it is important to note that humans can tolerate up to 260,000 ppm+ before death, while swine can only tolerate up to 200,000 ppm. Methane (CH4) is not a concern from a human respiratory standpoint. If a building with manure storage is not ventilated properly, it can cause headaches and asphyxiation. Additionally, CH4 tends to build up in the foam that accumulates on the top of liquid manure and is highly flammable according to the Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (2012). The explosive potential of CH4 is dangerous to both people and livestock within proximity of this gas. Hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is the gas most often associated with manure related deaths on farms and is considered to be the most acutely dangerous (National Ag Safety Database, n.d.). This gas travels readily along the ground and in confined spaces, like manure storages. It causes paralysis of the nerve cells in the nose, which deadens the smell at only 100-150 ppm (United States Department of Labor, n.d.). At 700-1,000 ppm, there is rapid loss of consciousness and death can occur in minutes. Additionally, even if someone is exposed to high concentrations of H2S for only a short amount of time, the reaction to the gas can be delayed up to 24 hours and can include pulmonary edema (fluid build-up in the lungs) possibly leading to death. Similarly, other long-term neurological effects from H2S exposure are possible. Like its counterpart gases, NH3 and CO2, H2S is also a danger to livestock, specifically swine, in that it only takes about 20 ppm to start seeing signs of nervousness, fear of light and loss of appetite (Donham et al., 2010). When concentrations reach 200 ppm, swine may experience pulmonary edema and death shortly thereafter. What are some of the signs of being overcome by manure gases? While several signs of being overcome by manure gasses have been mentioned, there are others to be on the lookout for as well. Some of these signs include feeling hot and clammy, loss of motor skills, irregular/fast heartbeat, tightness of chest, panting, nausea/vomiting and anxiety (Meinen, 2016). How can I measure manure gases? There are several different types of manure gas monitors that can be utilized on the farm. The monitor used depends on the farm as well as the location of the manure storage and whether it is a confined or unconfined space. It is important to consider the type of gas you may come into contact with as well as the price that works in your budget. A list of the different types of manure gas monitors are depicted by Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice (2012a) and the costs to purchase this equipment from the year 2011 (Steel et al., 2011). What are ways to prevent a dangerous situation? Follow manufacturer recommendations of equipment when agitating and handling manure in an enclosed pit to ensure: Proper ventilation. Fans are on and working. Equipment is operating correctly. When working around or near a manure pit: Let someone know where you are and what time you are going. This allows a person to know right where to look if you are not back in a timely manner. If someone you know or even an animal/pet is overcome by manure gas, do not go in after them unless you have proper respiratory protection. Should you encounter a situation where someone goes down and is unconscious, immediately call 911 as first responders have the proper respiratory equipment and training to enter into these dangerous situations. If it is available, wear a gas monitor or have one in the manure storage to detect manure gas concentrations that may be approaching dangerous, life-threatening levels. When manure is being agitated, be aware of your positioning to the pit and where the manure gases are likely to settle. It is also important to be cognizant of manure tankers and how easily manure gases can settle inside this type of small and confined space. Gases have a tendency to settle inside tankers as well as leak out the top, which can pose a threat to those who examine and clean the tankers. Wear personal protective equipment, like a proper fitting respiratory mask, if you go into a confined manure storage. By understanding the dangerous gases found in manure, knowing the warning signs of a person who is experiencing high concentrations of manure gases and implementing safe practices when working around manure, there is the potential for fewer accidents and deaths. Who knows, you just may save a life, maybe even your life.
While April showers might bring May flowers, they also contribute to toxic algae blooms, dead zones and declining water quality in U.S. lakes, reservoirs and coastal waters, a new study shows.
There was a mixture of hot temperatures, high humidity plus driving rain and wind. But the weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm of attendees at the 2018 North American Manure Expo.
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MABEX 2019Tue Sep 17, 2019
World Dairy Summit Mon Sep 23, 2019
Digestor Operator TrainingTue Oct 01, 2019
BioCycle REFOR19Mon Oct 28, 2019
2019 Sustainable Agriculture SummitWed Nov 20, 2019