Applications

September 7, 2017, Kingsley, IA – After a recent report of a manure spill from a sow facility in Plymouth County, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources found manure had reached a small creek about four miles northwest of Kingsley. The spill, which occurred over the weekend, came from a sow facility. It’s unknown how much manure spilled. The unnamed stream has low flows, is very small and there were no fish in it. Iowa DNR staff found low dissolved oxygen levels in the stream, but no evidence that the manure had reached Johns Creek about one mile downstream. Most of the manure was captured by a berm near the facility. Any manure from the tributary will be pumped up and land applied. Iowa DNR will continue to monitor the cleanup progress and consider appropriate enforcement action.
August 28, 2017, Iowa - The risks of hydrogen sulfide in swine operations have been known for years, but beef operators also need to be aware of the dangers this gas can pose.Increasing this awareness led Dan Andersen, assistant professor and ag engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension, to create a series of four publications that provide information and resources to help farmers stay safe when working with manure. "One breath of hydrogen sulfide at 500 parts per million is enough to render someone unconscious almost immediately," warns Andersen. "When you are working with a manure pit, and once you realize the gas is a problem, it's usually too late. Hydrogen sulfide gas smells at 1 to 2 parts per million, but levels above that amount knocks out your ability to smell, so our natural detection system goes away."Pit gas monitors recommendedInformation about the importance of monitoring for hydrogen sulfide and the types of monitors available for purchase is available in publication AE 3603, Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Monitoring.Monitors are available from ISU Extension, which has several models for farmers to test. READ MORE
August 15, 2017, Ames, IA – A three-year study, starting in 2016, at the Northeast Research and Demonstration Farm in Nashua, IA, began evaluating the impacts of various cropping and nutrient management systems on nitrogen and phosphorus loss through subsurface tile drainage.This is particularly interesting to livestock producers regarding the impacts of swine manure application timing on drainage water quality. The study allows for comparisons between early fall manure application (soil temperatures above 50°F) with and without a cereal rye cover crop and late fall manure applications (soil temperatures below 50°F). Late fall manure with and without a nitrification inhibitor is also being compared to spring manure application. Results from this study will give producers valuable information regarding the water quality impacts of different manure management practices.
August 9, 2017, Lake Mills, IA – Eric Christianson – a 30-year swine industry veterinarian who also operates a contract hog finishing site for Christensen Farms – has a unique perspective on the controversy brewing in nearby Worth County over the prospect of seven concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) being built. Christianson, whose hog site is a $1.5 million operation with computers monitoring and regulating every phase of the operation, said he understands the concerns of the opponents in Worth County. "But the science isn't there to validate their concerns," he said. READ MORE
August 9, 2017, Kensett, IA – An organization calling itself Worth County Against CAFOs recently drew a crowd of about 60 at a meeting about the possible construction of several CAFOs throughout the county. The CAFO opponents are hoping public pressure will lead to a moratorium on construction of CAFOs until Iowa’s Legislature can fix what the group alleges are “loopholes” in the state matrix that allows for easy approval of permits. READ MORE
The Porter Family farm, located in Cabarrus County, N.C., is the definition of diverse. Four generations of Porters raise chickens, hogs, cattle, and run a profitable agritourism business.
September 20, 2017, Meadville, PA – A dairy that was the subject of an investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in May is being sued for an unspecified amount in court in connection to an alleged fish kill at a nearby property. A civil suit was recently filed on behalf of a couple and their home-based business, a pet food manufacturer specializing in rabbit meat. The suit alleges the dairy is "engaged in the business of operating a concentrated animal feed operation (CAFO) and such operation generates silage, manure and other waste products." READ MORE
September 11, 2017, Lynden, WA – Washington State’s watersheds scored a win in late August as agricultural waste company, Regenis, installed the first phosphorous recovery system west of the Cascades at Edaleen Dairy in Lynden, WA. The fine solids separation system – called a Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) unit – removes solids in manure wastewater through a system that injects the tank with air bubbles and organic polymer, causing the solids to float to the surface where they can be skimmed off, dewatered, and stored. Meanwhile, the remaining wastewater can more efficiently be applied to crops, allowing dairies to better manage their nutrient levels as they irrigate their fields. With the DAF, a dairy can remove 80 to 90 percent of the phosphorous and 30 percent of the nitrogen in the wastewater, according to Dr. Craig Frear, Regenis’ director of research. “That translates into a host of economic and environmental benefits,” he said. “After the solids are dewatered, you have natural fertilizer containing two of the most important nutrients for healthy crops along with several micronutrients. Not only is this organic fertilizer less expensive for dairies to transport to their fields, thereby saving fuel, but it also saves them the costs of importing new sources of chemical based phosphorous fertilizers which are unsustainable. These solids can also create a new revenue stream for dairies by selling them to neighboring farms, which creates an exponential benefit for the local environment.” “We invested in the DAF because the future of the dairy industry is evolving, and the needle is moving towards nutrient management systems as a key element in creating a closed loop, sustainable farm where nothing goes to waste, and we steward the land with utmost care so it can feed future generations,” said Mitch Moorlag with Edaleen Dairy. “In the long run, this helps make dairies like ours more competitive, which is a win for consumers who want to support local agricultural producers and the jobs they create in smaller communities.” The DAF unit was funded in part by a matching grant from Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund in 2016 as part of an emphasis on creating a more vibrant clean energy economy and a healthy environment throughout the state. It’s the second fine solids phosphorous separating system in Washington state (both installed by Regenis) and is one of only a handful in North America. “Investments from our Clean Energy Fund are accelerating the pace of innovation and opening new markets for carbon reduction technologies in Washington’s rural agricultural communities,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “It’s exciting to see Regenis and Edaleen Dairy in Whatcom County lead the way in helping the dairy industry address waste management challenges by turning captured nutrients into value-added fertilizer products.” Regenis has now installed four nutrient recovery systems on dairy farms, including the two phosphorous systems and two others designed to strip nitrogen in the form of ammonia from animal wastewater.
September 5, 2017, Watkinsville, GA – Melony Wilson-Cowart, animal waste specialist with the University of Georgia, sent out an alert Sept 5 warning Georgia CAFO operators about the possible impacts from Hurricane Irma. “As you are well aware, hurricanes can produce a lot of rain over a short period of time so now is the time to check your lagoon levels,” she said. “If you expect you are near the path of this hurricane, lower your lagoons to the stop pumping levels, which can be found in your nutrient management plan. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Just always remember safety comes first so be careful out there.” She also forwarded an alert from the University of Georgia’s agriculture climatologist, Pam Knox, who has been watching the progress of Hurricane Irma. “If you are in south Georgia, you could see impacts from the storm as early as Saturday [Sept 9], although most likely you will not see much until Sunday [Sept 10] morning,” Knox said. “The major impacts from the storm in Georgia are likely to be strong winds, locally heavy rains and potential storm surge and high waves if you are along the coast. Some tornadoes are also possible. Because the storm is so powerful, the strong winds and rain could spread out a long way from the center of the storm, so do not let down your guard if the center does not come close to you.” “With wet soils and trees that have been stressed from droughts in previous years, I expect a lot of trees to fall, cutting electrical power to many locations if the storm does not weaken as it moves up from Florida.” “Since power may be out, it would be wise to make sure you have gas and cash for several days just as a precaution,” Knox stated. “Because Irma is moving along at a pretty good clip, we do not expect to see the amount of rain that Texas received from Harvey, but local areas could see some fresh-water flooding. Because of that, agricultural producers may wish to move machinery and livestock to higher terrain.” Knox will be posting updates on her blog [http://blog.extension.uga.edu/climate] as well as on Facebook at SEAgClimate and on Twitter at @SE_AgClimate through the week.
August 10, 2017, Seneca Falls, NY – New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball recently congratulated Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm, located in Wyoming County, as the recipient of the 2017 Agricultural Environmental Management Award. Each year, the award honors the outstanding efforts of a New York State farm to protect and preserve soil and water quality. “Congratulations to the Dueppengiesser Farm on receiving the Agricultural Environmental Management Award,” said Ball. “This family-run farm has long worked with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District to ensure they are taking the steps to take care of the environment while increasing the profitability of their operation.” Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm was recognized, along with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, during a ceremony at the Empire Farm Days, being held in Seneca Falls. The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Empire State Potato Growers, and the American Agriculturist Magazine presented the award to the family for their implementation of conservation best management practices that benefit the environment and protect the community. “At Dueppengisser Dairy, we have always been aware of the need for environmental conservation, and we strive to implement practices that will protect our lands for the future,” said Mike Dueppengiesser, owner of Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm. “Best management practices are a priority for our farm business, and we do our best to keep up with latest technology in conservation efforts such as implementing the use of cover crops, GPS technology, zone tillage and dragline systems. Working closely with our employees, plus collaboration with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, strengthens our environmental stewardship efforts.” Dueppengiesser Dairy Farm is a third-generation family farm that manages nearly 2,000 milking cows and young stock and operates more than 2,000 acres of cropland, producing corn, alfalfa and wheat. As early adopters of the principles of agricultural environment management, the family has implemented several practices, such as reduced tillage, use of cover crops, and nutrient management, to protect soil and water quality. The family is also very active in the community, hosting several agricultural education programs on their farm, including the Farm Bureau School Education Program, Agri-Palooza and the Western New York Soil Health Field Day. The farm has worked closely with the Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District, which provides technical assistance to advance agricultural environmental management practices within the county. The Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District has a very active agricultural environmental management program that has assisted over 361 farms since its inception. Their AEM Strategic Plan focuses on nutrient management and reducing cropland erosion, and Dueppengiesser Dairy Company has implemented various practices to address these issues that will improve soil health and protect water quality.     “The Dueppengeiser family has been a pleasure to work with over the years as they have proactively undergone numerous implementation projects related to improving conservation on their farm, along with hosting many educational outreach programs on their dairy, such as soil health workshops, and Wyoming County’s Agri-Palooza event,” said Greg McKurth, Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District manager. “I am proud of the Wyoming County farms for working collectively and progressively with our district staff to be good stewards of the land.” The annual Agricultural Environmental Management Award is jointly sponsored by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, American Agriculturalist Magazine, and the Empire State Potato Growers. Award winners are chosen from nominees submitted by County Soil and Water Conservation Districts from around the state.
August 9, 2017, Green Bay, WI – Manure runoff from a dairy farm in Manitowoc County is affecting water quality in Pine Creek as it flows through the town of Newton, about five miles south of Manitowoc. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources responded August 7 to a complaint about a potential spill in the creek, which flows into Lake Michigan. The amount of runoff entering the stream is unknown and the impacts downriver are still being investigated at this time. The dairy is working with DNR staff to address the issue and the source from the manure pit has been controlled. Agriculture specialists with the DNR will continue to monitor water quality in the creek.
August 4, 2017, Green Bay, WI – Standing up for hundreds of dairy farmers across Wisconsin, the Dairy Business Association is demanding that the state rein in the Department of Natural Resources for overreaching its legal authority on key regulations. The dairy group recently filed a lawsuit against the DNR that centers on how the agency implements new regulations without going through an approval process required by state law. The lawsuit deals specifically with one example of this pattern of unlawful behavior: changes to how farmers manage rainwater that comes into contact with feed storage or calf hutch areas. Those changes, in which the DNR abruptly abandoned its own earlier directives, are causing costly fixes and still more uncertainty for farmers. “We’re not looking for a free pass on regulations. We’re asking the DNR to follow the rules,” said Mike North, president of the association. “The agency clearly is overstepping its legal boundaries on this and other issues.” For years, the DNR encouraged farmers to build what are called vegetative treatment areas (VTAs) where the water is safely and naturally treated to prevent runoff and protect water quality. In 2016, the agency suddenly did an about-face and began requiring farmers to collect all the water and add it to manure pits for spreading on fields. The move circumvented Act 21, which requires agencies to follow a specific method of rulemaking based on public transparency and lawmaker oversight. The lawsuit seeks to stop DNR’s ongoing efforts to skirt the formal rulemaking process. “Farmers are not above the law. The Department of Natural Resources shouldn’t be either,” North said. The reversal on VTAs is causing farmers to spend millions of dollars on new storage lagoons and calf hutch improvements, creating confusion and uncertainty, and actually increasing the risk of pollution, he said. “The DNR – unfairly, unnecessarily and illegally – is putting the livelihoods of dairy farm families at risk,” he said. “They need to be treated fairly and provided with predictability in order to run their businesses successfully.” The lawsuit also addresses a farm’s duty to apply for a permit. Despite a state law that binds the DNR to federal standards, the DNR has incorrectly adopted its own contradictory requirement. North said the hope is the lawsuit will result in a harmonization of state and federal law, while still providing for environmental oversight of farms. “Dairy farmers are committed to doing the right thing for their cows, their communities and the environment,” he said. “Now, we need the DNR to do the right thing in regulating our farms.” “This lawsuit is about more than VTAs and calf-hutches,” North said. “It is about preventing the DNR from ignoring the law.” “And this affects more than farmers,” he said. “Many businesses and others who deal with the DNR are frustrated as well. All of us – the public – should be concerned when a state agency exceeds its authority. There is a tremendous amount at stake.”
July 17, 2017, Ames, IA – You might wonder what dry weather and feedlot runoff would have in common. On the one hand, the recent spell of hot, dry summer weather has caused expanding areas of moderate drought and excessively dry soils in Iowa and Nebraska. But this spell of dry conditions also makes for an excellent time to maintain your feedlot runoff control system. Extended dry periods create the perfect opportunity to remove settled solids from your settling basin or other areas where manure solids collect during runoff events. Whether it’s a settling basin, a settling bench or terrace, or even the bottom end of feedlot pens, now is a great time to get out there with the loader, box scraper, or other equipment to remove those accumulated solids and dress up the area for the runoff that is sure to return. Land apply those solids if you have application areas available now, or stockpile them in a controlled area if they need to wait until after harvest for application. Make sure the stockpile area is either within the runoff control boundaries for your feedlot, or in an area that is protected from runoff and water flow when it rains. High and dry is the short description of a good stockpile location. While you’re removing separated solids, be sure to check the liquid outlet from the settling area. If you’re using a picket dam or perforated riser to control the outflow, make sure the openings are clean and in good condition. Remember, the purpose of the controlled outlet is to hold liquid in the settling area until solids can settle, and then slowly drain the settled effluent off to an area where it can soak into the ground. Too much opening can let liquids through before solids can settle. Plugged openings can prevent dewatering and drying of the solids to a consistency you can handle. While you’re tending to the settled solids removal, take the opportunity to evaluate the other parts of the system as well. Check the clean water diversion portions: rain gutters on buildings, clean water diversion terraces, and clean water tile drains. Then check your runoff controls beyond the settling area. If you pump your effluent to an application area, check the pump, controls and piping. If you let gravity do the work, follow the flow path down the hill from your settling area and see where it ends. If it ends on flat ground in a pasture, field, or treatment area, you’ll see a few more manure solids that settle and accumulate there, with no eroded gully beyond. If it ends in a waterway, ditch or stream, your manure could be causing negative impacts and putting your operation in regulatory and financial risk. Assessment tools and advice are available in print, online, and from experts who can help. Check out the resource links on the Small Feedlot & Dairy Operations website or contact your industry representatives or an Iowa State University Extension dairy, beef, or engineering field specialist. Kits are even available from selected County ISU Extension offices to help you test water quality. Managing manure runoff centers around more effectively collecting and storing manure, reducing the amount of clean water that mixes with manure, and capturing runoff so manure nutrients can be held and used as fertilizer. The good news is that each of these practices generates additional fertilizer value for your farm at the same time it lowers your risk exposure. So seize the opportunity to maintain your system and take some positive steps to put your manure where it pays.
June 20, 2017, Edmonton, Alta – The Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) is seeking nominations for the 2018 Environmental Stewardship Award (ESA). The ESA recognizes cattle producers whose natural resource stewardship practices contribute to the environment and enhance productivity and profitability. The ABP are asking producers to take this opportunity to share the unique environmental practices employed on their operation and to present the positive story about cattle producers' contribution to the environment. Nomination forms are available on the ABP website, from the ABP office or from any local delegate. All cattle producers are encouraged to either enter or nominate another producer who is taking strides towards sound environmental production practices. A team of judges made up of ABP delegates, the 2017 ESA winner and an industry associate will review the submissions and tour the nominated ranching operations. Each applicant will be scored on predetermined criteria unique to the practices they implement in their business. The winner will receive a commemorative gate sign, a video highlighting their ranching operation and an all-expenses paid trip from anywhere in Alberta to the 2017 ABP Annual General Meeting in Calgary, where the award will be presented at a formal banquet. The competition is open to all cattle producers. Deadline for nominations is July 15, 2017, and the winner will be announced December 2017. Contact the Alberta Beef Producers at 403-451-1183.
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
August 30, 2017, Waunakee, WI - After four years of experimenting with composting on his dairy farm near Waunakee, Jeff Endres believes "there's a lot of upside to composting that we don't know about yet."He told a large tour of attendees from the North American Manure Expo in nearby Arlington that the fertilizer value and bedding potential of compost are already apparent on his family's Endres Berryridge Farm, operated with brothers Randy and Steve, but he is still learning about the energizing effect compost has on the soil.One hint of that aspect of compost use is that his alfalfa acres that have been fertilized with compost for two years have out-yielded all other alfalfa fields. "It's enough to notice," he said. "That told me this isn't hurting me. There's something to it."He also noted that one problem they had before utilizing compost in their system is that steep alfalfa fields could not be fertilized with liquid manure and as such started to decline in fertility. Once they had the environmentally friendly, stable compost, they could feed those fields with it. They also found that applying compost to a growing crop didn't harm the plants."There are not a lot of barriers to composting," he said. "No farmer is going to go into it as crazy as we did, but I got sick of digging holes in the ground to store manure. For us, this was a way to utilize the nutrients we already have in our farm system."I don't think farmers should ever have to give nutrients away," he said.Two busloads of visitors from Manure Expo joined another busload of guests from the Madison Clean Lakes Alliance to visit the Endres farm on Aug. 22 and they asked some pointed questions of the compost experimenter.He told them that he could probably build and use a liquid manure system more cheaply than operating his compost system. Just over a year ago the Endres family incorporated a large compost barn into a new set of buildings where they raise their dairy herd replacements.Two identically sized barns (65 by 220 feet) house the farm's heifer calves from four months to 13 months of age. Both barns feature tunnel ventilation and additional cooling fans which aid fly control; the air moving at 5 miles per hour keeps flies away. "The compost process, with the heat that is generated, is also very friendly to fly control," he adds. READ MORE
The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Animal Waste Technology Fund provides grants to companies demonstrating new technologies on farms and providing alternative strategies for managing animal manure.These technologies can cover a range of innovations – generate energy from animal manure, reduce on-farm waste streams, and repurpose manure by creating marketable fertilizer and other value added products such as compost.In October, MDA awarded Veteran Compost of Harford County, Maryland, and O2Compost of Washington State a grant for $350,300 to develop a compost demonstration project plus a public education and training facility in Anne Arundel County for livestock farmers.The project will demonstrate aerated static pile (ASP) composting technology systems at three levels: small scale (one to four horses or livestock equivalents); medium scale: (five to 20); and large scale: (20 to 40).All three compost systems will be solar powered to demonstrate off-grid sustainability. The medium and large systems will include storage tanks to retain roof water for use in the composting process.The project will also include formal classes and hands-on workshops, public tours for students in kindergarten through college, and alliances with government agencies and non-profit environmental organizations. In addition, a compost cooperative website will be developed to bring together producers and end users of the finished compost products.The compost systems that are displayed will be ones that have been in use since 2001. Peter Moon, owner of O2Compost, says he started out in the composting industry in 1989, designing and permitting large-scale municipal green waste systems. Then, in the mid-1990s, he started applying some of the industrial ideas to compost dairy and chicken manure. After seeing a chicken farm that was composting mortalities that looked tidy but suffered from terrible odor issues, he decided that an aerated bin system was what was needed. It took him a few months to figure out the answer and was convinced that it would work.“I ended up building a prototype in my back yard because I had to prove to myself that it would work, and it worked way better than I had hoped,” he says.Today, O2Compost offers what they call Compost Operator Training Programs. They include four basic components – the design of the system, the aeration equipment package, a detailed training manual written in layman’s terms, and unlimited technical support – for a fixed fee.“It’s this system and three stages of bins that will be on display,” he says. “Although I don’t know of any other company that is offering anything like it, I want to make clear I didn’t invent the concept of aerated composting. Aerated static pile (ASP) composting was first developed in the mid-1970s in Beltsville, Maryland. I just reconfigured it into an aerated bin system.”When the MDA put out the RFP in 2016, Peter immediately thought of his client and good friend, Justen Garrity, owner of Veteran Company based out of Aberdeen, Maryland. The two had known and worked with each other since 2010 when Justen took Peter’s training program. Veteran Compost has a 30-acre farm in Aberdeen and is dedicated to employing veterans and their family members and turning food scraps into high-quality compost. The crown jewel of Veteran Compost is its vermicomposting operation –it’s one of the only commercial worm composting operations in Maryland.Peter approached Justen and suggested that, since the company was located in Maryland, why didn’t they set up a demonstration site with bins and a larger open aerated static pile system and use it to instruct farmers in Maryland and neighboring states. They could come to them, participate in a half-day workshop and then come out to the site and see it, sense it, understand it and learn.Justen could immediately see the value in this partnership, and so did MDA. In 2016, O2Compost and Veteran Compost received the grant.The project would already be operational today, except for one snag. Justen and Peter had challenges finding a good site, because people in the area have been reluctant to have a composting site near them because of potential odor issues. This is despite the fact that Justen’s composting facility in Aberdeen has received zero odor complaints from neighbors in the six years that it’s been operating.“Justen has also had to go through a process with Anne Arundel County to allow for composting on agricultural zone property,” says Peter.It has taken a long time and numerous public hearings, but recently the county commissioners voted unanimously to allow this activity on agricultural zoned land.Ironically, these systems will demonstrate why compost doesn’t have to generate offensive odors for several reasons: the ASP compost piles are not turned; airflow is induced into the piles resulting in aerobic conditions throughout the pile; and a biofilter cover is used for in-situ treatment of off-gases. “It has been my experience that most people think that compost piles need to be turned to get oxygen into it,” says Peter. “What they don’t understand is that when a biologically active pile is turned, the oxygen that is introduced into the compost is then consumed by the microorganisms and depleted within 30 to 45 minutes.”With regard to composting at the training facility, Peter and Justen will induce airflow using a high pressure, high volume electric blower and push air into the pile to replenish the oxygen and displace CO2, heat and water out of the pile.In short, ASP composting results in aerobic composting versus turned windrow composting, which results in anaerobic composting.Drainage isn’t a factor for the smaller systems because the bins are covered with roof structures. However, for municipal scale compost facilities managing storm water, it is always an important consideration.“For the larger systems, municipal-type scale, yes, typically we’ll construct a pond of some kind to handle any surface water run-off.”The liquid collected is then re-introduce back into the compost pile as process water, or in some cases directed to a sanitary sewer for processing at the local wastewater treatment plant. “Our goal with composting is to get the pile temperature throughout the pile to exceed 55oC (equivalent to 131oF) for a minimum of three days. Meeting these time-temperature conditions effectively destroys pathogens, parasites and weed seeds in the finished compost,” says Peter.The objective is to produce a high quality compost product that is safe to use on pastures or in vegetable and landscape gardens.Moisture is always an important factor when composting, and will be one of the things farmers will learn more about at the site.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.manuremanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=11&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleriada190adfcb “Our goal is to have the moisture content somewhere between 60 and 65 percent, going into the pile,” says Peter. “At that moisture content, it will feel quite wet and you can squeeze a handful and get a drop or two to come out. At this moisture content, it won’t drain free-water that could impact surface and ground water resources.”Peter says with dairy and pig manure, even if it’s run through a separator and the fibrous material is stacked, the base can get saturated because the water just continues to drain out. It can fill the pipes under the stack with water. To avoid this, some type of dry “bulking” material can be added. Peter often encourages dairies to look to horse stables in their area or even equine events.“Horse farms always have that same problem, but it tends to be very carbon rich and very dry, which is exactly what you want to marry-up with wet substrates.”Flexibility is built into the system.“For example, companies may accumulate their food waste in batches and then mix it up to compost out. Or you can build a pile over a 30-day period as you would on a horse farm,” says Peter. “The idea with the MDA grant is to teach people what is possible, and that there is a method that’s simple and effective and an excellent investment on their farm with an ROI of two to five years.”There is also flexibility in the use of pipes. With small, aerated bin systems, the air is delivered by an air-floor and there are no pipes to work around.For larger systems, aeration pipes can be laid directly on the ground with the pile constructed directly on top. Some farms sacrifice the pipe when they bring in their frontend loaders. Others choose a thick-walled HDPE pipe.“That pipe can literally be pulled out from underneath the pile and reused.”One of the key features of the system is low maintenance. Once the compost pile has been built, it’s pretty much hands off. The blower and timer to do all of the work.“You monitor the composting process, but you don’t need the big windrow turner and someone out there driving it,” says Peter. “You’re not paying for fuel, maintenance or repairs and you are able to greatly reduce air emissions. ASP Composting requires about 25 percent of the space when compared to turned windrow composting, and it can be operated at less than 50 percent of the cost.”Both Peter and Justen feel that once the training facility is in operation, which looks to be late summer of 2017, farmers will be excited to discover that aerated static pile composting yields too many benefits to ignore. It speeds up the process, reduces odors and basically eliminates neighbor issues. It also destroys parasites, pathogens and weed seeds in the mix, has a small footprint, reduces the cost of operation, can handle any organic waste material and is simple to operate. “The question I get a lot is, ‘If this is all so easy and it’s everything you say it is, why isn’t everybody already doing it?’” asks Peter. “For some reason everybody is just locked onto the idea you need to turn the pile, but you don’t. We have over 1,200 systems in operation in 21 countries. It is a simple technology that is easy to learn – and it works.”
Livestock producers in California received a crash course in composting earlier this summer.Nine consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees in the Central Valley area of the state resulted in a large jump in cattle deaths. According to an agricultural official in Fresno County, between 4,000 and 6,000 head of livestock died in the month of June due to the heat. Adding to the problem was the temporary shutdown, due to a mechanical problem, of the local rendering plant. As a result, a state of emergency was called in at least three counties and the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) released an emergency mortality disposal advisory. Under the plan, producers were provided with three options to dispose of mortalities: directly transport the carcasses to an alternate rendering facility or permitted landfill; temporarily store mortalities on farm in compost piles until they could be permanently disposed of; or, as a last resort, bury the carcasses in an emergency landfill on farm, which still required a mountain load of paperwork and possibly thousands of dollars in fees.According to the five-page advisory, producers were encouraged to put down a waterproof liner and use dairy manure solids as a composting agent, placing each adult carcass on a three foot bed of manure and then covering with a second layer of manure three feet deep. By doing this, farmers could buy themselves an extra six months of time before the carcasses needed to be disposed of permanently off farm.“Staff will be looking for evidence of bones and carcasses that have been left more than six months,” the advisory warned, adding the number and identity of the animals composted plus documentation they had been properly disposed of would also be required.While this isn’t the first time California has dealt with large-scale livestock deaths due to heat, it will be interesting to see how the agriculture and landfill industry deals with the added pressure to the carcass disposal system. With the threat of animal disease outbreaks, such as bird flu or foot and mouth disease, always in the background, this negative situation provides an opportunity to test-drive the official response. Heaven forbid it would be required on a state- or nation-wide scale but it’s always prudent to be prepared.I look forward to any lessons learned which come after the debrief.Speaking of composting, producers and custom manure applicators can learn more about the management practice and see relevant equipment in action during the North American Manure Expo, taking place in late August at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station near Arlington, Wisc. I consider Expo one of my favorite industry events of the year. What isn’t there to enjoy? Farmers, family, food, friends, farm equipment, information, demonstrations, community: the important things in life.This Manure-a-palooza takes a year or more of planning to bring to fruition, including hours of committee meetings and conference calls. As a frequent participant in these morning gatherings, I can attest to the time and effort by industry volunteers that goes into preparing for this event. Be sure to check out the event website – manureexpo.org – and consider taking part.
Texan Jack Moreman, owner of Rolling Plains Ag Compost, is proof positive that those who teach can also do. In fact, he has parlayed his extensive feedlot and manure management knowledge into a highly successful organic fertilizer and soil amendment business.Moreman, a retired vocational agriculture teacher with an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University, began his career by managing a cattle feedlot. He then spent over 25 years teaching at Texas Christian University and Clarendon Community College, where he developed and taught a two-year program in ranch and feedlot management.Six years ago, this 81-year-old launched a successful turnkey manure composting and organic fertilizer application business headquartered in Clarendon, Texas, that has since doubled in size with 15 employees. Clarendon is about 65 miles southeast of Amarillo. The company’s motto is, “Giving nature a hand and conserving the land.”“I feel very strongly about conserving our resources,” says Moreman. “I think composting is one of the better things that we do, and the area that we are in, you could have three different soil types in one field, from sandy loam, to dark clay, to caliche. Compost improves the soil structure and the ability for the carbon molecules to hold the nutrients in place till the plant can get hold of it.”A group of eight feedlot owners, who together raise about 200,000 head of cattle, annually supply Moreman with the manure he needs to make compost. The company uses its compost turning equipment on land dedicated by each feedlot to convert over 720,000 tons of raw feedlot manure annually into about 300,000 tons of compost. It then sells the compost to farmers as organic fertilizer and a soil amendment, providing the equipment and personnel to land apply it for them.Rolling Plains Ag Compost makes its money from the sale and application of the compost, with a percentage of that income paid to the feedlot owners for supplying the raw manure.Moreman says that there are two main reasons why the feedlots are eager to work with Rolling Plains Ag Compost. Firstly, when the feedlot cleans its pens and stockpiles the manure, it typically is compacted in large chunks, which makes it very difficult to land apply. Its nutrient content is also highly variable in this form and it often is full of weed seeds. Because the raw manure is in larger chunks, it usually takes a couple of years to break down in the field, which is why farmers tend to not see any value from it until the second year after application. However, by providing the raw manure to a composter, the large chunks are broken down, it is easier to land apply, and the nutrients are available immediately upon incorporation. Also, farmers who have applied raw manure on their fields have found that this material tends to have unwanted debris like pipes and cables mixed in with it.Secondly, working with a composter like Rolling Plains Ag Compost, reduces the feedlots’ potential liability concerning land applying of raw manure. Moreman says based on feedback from his feedlot suppliers, the decision to compost the manure rather than land apply it has made a big difference when it comes to dealing with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).“Our feedlot operators tell us that if an inspector from the EPA or Texas Water Quality Board comes by and they see that they are composting that manure and hauling it out, the inspectors don’t ever bother them because that’s what they want to see done with it,” says Moreman. “But if the inspectors go in there and they have a huge pile that’s so big that it interferes with TV reception, then they get concerned.”The composting processes gets rid of many of the pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure, and reduces the volume. Moreman says that it reduces the manure volume by as much as 5-to-1. So there is a lot less material to land apply and it tends to have more consistent nutrient content.Because the feedlots feed their cattle concentrated rations, there is little, if any, roughage like hay or bedding material like straw mixed in with the manure, which actually makes it more valuable as a raw material for making compost because there is little to no filler.“Dairy manure is probably worth about half as much as cattle feedlot manure because a dairy operation will typically feed a lot of hay and silage to their cattle,” says Moreman. “These beef cattle are on a high grain ration and they are not subjected to a lot of roughage, because these feedlot owners want their cattle to eat a lot of grain and convert that to beef. That’s kind of the name of the game.”Moreman’s business operates year round. Employees are either creating the windrows, turning the windrows, or land applying the compost for farm customers.“We are either putting compost on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat or irrigated pasture,” says Jack. “There is a crop coming off at all times, so they need compost pretty much all the time.”While there is year-round demand, there are times of greater and lesser demand. May to July tends to be the slowest time of year, after spring crops are planted.An important selling point to marketing the compost to farm customers is its ability to improve the water holding capacity of the soils where it is applied. Water is a valuable commodity to farmers in that part of Texas. Adding compost to dense soils increases their aeration and drainage capacity, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Most of Rolling Plains Ag Compost’s customers participate in a program where they land-apply compost on each parcel of land on a two-to-three year rotation.The company has worked hard to build its farm customer base, and Moreman’s background as an educator has helped. He spends considerable time hosting seminars and speaking to individual farmers about the benefits of using compost. His effort has paid off.“You can be assured of one thing that if they try it, we are going to make a sale next time around,” says Moreman.While compost has significant nutrient value, it does not necessarily fulfil all the farmer’s nutrient needs but represents only part of the overall puzzle. The company’s customers understand that. Most will need to add some commercial fertilizer, depending on the crop they are growing.   View the embedded image gallery online at: https://www.manuremanager.com/index.php?option=com_k2&Itemid=11&lang=en&layout=latest&view=latest#sigProGalleria6c70c1183b Typically, a feedlot will stockpile its raw manure as it cleans its pens and then Rolling Plains Ag Compost will bring in their own loaders and trucks to transport the manure to a drainage-controlled parcel of land that the feedlot has designated as its composting area. This can measure anywhere from 20 to 40 acres. The company will create a compost windrow that measures approximately six-feet tall by up to 16-feet wide. The windrow will be as long as required by the amount of raw manure being converted. In the past, they have measured anywhere from a quarter-mile to a mile long.The composting process consists of windrow turning, temperature measurement and moisture measure to ensure that the microorganisms responsible for the biological conversion process within the windrows are doing their job. Part of the reason for the turning process is to ensure that the windrows are well oxygenated to support the microorganisms. As the conversion process takes place, the windrows can heat up to as much as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.To turn the windrows, Rolling Plains Ag Compost uses a CT718 compost turner by Wildcat, which is a Vermeer company. With a 44-inch diameter drum to turn, mix and aerate the material, it can process up to 5,000 tons of manure per hour. The turning takes place typically once a week. After about six weeks, the raw manure has been converted to compost and it is ready for land application. Moreman says the compost turner is a large and powerful piece of equipment with a 500 hp Caterpillar engine. He adds that it is sturdy enough to break down the chunks in the manure pile.Rolling Plains Ag Compost has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks to deliver the compost to farm customers. At all stages of the pen cleaning, composting, and land application process, the company depends on a large fleet of John Deere loaders to move the material as needed. Once the compost is delivered to the farm, the compost is temporarily stockpiled beside the field and then loaded into New Leader spreaders to land apply the compost. Rolling Plains Ag Compost owns four of them. New Leader is a type of nutrient applicator manufactured by Highway Equipment Company (HECO) located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Rolling Plains Ag Compost operation, the applicators are mounted on either Chevrolet or International trucks.Moreman says that these New Leader nutrient applicators are large and purpose-built. The box consists of a stainless steel bed with a conveyor on the bottom. The conveyor propels the compost to the back of the box, where spinners broadcast the material onto the land. The company will deploy as many nutrient applicators as needed for each job, but when all four are working, their customers are amazed at how quickly the job gets done.“They are also very accurate,” says Jack. “There is a GPS unit on them to ensure that you don’t leave any part of the field out, and if you do, it will tell you.”In terms of application amounts, Rolling Plains Ag Compost recommends four tons per acre on irrigated land and two-to-three tons on dry land. Once the farmer has some experience using the compost, they usually make adjustments on future applications based on the responses that they have experienced.
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
September 18, 2017, Salisbury, MD – Maryland's environmental agency is considering allowing construction to move forward on what would be the largest chicken farm in Wicomico County's history. The Maryland Department of the Environment on Aug. 4 gave preliminary approval for the project to move forward. At a recent MDE hearing in Salisbury, several neighbors and environmental advocates called on regulators to reconsider their decision before it becomes final. READ MORE
July 31, 2017, Lumberton, N.C. - Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the renewable energy plant that's turning its waste into electricity.It's a new twist on an old joke, but it's true. Georgia Renewable Power (GRP) is restoring a former coal power plant to do exactly that, in the rural community of Lumberton, North Carolina.Agriculture is an enormous industry in North Carolina. Known as the American Broiler Belt, the state garners hundreds of thousands of jobs from this industry, most of which comes from poultry. More than 5,700 farmers sell this type of harvest statewide and the local economy is $37 billion larger because of it.Reflecting this success, chicken coops are expanding, both in size and in number. But because some of these farms produce 700 tons or more poultry manure each year, they're exceeding the amount of farmland that can use it as fertilizer. It has to go somewhere else, and if not managed properly, unneeded manure can be dangerous to the health of local waterways and the people who depend on them. READ MORE 
July 4, 2017, Somerset County, NJ - A giant facility being planned in Somerset County may convert tons of chicken litter into electricity some day, but first it may need to make converts out of skeptical neighbors and environmentalists.Its critics charge that the anaerobic digester, if built, would pollute the air with methane and nearby waterways with nutrients while giving further license to the region's poultry industry to continue its expansion. READ MORE
May 16, 2017, Lancaster, PA - Farmers have been referred to as the first environmentalists. Their livestock and crops depend on a healthy environment to thrive. Still, there’s often room for improvement. According to some early findings from a study by Penn State graduate student Erica Rogers, poultry producers are potentially lowering their impact on the Chesapeake Bay. Rogers and fellow Penn State graduate student Amy Barkley discussed those initial findings from their two master’s thesis projects with the poultry service technicians attending Monday’s Penn State Poultry Health and Management Seminar at the Lancaster Farm and Home Center. Her project’s goal is to accurately depict poultry’s contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load. The Chesapeake Bay “is one of the most studied watersheds in the world,” she said, but the problem with the current model is “they are using outdated information for poultry.” Rogers built her work around the concept that poultry litter management has changed and farmers have adopted more precise diets for their flocks. READ MORE
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
September 13, 2017, Alpine Township, MI – A 56-year-old man lost his arm recently in a farming accident. According to Kent County police, he was working near the PTO shaft of a manure spreader when his clothes became entangled and his arm was wrapped up in the shaft. READ MORE
September 12, 2017, Lancaster, PA – At the third Waste to Worth conference in mid-April in Raleigh, NC, one of the topics covered was evaluating agricultural best management practices in the Chesapeake Bay program. A major objective is to bring science-based facts to support the use of practices that will improve the watershed and be reflected in the bay model. READ MORE
September 7, 2017, Idaho Falls, ID – The Idaho National Laboratory has released multiple new open-source software projects, including a program aimed at helping with manure management decisions. The Decision-support for Digester-Algae IntegRation for Improved Environmental and Economic Sustainability (DAIRIEES) was developed in collaboration with the University of Idaho and Boise State University. It is a novel treatment system to mitigate many current environmental concerns of manure management and create value-added product from manure, including bioplastics, electricity, fertilizer and animal bedding. DAIRIEES allows users to enter characteristics about a dairy farm’s manure, manure management plan and regional market. Based on these inputs, the options are analyzed in detail using data from laboratory research to determine the most efficient use of this material. You can read more about it at dairiees.inl.gov. All of the programs are freely available to the public and open to collaboration directly with researchers and engineers outside of the laboratory. It’s hoped that by fostering widespread distribution of the software, it will accelerate the adoption of these technologies within industry and fuel innovation in other research organizations that may build on them. All of INL’s open-source software may be acquired at no cost at github.com/idaholab, including the following recent additions to INL’s open-source software portfolio.
August 30, 2017, Ohio - When hay is harvested nutrients are removed from the field. A ton of alfalfa removes approximately 13 pounds of phosphorus (as P2O5) and 50 pounds of potash (as K2O). According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio harvested 2.6 tons per acre of alfalfa in 2016.Many hay fields are not pure alfalfa. The acidic soils of the southern and eastern parts of the state make it difficult to maintain an alfalfa or clover stand so a mixed stand of grass and alfalfa/clover is common. Stands in older fields are often just mostly grass. A grass hay crop will remove just as many nutrients per ton as an alfalfa crop. The big difference is that the annual yields from grass hay fields are usually about 1.3 tons per acre lower than alfalfa fields.Livestock manure can be used as a fertilizer source to replace nutrients removed through hay harvest. Pen pack beef manure will contain approximately 7.9 pounds of nitrogen (mostly in the organic form), 4.4 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 6.6 pounds of potash (K20) per ton according to OSU Extension bulletin 604. Note that these are older book values and your actual farm manure nutrient levels can vary depending upon the animal's ration, the amount and type of bedding material used and how manure is stored and handled. The recommendation is to sample and test manure at least on a yearly basis. This will provide a more reliable indication of the actual nutrient content of the manure on your farm. For more information about how and when to sample manure, Penn State Extension has a good publication available on-line at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/nutrient-management/educational/manure-storage-and-handling/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning.Let's assume a livestock producer wants to use pen pack beef manure to replenish the nutrients in a hay field where he harvested three tons per acre of hay. Since alfalfa and grass hay both remove similar amounts of nutrients per ton, we can assume the three tons of hay removed per acre contained 39 pounds of P2O5 and 150 pounds of K2O. If pen pack beef manure was used to replenish these nutrients, 8.8 tons per acre would be sufficient to replace the phosphorus. However, a rate of 22.7 tons per acre would be needed to replace the potash. The 22.7 ton per acre manure application rate would result in almost 100 pounds of P2O5 being applied per acre, far more than was removed in the three tons of hay.A farmer would need to be cautious about using this practice repeatedly and growing the soil phosphorus level. It takes about 20 pounds of phosphorus applied to a field to raise the soil test level one pound per acre or two parts per million. So if the soil test level is low, the additional phosphorus from the manure would not raise the soil phosphorus level much in a single year.The key to using livestock manure to replace the nutrients removed through hay harvest is to get even distribution of the manure across the entire field. Having mowed hay fields as a teenager, where bedded pack manure was applied, I would strongly urge an even distribution pattern across the field. Avoid large clumps that will plug the mower or interfere with regrowth.If you are unsure how many tons per acre your solid manure spreader applies there is a simple way to make a determination. Make a heavy plastic piece that is 56 inches by 56 inches. Fasten it to the ground with weights on the corners and apply manure across the plastic. Fold up the plastic and weigh the manure captured. Many people use a bathroom scales for this. One pound of manure captured on the plastic is equivalent to one ton of manure applied per acre. Thus, if you captured 10 pounds of manure the application rate was 10 tons per acre.It is common for county extension offices to have farmers ask; "Can manure be applied between cuttings"? The answer is "yes". Farmers commonly use liquid swine and liquid dairy manure between cuttings to replace soil nutrients and "boost" regrowth of the forage crop in northwest Ohio. There is the potential to damage the crowns of the forage plants but most farmers seem to like the results of the manure application. Solid manure could also be applied between cuttings instead of waiting until fall to apply the manure. The manure application should take place as some as the hay is baled.Liquid beef manure is also being used to replace nutrients in hay fields. Liquid beef manure we have sampled has contained 40 pounds nitrogen (about half in the organic form and half in the ammonium form), 35 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 30 pounds of potash (K20) per 1000 gallons of product. Applied with a drag hose, this can be an excellent fertilizer for a forage.A final cautionary note regarding manure application to forage fields: If manure is coming from a herd with animals infected by Johne's disease, that disease can be transmitted by manure to healthy cattle. According to a publication from the US Dairy Forage Research Center at Madison Wisconsin and authored by Michael Russelle and Bill Jokela, the Johne's bacterium can survive on hay. Therefore, those authors' recommendation is that in herds with Johne's, manure should not be applied as a topdressing on fields that will be harvested as dry hay.
Horses tend to fall under the radar when we think of manure management, says Les Ober, certified crop advisor with Ohio State University Extension in Geauga County.“That is until somebody makes a mistake and pollutes someone else’s water, or they offend their neighbors with flies or odor,” he says. “That’s when the neighbor calls up the water conservation district and says, ‘Hey, this guy is piling manure up and he isn’t doing anything with it.’ Most of the cases in our county, where the guys (inspectors) have been called out, have not been on dairy farms or livestock farms, they’ve been on horse farms.”Ober’s county, just east of Cleveland, has the second-highest horse population in Ohio, and he has worked extensively with equine professionals. His clients generally have small farms, small lots, with a relatively small number of animals. He advises them on hay quality, pasture management, and manure and nutrient management.In his work, he has found that there are some common problems in the industry.“When I talk to horse owners, of course the first thing they’re looking at is a nice new arena, or increasing the number of stalls. But what are you going to do with the manure?” he asks. “You have to think of that problem before you move ahead or move horses into the stalls. You can’t just pile it up at the back door and hope it goes away. Manure is a problem, it can offend the neighbors and it can definitely compromise water quality.”The two areas of environmental concern are the manure produced inside the stable, and also the manure that is produced outside.“In our area we normally have guys with four or five acres trying to keep six horses. That’s bad business, you can’t do that, especially if you’ve got a boarding stable. You’ve got to turn them out year round. What are you going to do with those horses when you turn them out? If you’re lucky the ground will be frozen but most often it’s just covered with snow and you’re going to turn it into a quagmire.”“Here’s two things you have to look at; first, the manure inside the stable. What are you going to do with that?” he asks.Of the manure produced outside, “what about the water quality issues outside that barn?”“The first thing we’re going to look at is grazing, which is the traditional pastime of horses. They are just like sheep. They will graze right to the ground. Eventually, they will graze it down till everything is gone and then they will go after the grass under the fences. That is when you know you have hungry horses,” he says.“One thing you have to understand about horses is that they are pretty much like a conveyor belt – food goes in, poop comes out and it’s continuous. Horses graze 22 hours out of 24.”Artificial measures can be taken to protect pastures from excessive erosion due to weather, grazing or turnout.“It is part of the real solution to all weather turnout. This has been a real boon for the horse industry, it’s not cheap but it is definitely part of the solution,” Ober says.He explains that they take a pasture area that has been cordoned off and make sure it drains well, tiling it as needed. Then they bring in geodesic cloth and put it down as a ground cover to provide some support and so gravel is not lost. Then they cover it, first with a very coarse limestone, working up to a very fine limestone cover.“This creates a pad that the horses follow and that solves the turnout problem,” he says. “They don’t need to be out on pastures in the middle of December punching the pasture up, then there’s a good rain and all the manure and soil that’s out there washes into the creek. That’s a problem you’ll have to deal with.”The choice of bedding can be another issue.“The big problem is that the majority of that bedding that is choosen is sawdust and wood chips,” he says. “It takes too long to break down, so you’ll need more microbial activity and that will suck up all the available nitrogen in the soil to break down the carbon in the shavings and bedding and you’ll have stunted grass.”Ober notes that nitrogen ratios for wood chips, sawdust bedding are 200 to 750 to one.“For straw bedding it’s 50 to 150 to one, which is not too bad to have to break down,” he says.“You need to source the right bedding; straw is about $4 per bale, shavings $4 to $8. Overall cost is going to be about $45 to $46 for straw and $35 to $40 for wood shavings. Another factor to consider is that cleaning sawdust and wood shavings out of a stall is labor intensive and expensive.”Ober points to an OSU fact sheet on nitrogen enhancement and says that if you are going to haul manure on a daily basis, you will want to add about a half cup of ammonium sulfate into your wheelbarrow load.“This should give you enough nitrogen to start that break down process,” he says. “I would like to see maybe half to a full cup added, and I will tell you that it does work very, very well.”Another option that people have used is the dumpster.“This is a popular way because people today just don’t know how to get rid of horse manure. In one situation there is one dumpster for six horses that is picked up and emptied every three weeks. That works out to about $3,000 per year. If you are boarding horses, you have to consider the $250 to $300 a month for manure. That’s a major cost.“Many farmers are using this system simply because their backs are against the wall,” Ober says. “You will save money during the summer months (when turned out) as opposed to winter but this is still not a good system for dealing with manure.”Composting is another solid option for manure.“We don’t see it used that much but there are definite advantages,” he says.Make a pile about three feet high and seven feet wide, and aim for the optimal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.“We want to maintain the moisture so that when you grab that material you feel the moisture. Too much water kills the bacterial action. You need to keep rotating the pile and aerating it. You will end up with a product that is very, very good and you’ll be able to save most of the nitrogen. If you bring it into a nitrate form it will not leave the ground as fast. This is another sound management tool.”Ober explains that the reason composting is not yet popular in the horse industry is due to the carbon to nitrogen ratio.“If you can get ahold of some other materials to get in there, some green materials, some other animal material, source all the green clippings or straw then bring it all together and bring it into a compost pile,” he says.When it is done, the compost has been through a complete cycle and the product is very good and can be used in landscaping and throughout parks.“The process kills pathogens, flies and bacteria,” Ober explains. “The difficulty is the high carbon to nitrogen ratios, and if you use just saw dust it could take up to two to three years to get that pile of compost down just right.“We’re talking about horse manure. And, we can haul it to landfill sites or we can get it back out to the farm where it can do some good. It is a good product and full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.”The first thing you have to do if spreading horse manure on the field is to take a soil test.
August 11, 2017, Wexford, Ireland – More than 250 delegates from across Europe and around the world will gather in Wexford next month to discuss a range of scientific research topics with potentially profound importance for the future environmental performance of Irish agriculture. The biennial Ramiran (Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network) conference is being hosted by Teagasc and will focus on new cutting-edge strategies and technologies to improve the efficiency of manure and residue management on farms. READ MORE

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