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.
Smithfield has numerous operations, both plants and farms, and more than 14,000 employees across both states, and has enacted its hurricane preparedness procedures.
Employees in the company's eastern Virginia and North Carolina plants and on its approximately 250 company-owned farms and 1,500 contract farms are taking steps to protect people, animals, and buildings against wind and rain damage.
On its farms, the company has been closely monitoring and, as necessary, lowering lagoon levels in accordance with state regulations and farms' nutrient management plans, and encouraging its contract growers to do the same. Learn more about manure management here, which is an ongoing, year-round process.
“The safety of our employees is top of mind and we will continue to actively monitor the storm's track and adjust production schedules accordingly,” said Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods senior vice president of corporate affairs. “We will also remain in constant contact with state emergency and regulatory personnel throughout the event.”
According to a report in the Derby Telegraph, as the driver tried to overtake the tractor, the vehicle collided with the slurry outlet on the tanker. Unable to detach from the outlet, the tractor dragged the car along the road. Even more alarming was the fact the car began to fill with pig manure.
The Derbyshire Roads Police Unit was met with a bit of a mess when they arrived to investigate the collision on the A515. But they had lots of fun posting photos of the incident on Twitter with the punch line: “Think you have had a bad day?”
Based on the results of past research, bedding mixtures containing pine shavings produce less odors and have lower levels of total E. coli compared to bedding mixtures containing other crop- and wood-based materials. Unfortunately, availability and affordability may limit the use of pine bedding in beef deep-bedded facilities.
But recent research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service has found that some odor relief is possible if pine bedding is mixed with readily available and affordable corn stover bedding.
During the study, mixtures of bedding materials, containing zero, 10, 20, 30, 40, 60, 80, and 100 percent pine chips combined with corn stover, were tested over a seven-week period for odor generation and presence of E. coli. Results showed that including even 10 percent pine chips in the mixture lowered the concentration of skatole, a highly odorous compound emitted from livestock waste. When 100 percent pine chips were used, skatole was reduced by 88 percent compared to using corn stover alone. Including greater than 60 percent pine chips in the mixture increased the concentration of odorous sulfur compounds up to 2.4 times compared to corn stover.
Bedding material did not affect E. coli.
Researchers are suggesting a bedding material mixture that contains 30 to 60 percent pine and 40 to 70 percent corn stover may be the ideal combination to mitigate odorous emissions from livestock facilities using deep-bedded systems.
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.
March 20, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – The Manitoba government is introducing proposed legislation that would reduce outdated, contradictory, complicated or ineffective regulatory requirements imposed on businesses, industry and local governments, Finance Minister Cameron Friesen said recently.
Among the regulatory changes being considered is removal of general prohibitions from the province’s Environment Act for the expansion of hog barns and manure storage facilities.
“Our government recognizes the status quo has created unnecessary challenges for both industry and government,” said Friesen. “The proposed changes were identified as priority actions by both industry leaders and the civil service. Once implemented, these changes would improve efficiency and effectiveness, making it easier for all Manitobans to prosper and focus on their priorities.”
The Manitoba government introduced the freeze on new hog barn construction and expansions near Lake Winnipeg starting in 2006, expanding it province-wide in 2011. The province’s ban on winter manure spreading was imposed in 2013. Both pieces of legislation were aimed at reducing phosphorus runoff into waterways.
According to my youngest child, he’s just too darn healthy.
January 18, 2017 – The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center has partnered with the Manure & Soil Health team to present four roundtables aimed at improving knowledge and understanding about the role of manure in soil health.
The four, hour-long roundtables will consist of a panel discussion with two to three experts who will be asked to summarize their current understanding of each roundtable topic. Each panel will also include a practitioner who will share perspective on critical information needs of farmers and advisors and field experiences relative to use of manure. Panels will be moderated to encourage interaction with audience. Roundtable participants will be invited to ask questions of panelists and share expertise and experience through polling pods and a chat box.
All of the roundtables start at 11 a.m. CT (noon ET) and in the following order:
- Feb. 9, 2017 – Manure & soil health testing (Dr. Bianca Moebius-Clune, Donna Brandt, Russell Dresbach, Geoff Ruth)
- Feb. 16, 2017 – Manure & soil biology (Rhae Drijber, Michele Soupir, Dr. Jonathan Lundgren)
- Feb.23, 2017 – Manure & soil erosion, runoff, and losses (Nathan Nelson, John Gilley, Mike Kucera, Andy Scholting)
- March 9, 2017 – Manure & cover crops (Tim Harrigan, Barry Fischer, Heidi Johnson, Sarah Carlson)
Attendees are asked to register for the dates that correspond to the topics they are interested in. After registering, a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting will be sent.
If a microphone and speakers are available on the computer being used, phone line participation is not needed. For those new to Zoom, three short videos may prove helpful:
January 18, 2017, Green Bay, WI — Proper manure management and application is an important element of modern livestock production.
During this two-day event, industry leaders will discuss innovations in manure processing, management and application, including anaerobic digesters, manure gas safety, and technology advances.
- Dr. Tucker Burch, USDA-ARS
- Dr. Mark Borchardt, USDA-ARS
- Dr. Daniel Andersen, Iowa State University
- Dr. Eileen Fabian, Pennsylvania State University
- Dr. Katharine Knowlton, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University
- Mary Bauer, Occupational Safety and Health Administration
- Matt Komro, Komro Sales & Services, Inc.
Early bird registration for the 2017 Midwest Manure Summit runs until Feb. 6, 2017. The early-bird cost is $225 per person. After February 6, 2017, registration increases to $300 per person. Walk-in registration the day of the event is $350 per person.
- Track A – Wisconsin Anaerobic Digesters
- Track B – Developing Safety Plans for Manure Storage and Handling Systems
The Wisconsin Anaerobic Digester Program will provide participants with information on national and Wisconsin biogas industries, economic assessment of coordinated digester projects, combined heat and power (CHP) maintenance, upgrading to compressed natural gas (CNG), meeting digestate standards and safety equipment.
Developing Safety Plans for Manure Storage and Handling Systems will investigate and assess hazards in manure storage and handling systems, outline the basics of gas monitoring devices and how to use them, plus outline safety plans and the training required.
Registration for the Pre-Summit workshops is separate registration from the summit. Early bird registration for the Pre-Summit workshops is $150 per person and includes proceedings, lunch and refreshments. After Feb. 6, the cost of the Pre-Summit is $200 per person.
Complete agendas and registration details can be found at www.midwestmanure.org.
The 2017 Midwest Manure Summit has been approved for 11 Certified Crop Advisor CEUs for the two-day event.
A 16-year-old farm boy from Wisconsin; a middle-aged Michigan dairy farmer; a 56-year-old pig farmer and his 18-year-old hired hand, both from Quebec, Canada; two brothers from a dairying family in South Dakota; a 29-year-old cattle farmer, also from Wisconsin – 2016 was a dangerous year for those managing and handling manure.
According to reports, all of the people from this sampling of 2016 manure gas fatalities were going about their normal day-to-day work – spreading manure, making repairs, agitating a lagoon, servicing equipment. These were activities they’d probably done dozens of times before without incident.
“Complacency kills,” stated Robb Meinen, a senior Extension associate with Penn State University, in a recent news release on manure gas safety. “It is not unusual in fatality situations to hear things like: ‘He’s gone in there to unclog that pump a hundred times.’”
It’s easy to take safety for granted. After all, we live in an increasingly bubble-wrapped world where even silica packets in shoeboxes warn us not to eat them. And while most farmers understand the dangers of entering enclosed spaces, such as pump pits and under-barn manure storages, some wouldn’t expect to find the same gas hazards working in an open-air area. But atmospheric conditions can play an important role in manure gas distribution.
That’s what investigators believe occurred to Mike Biadasz, an Amherst, Wisc., area farmer who died of acute exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas while agitating an outdoor manure lagoon on his family’s farm. A perfect storm of weather conditions – clear skies, no wind, heavy fog – caused the gases released during manure agitation to pool low to the ground, leading to the 29-year-old’s death.
In light of the tragedy, University of Wisconsin Extension held a manure gas safety webinar in early September to raise awareness of manure gases and update farmers about resources available to them. A recording of the presentation is available at Extension’s Agricultural Safety and Health website. During the 70-minute event, experts outlined the basics of manure gases, safety and monitoring recommendations, plus solutions to keep workers and livestock safe.
University of Wisconsin Extension is continuing its educational outreach by offering a workshop aimed at developing safety plans for manure storage and handling systems. It’s scheduled for Feb. 21 in Green Bay, Wisc., just prior to the 2017 Midwest Manure Summit.
While farming accidents are devastating to all involved, it’s important to learn from them.
The Biadasz family recognizes this. As a result of their son and brother’s death, they have opened a memorial fund in Mike’s name. The Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund hopes to raise awareness and educate people about farm safety, including the dangers of manure gas. The fund, administered through the Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin, has received more than $40,000 in donations.
Please keep safety in mind as we head into 2017. Be careful out there.
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