Industry is rife with stories about individuals jury-rigging equipment and tools to come up with a better solution to manage a particular problem. Maybe it’s just human nature. The history of Wisconsin-based custom liquid manure application pioneer L & M Industries Inc. is exactly that type of story.
Today, after 27 years in business, the company faces some tough competition with the number of custom application businesses doubling in the state over the past two years, but L & M Industries Inc. still has a few aces up its sleeve to keep it steps ahead of the competition.
One is the company’s custom-built “dream machine,” which allows it to deliver more liquid manure in a day and transfer liquid manure cleaner at application sites than most of its competitors. It is essentially an on-site manure transfer and high-pressure pumping unit in one. Another is the speed of the hydrostatic drives installed in its 13 AGCO Fendt tractors that the company uses exclusively in its tankering operations. The tractor’s hydrostatic drive allows the company to have much more control over the speeds that they travel across fields, thus giving them more control and accuracy over the amount of manure that is applied per acre. Also, L & M Industries Inc.’s tractors are able to travel much faster down the road, if required, at about 32 mph, but that advantage is dwindling as other tractor manufacturers improve the speed of their tractors.
L & M Industries Inc. is owned by George Lorenz and Noel Marcks. Established in 1984, the company is located in Black Creek, Wis., about 20 miles west of Green Bay. At present, they apply about 360 million gallons of liquid manure annually, with 95 percent of their clients involved in the dairy industry. The dairy sizes range from 25 cows to as many as 3,000. The company offers three primary services in its 125-mile trading area – custom liquid manure application on farmland close to the dairy using a drag hose system directly from customer lagoons, delivery of liquid manure by tanker truck to one of the company’s two “dream machine” setups and then land applying the liquid manure using a drag hose system, and finally, liquid manure injection using Houle 9500 tankers with injectors.
The company’s fleet consists of six Houle 9500 tankers with injector bars, two drag hose systems using eight-inch hose for application jobs up to three miles away and six-inch hose for application jobs closer to the lagoon, two custom-built “dream machine” units using six-inch hose connected to the AGCO Fendt tractors injecting the manure in the field, 10 semi-trailer tanker trucks, two Meyer 8865 box spreaders, a 7,000-gallon Nuhn vacuum tanker, six AGCO Fendt 927 tractors, six AGCO Fendt 933 tractors, one AGCO Fendt 926 tractor and a variety of agitators, booster pumps, and extra hose. Its custom-built injectors range in width from 15 to 27 feet. L & M Industries Inc. has seven full-time employees and as many as 30 workers during peak season.
“When we started out, there was nobody pumping manure through a hose out to the field,” says Lorenz. “The guys that were doing it were pumping it out through irrigation pipes. So we were the first ones to go buy a mile of hose and lay a mile of hose out and show everybody that you can pump manure through a hose. Nobody else I know of at the time was doing it.”
Consequently, a lot of L & M Industries Inc.’s equipment has been built from scratch, as they’ve been offering drag hose application service even before current suppliers opened their doors. The company built its own agitators and injectors, and sourced its own hose suppliers to offer this service to customers. But that was then and this is now.
“Now, if you have a checkbook and a bank behind you, you can start up next week and have just as good equipment as anyone else in the industry,” says Lorenz. Well, almost.
“One of the things that I have that nobody else has is the ‘dream machine’ setup, which is a little quicker to set up and move between fields,” he adds. “It is a little more productive than some and a little cleaner than most. So it is a combination of being able to be a little bit more productive and being able to be a little bit cleaner that allows me to still make a fair profit and be competitive.”
The “dream machine” came about partially as a direct consequence of changes in the industry with dairy farms getting larger. L & M Industries had to find a way to serve these larger customers who required that liquid manure be transported farther and farther because of the amount of manure they were generating, without traveling in fields with tanker trucks, muddying up roads and compacting the soil.
They needed to design a manure transfer and pumping system where the liquid manure could be transferred from the truck to a frac storage tank at roadside quickly and safely, while keeping trucks out of the field, and to minimize the amount of labor required by their drivers so they weren’t so tired by the end of the day having to hook and unhook hoses.
However, even before L & M Industries Inc. could apply its “dream machine” concept, it had to solve problems caused by an increasing number of dairies using sand for bedding. The sand builds up in lagoons and becomes suspended in the slurry when the lagoon is agitated. The problem is that it clogs up valves during the transfer process. The solution was an ingenious system that loads the liquid manure from the lagoon to the bottom of the truck tank. Rather than filling from the top, the company has installed a straw from the top of the tank down to the bottom. The straw is bent at a 90-degree angle at the bottom with a check valve to prevent backflow, such as when a truck comes to a stop at an intersection. The 90-degree elbow pushes the sand to the back of the tank at loading, keeping the sand moving toward the outlet. The trap door prevents an overflow surge when stopping. A rubber O-ring seal at the top keeps the tank looking clean and allows L & M Industries Inc. to bottom fill through the straw, cutting down on foaming issues while washing the sand to the back of the trailer.
The next innovation is how the company handles transfer of the liquid manure to the “dream machine” at roadside. While an automatic unloading system would have been an ideal solution, L & M Industries has gone with a happy medium of having a worker stationed full time at the “dream machine” with the sole job of hydraulically connecting to the back of the semi-tanker, making an airtight seal to suck the load off the trailer and pump the manure into the frac tank overhead of the high-pressure pump. This system still delivers the results that L & M Industries Inc. was looking for: elimination of the problem of drivers having to leave the truck to hook and unhook a hose to the “dream machine” several times a day while still executing a fast and clean transfer.
“We are able to suck the 6,000-gallon load off in two minutes from the time you drive up until the time the semi-trailer truck drives away versus a gravity flow system that takes as much as four minutes,” says Lorenz. Speed and clean transfers are money in the bank for L & M Industries Inc., as they can deliver and apply several more loads per day using this system.
The “dream machine” is a single unit that can be transported from location to location and that features a pump in the neighborhood of 150 psi and power unit, an air compressor, a frac tank, and a manure transfer system. This system consists of a hydraulic-pressured 12-inch power couple to the semi-trailer tank through an O-ring, which creates a spill-proof seal. Because the company often hauls sand-laden manure, it includes a system that blasts the transfer valve open using compressed air for about five seconds to open up any plugged valves.
The Meyer 8865 box spreaders are used to dispose of solid material that is unable to be removed from the pumping process of emptying the lagoon. The Nuhn vacuum tanker works best for applying liquid manure on smaller fields where it isn’t cost effective to set up the “dream machine,” and gives L & M Industries Inc. the ability to provide a more complete service.
In addition to a full three-year warranty, free oil changes in the field, and a guaranteed replacement tractor if tractors are still under warranty or if repair will take more than 24 hours, L & M Industries says its Fendt tractors are simply more competitive.
“You don’t have to shift gears, you don’t have to throttle up, you don’t have to throttle down, and you don’t have to find a gear,” says Lorenz. “You just slap the joystick over to the speed you want, and the tractor takes care of itself.”
L & M Industries Inc. concludes that industry experience means a lot when providing customer service.
Although farmers have a large assortment of applicators to pick from, L & M Industries Inc. can offer dependability, innovative technology, fair pricing and a team of employees who are concerned about the best job they can deliver.