Manure Manager

Features Business/Policy Energy Production
Editor’s picks: The top manure stories for 2020

December 20, 2020  by  Bree Rody

Composting deadstock isn’t a new practice, but it’s become a solution for livestock farmers with surplus animals in the wake of COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

It goes without saying (but we’ll say it anyway): 2020 was a year like no other.

But amidst the challenges of widespread, government-mandated shutdowns and social distancing orders came opportunities. Despite new adjustments and difficult decisions, the agriculture industry forged on. New innovations in RNG and technology are flinging farms into the future. And a relatively dry fall and late frost means that even after a year of economic turmoil, it’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat of last year’s harvest from hell.

All the while, we also had the honor of recognizing influential women across all aspects of the agriculture industry and embarking on new podcasts, webinars and more.

Here are our highlights of the best stories of 2020.


Eisenia fetida, commonly referred to as “red wigglers,” are the worm of choice for most vermicomposters. © Elena Yakovleva / adobe stock

“Digging into vermiculture” | Alex Barnard

One of our most popular stories of the year in print and online is also lauded by critics. Associate editor Alex Barnard was recently nominated for a Canadian Online Publishing Award (Best Industry Feature) for her piece on vermiculture. Vermicomposting – using earthworms to assist in the composting process – is often quicker than conventional compost, and manufacturers can sell it at a much higher price point. But there’s also a steep learning curve. North Carolina State University’s Rhonda Sherman shares the word on worms, the how-to on heating and the skinny on scaling operations.


Photos courtesy of Tracey Erickson.

“Understanding manure storage system safety risks” | Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension

Our November/December issue was all about safety. Many producers know the risks associated with confined manure handling systems. But accidents and deaths still occur because because of certain risks. Tracey Erickson’s piece dives deep into the most common areas of concern – confined spaces, manure pits and lagoons. It also underscores an important message in a year that has reminded us how quickly things can change: safety is not optional.


Composting deadstock isn’t a new practice, but it’s become a solution for livestock farmers with surplus animals in the wake of COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

“Back to the Earth” | Ronda Payne

While all industries faced unique difficulties due to COVID-19, for producers, there was a particularly tragic aspect: a surplus of animals. With few options, many producers faced an unenviable choice: euthanizing some animals. In Minnesota alone, several thousand animals were euthanized. Thus begs the question: what to do with the deadstock? Rhonda Payne’s feature explores the proper ways to compost deadstock, including what resources are necessary and how to speed up the process.


Other highlights:

  • This year, we wanted to turn the spotlight on women who were shaking things up in the agriculture world. We launched the Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture (IWCA) program to recognize six trailblazers. The IWCA covers all disciplines of agriculture, including manure. From animal welfare to soil to advocacy, our honorees were truly inspiring in their respective fields. Their stories are told through our AgAnnex Talks podcast series, which you can access on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Consumer behaviour has been turned upside-down this year. A recent study by CoBank showed what kind of effects those changes are having on the dairy industry. While there has been a decrease in demand from the restaurant and food service sector, white milk and processed cheese consumption has gone up in some areas. Read the full report on CoBank’s website.


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