Manure Manager

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Lemmenes Custom Farms LLC

June 2, 2010  by Tony Kryzanowski

As farms have grown larger over the past decade in an effort to stay competitive, so has the demand for custom services. Waupun, Wisconsin-based, Lemmenes Custom Farms LLC has been on the leading edge of that trend, offering an attractive package of both custom harvesting and a variety of manure management services.
As farms have grown larger over the past decade in an effort to stay competitive, so has the demand for custom services. Waupun, Wisconsin-based, Lemmenes Custom Farms LLC has been on the leading edge of that trend, offering an attractive package of both custom harvesting and a variety of manure management services.

Lemmenes Custom Farms gives its customers a menu of manure application options, including both a drag hose and rubber-tired tanker option. (Submitted photo)

Business has been growing steadily since the company purchased its first Claas silage chopper in the late-1990s to service the large, local dairy industry. Waupun is about 50 miles north of Madison, and the company services customers within about a 60-mile radius of home base.

“We had a client based with the harvesting side of the business that was expanding their manure storage,” says company co-owner Abe Lemmenes.


“They were looking for somebody else to do it, so we got into it at that point and it just exploded.”

They purchased their first custom manure application tanker in 2000.

Abe, his father, Roy, and brothers, Luke and Isaac, own the company, and say they owe a lot of their success to very dedicated employees. The company has six permanent employees and about 20 workers during peak season. The combination of harvesting and manure management keeps permanent staff busy from April to December. All staff enroll in Level 1.0 certification training offered by the Professional Nutrient Applicators’ Association of Wisconsin, which makes them aware of safety protocol on the farm site, when transporting manure, and at the application site.

Lemmenes Custom Farms not only provides its customer base of about 95 percent dairy farms with custom manure management. They also provide them with manure management options.

“We are a turnkey operation,” says Lemmenes. “We do everything from liquids and solids, and also injection or top-spreading. We are also set up to transfer the manure from one location to another. I mean we have everything needed to apply manure, whatever way they would like it.”

That includes the use of either a drag hose system or a rubber-tired tanker system. The size of dairy farms within their customer base varies widely. Some farms have 50 cows while the largest is in the 1300 cow range. Therefore, their manure management needs are markedly different.

Lemmenes says there is no doubt that as dairies have gotten bigger, they often have found themselves limited by not having the time, equipment or employees to take care of aspects of the business like manure management, although it is a critical part of the overall operation. In other instances, dairy farms may have been doing it themselves and eventually face a decision once their equipment gets older, whether to buy new or hire a custom manure application service. In both these scenarios, hiring a custom manure applicator has its advantages.

Lemmenes Custom Farms has a good understanding of their customers’ needs because they come from a dairy background. Roy was a dairy farmer but sold out in the early-1990s. A few years later, he invested in a custom chopping and corn picking business from someone retiring from the industry. That’s how the family got started on the harvesting side of the enterprise. They still keep their hand in the crop production, growing hay and corn silage on about 400 acres, which is sold to local dairy farms.

Starting in the late-1990s, farmers were confronted with much stricter guidelines on how they were allowed to dispose of their manure. Typically with its smaller customers operating without a detailed nutrient management plan, Lemmenes Custom Farms will set the application rate in consultation with the farmer essentially based on information derived from soil tests. With larger customers, the process is considerably more involved. One of its customers, Crave Brothers Dairy, manages an 1,100 head herd and generates about 60,000 gallons of manure per day. They are a good example of how carefully controlled the process is now with larger farms and how important it is to develop a trusting relationship with a quality manure applicator. In addition to stricter management guidelines, manure has also evolved into a highly valued supplement or alternative to commercial fertilizer.

“We have a nutrient management plan, which is part of our permit for large farms,” says project manager for the Crave Brothers Dairy anaerobic digester installation, Karl Crave. “Every field is identified and has a plan. In fact, it is a five-year plan as to what we are going to plant.”

Crave says key factors like what crops the dairy plans to grow, the slope of the land, and the time of year all factor into the discussion they have with Lemmenes Custom Farms as to the general manure application rate on each farm, and rate adjustments needed in certain areas of the farm to meet nutrient uptake goals. Field soil samples are taken every four years and compared to crop yields achieved between sampling intervals. Soil nutrient and crop yield data are used to calculate annual nutrient removal and helps to establish the manure application rate for the coming year. Crave Brothers Dairy grows alfalfa, corn for silage, corn for grain, and soybeans on 1,700 acres.

Lemmenes says they leave it up to customers like Crave Brothers Dairy to determine the application rate based on their nutrient management plan. As the service provider, they ensure that they arrive with the necessary equipment, technology, and know-how to put the nutrient management plan into action.

In terms of the company’s equipment fleet, they own 10 JCB 8250 tractors. Five pull Houle 7,300-gallon tanks equipped with Krause injectors installed on 12.5-foot, five shank, custom-built toolbars. Four pull 4,000-gallon Knight side slingers for surface application. They also have eight Mack 2000 trucks equipped with 6,500-gallon tanks, which are set up for top dressing fields and also for transferring manure from the farm to the application site. The liquid manure can be transferred either to tankers working in the field or unloading into a Balzer frac tank, which sits at roadside and typically works in tandem with the company’s drag hose system. By handling the transfer process this way, the company avoids traveling from fields to public roads, which means that less mud is put on the roads.

The company added a drag hose system to its fleet in 2009.

“Compaction is a huge issue,” says Lemmenes. “The tanks are heavy and they can pack a field, but with the drag hose system, it is just the tractor driving across the field. It really complements the business and gives our growers more options.” Laying drag hoses in ditches or across neighbors’ fields also helps the company avoid issues related to road degradation and traffic, if the road leading to the site is narrow or in poor shape. Also, it gives customers more options. For example, some like to use semi-tankers in the fall when its dry and the drag hose system in the spring when it is wet.

The drag hose system consists of a Case International 485 articulating tractor equipped with GPS tracking, using a product called Ag Leader INSIGHT produced by Trimble Navigation Limited, and Krohne flow meters to control the flow rate. The tractor can be equipped with an Unverfurth 11-shank, injector tool bar or with a custom-built top-dress tool bar, depending on customer needs. To transfer the manure from the storage lagoon or from the frac tank to the tractor, they have three and three-quarter miles of hose.

“The pumping equipment – like the hose, all the booster pumps, the lead pump, hose reels, and swing arm on the tractor – were purchased from an outfit in Iowa called Puck Custom Enterprises,” says Lemmenes.

He says the company did shop around for its drag hose system and opted for the Puck Custom Enterprises (PCE) product because it could deliver more gallons per minute.

“The equipment was built heavier than any other manufacturer, and they give us more gallons per minute, which makes us get done faster,” says Lemmenes. “It’s more efficient for the customer and we burn a lot less fuel this way. We’re doing 2,000 to 2,400 gallons per minute whereas some of these other companies do 1,100 to 1,600, but it really varies depending on your set up and the land elevation.”

He says the hoses supplied with this drag hose system are able to take more pressure, meaning that they can use larger pumps and thus deliver more gallons per minute. They are also able to use larger diameter drag hose. The pumps are powered by 300- and 375-horsepower John Deere engines with Cornell pumps.

Whether it is the tanker trucks or the tractors, the application rate is essentially determined by speed, says Lemmenes. Operators have reference sheets within the cab to instruct them as to what speed they should be traveling for a particular application rate. Some customers have the ability to provide colored maps as to the required application rate in various areas of each field, and because the GPS display within the cab tells the operator exactly where he is in relation to that map, he can adjust the rate by adjusting his speed in those instances. After a service call, Lemmenes Custom Farms can generate a GPS map indicating where the manure was applied and at what rate.

As the size of farms have grown, Lemmenes Custom Farms is a good example of how the service industry has grown right along with them, as well as the level of sophistication required in such areas as custom manure application.


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