Manure Manager

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Manure management solutions are key to the health of rural communities


April 3, 2008
By David Bossman

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As I mentioned in the last issue
of Manure Manager, finding non-fertilizer uses for animal waste is
critical to continued long-term animal production in the United States.
Let’s take a look at some of these uses.

    As I mentioned in the last issue of Manure Manager, finding non-fertilizer uses for animal waste is critical to continued long-term animal production in the United States. Let’s take a look at some of these uses.

    First off, high value uses of manure need to replace current low value
choices.

    Transportability is a key issue in fully utilizing manure. Unless we find ways to make animal waste as portable or transportable as the feed going into the animal, it will always have a low value. That means finding an efficient method of drying and grinding or pelletizing. 

    Animal producers, particularly cattle and dairy, need to consider their bedding choices carefully when they move into the realm of high value manure. And hog producers need to find ways of cleaning their facilities using less water. If the goal is to move the manure into high value uses, adding water only makes the problem more complex and costly.

    What do I mean by high value? 

    Just because an animal eats the feed which creates 30 to 40 percent of the discharge as waste does not mean its value is reduced. It means that we haven’t searched hard enough to find added new value from animal digestion. New non-fertilizer uses for animal waste are needed and value-added commercial or industrial uses need to be created.

Some examples of industrial products which need additional research to be effectively exploited are:

  • Molded plastics using manure fiber as a filler;
  • Using manure for building materials, such as particleboard or non-weight bearing decking;
  • Adhesives and coatings made from manure from simple-stomach animals;
  • Horticultural mats for seeding and erosion control made from manure.

    All these would create jobs with value-added products, while removing environmental and social impediments.

    Just as with most industries, we need to use all the valuable components of animal waste. The petroleum industry has used its products and byproducts for many different things other than gasoline or lubricating oil. And we need to remember that the feed industry was an off-shoot of the flour milling industry.

    Research has shown and given us commercially viable use of animal waste in methane production. While it does not significantly reduce the odor or the volumes of the manure, it does give us examples of how to use all of the manure as value-added.

    Animal waste has several valuable components which need research to further develop. Animal waste has fibers which could be used in other industries. The beneficial uses of bacteria found in animal waste are another viable opportunity to be researched.

    My point is we need to use it all. Spreading it on the field so the neighbors have something to complain about is not an acceptable solution, especially when it is under-valued even for its plant nutrient components. Animal production can be the source of a demonstrated win–win for rural communities, if these communities understand value and welcome the production and further processing of animals and associated byproducts.

    Most rural economies are agriculturally driven. If the local producers do well, the rest of the suppliers to the producers and the supporting communities’ services also thrive. We must, therefore, look to agriculture to find additional new jobs. In much of Middle America, feed grains are the primary cash crop. Corn, soybeans and other cash crops are the primary wealth creator for these communities. 

    Job creation comes from adding value or further processing any feedstock. In the ag sector, plant proteins are grown from the ground, adding value from the land. To add additional value, these plant protein products have many different uses, however the primary use, especially for feed grains, is feed for the animals. This adds value and ultimately improves the diets of humans around the world. An additional value is the further processing of the livestock. This includes processing the animal until they are ready for human consumption either on the grocery shelf or on a restaurant’s table.

    At each stage of this value-added chain there are local sustainable jobs created. Addressing and defusing local resistance or reluctance to allow value-added opportunities is critical to the rural community’s overall economic well being.

    The real stakeholders—pork, poultry, beef and dairy producers—need solutions now. These stakeholders and the municipalities have a vital interest in viable manure solutions. Suppliers to all these producers, including the feed and feed ingredient industries, the processors, retailers and distributors, are all
stakeholders.

    Reduced manure volume, improved manure transportability and valued-added products from manure are the principal drivers to a sound economic engine within our rural communities. This can be done through practical research that finds viable solutions and markets, not research that engenders more research.

    The future of animal protein production in North America is our responsibility. The timing is urgent. And the need is critical.

David Bossman is past president of the American Feed Industry Association.


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