Manure Manager

Problem solving – The answer is blowing in the wind

January 5, 2009  by  Marg Land

I’m not a very good problem solver. Remember those word problems in
grade school math involving two trains leaving a station at certain

I’m not a very good problem solver. Remember those word problems in grade school math involving two trains leaving a station at certain times? I could never figure them out. Instead, I’d get bogged down in the details – Who was on the train? Where were they going? Why are they taking a train rather than an airplane? Why not just drive?

All these questions – I guess that’s why I became a journalist.

My husband is the problem solver of the family. He can look at an issue or problem and find the solution quickly and cheaply. He’d probably make a very good farmer.


Being a successful farmer means possessing a lot of faith in yourself and your abilities; there’s really no safety net in agriculture. Wobbling on a decision or second-guessing your next move while balancing a barn full of livestock and fields full of crops can lead to disaster. Sometimes, there’s only time for one decision and it needs to be the right one.

Recently, I had an opportunity to visit a dairy in western Wisconsin where the operators had an opportunity to correct a problem that had been plaguing one of their barns. When the original building was constructed years ago, it was designed as a naturally ventilated structure. But as the dairy expanded over time and new barns were added, adjacent buildings started blocking the natural airflow.

“It was a hard barn for us to ventilate,” admitted one of the farm owners.

In order to combat this, they decided to retrofit their naturally ventilated barn to a cross-ventilated one. The roof ridge openings were covered up and exhaust fans were installed along the north side of the barn. A drop ceiling was installed on the south side to help funnel air coming in from the drop curtain across the backs of the cows before exhausting it out the fans. A roll-up door was also installed in order to maintain static pressure when the ventilation system is in use.

According to Dr. Larry Jacobsen, a livestock housing specialist and engineering professor with the University of Minnesota who studied the new ventilation set-up, the retrofit is an “interesting” one. “The cross ventilation is helping production,” he explains. “They are getting better milk production and improved feed efficiency.”
It’s a sentiment shared by one of the farm’s owners. “It’s been a good retrofit for us,” he says. “Our cull rate has dropped by four to five percent.”

This is problem solving at its best. They recognized the issue, they found a solution and implemented it with much success. They weren’t afraid to take a risk.

Check out this issue of Manure Manager for other problem solvers, including: researchers investigating a solution for poultry litter issues, a poultry producer who developed a new way of cleaning excess water from his barn floors, and a mobile trailer that helps livestock producers solve ventilation issues. You can also learn about the latest innovations in ventilation and fans.

Enjoy and don’t hesitate to contact us or visit the magazine’s web site – – for more information to help you solve your manure management problems.


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