The event runs from 10 a.m. to noon at Bloms Land & Cattle, 7470 42nd Ave. N.W., Carpio. No registration is required.
Topics that will be covered include turning manure into compost and using compost as a fertilizer. The event will also feature a compost turner demonstration and question-and-answer session on the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s animal feeding operation guidelines and creating comprehensive nutrient management plans.
After that, anyone wanting to continue the discussion can meet at the Cenex C-Store in Carpio.
Iowa State University researchers have completed testing of a key component of a new concept for disposing of animal carcasses following a disease outbreak.
The research someday may help producers facing animal disease emergencies, such as in 2015 when avian influenza resulted in disposal of millions of chickens and turkeys in Iowa and other states.
Jacek Koziel, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, said animal health emergencies occur around the globe each year due, not only to disease, but also to hurricanes, flooding, fire and blizzards.
These incidents often require the disposal of numerous animal carcasses, usually accomplished via burial. In research published recently in the scientific journal Waste Management, Koziel and his team analyzed a method that could help livestock, poultry and egg producers deal more efficiently and safely with crises that lead to sudden increases in animal mortality.
Koziel and his team focused their research on improving on-farm burial, the method most commonly employed for large-scale carcass disposal due to its low cost and ability to quickly reduce the spread of airborne disease and foul odors. But emergency burial can contaminate nearby water resources with chemical and biological pollutants, and many locations in Iowa are considered unsuitable for such practices by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Buried carcasses also decay slowly, sometimes delaying use of burial sites for crop production and other uses for years, Koziel said.
To overcome these problems, the researchers studied a hybrid disposal concept conceived at the National Institute of Animal Science in South Korea following a massive outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in 2011.
The method combines burial with aerobic digestion, a method commonly used for treating sewage in which air is pumped through the content to speed decomposition.
The experiment also included burial trenches lined with flexible geomembranes like those used to prevent seepage from landfills and wastewater treatment ponds to protect water quality. The researchers then injected low levels of air into the bottom of the trench to accelerate carcass decomposition and treat the resulting liquid contaminants.
The experiment tested the performance of the aerobic component of the hybrid method in a lab using tanks containing whole chicken carcasses, water, and low levels of oxygen that occasionally dropped to zero as would be likely in emergency burial trenches.
Results of the study showed low levels of oxygen accelerated carcass decay significantly, reducing carcass mass by 95 percent within 13 weeks, while similar tests without air produced no noticeable decay. The air and water used for the experimental method create an ideal environment for bacteria to break down the carcasses quickly, a "shark tank," as Koziel described it.
Chemical contamination in the liquid waste met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criteria for safe discharge to surface waters. The hybrid method also eliminated two common poultry pathogens, salmonella and staphylococcus. Aeration also reduced odorous gases sometimes associated with mass burial.
Koziel said the the encouraging laboratory results could pave the way for follow-up field studies that will include evaluation of alternative geomembrane liners, aeration system designs and components, and performance testing of the complete hybrid disposal system.
The research was supported by funding from the Korean Rural Development Administration.
Complementing the company's onsite unreserved auctions and online-only auctions through IronPlanet, Marketplace-E offers sellers increased control over price, location, and timing, while providing buyers access to more equipment available to purchase right away.
"With the launch of Marketplace-E we can now serve customers as a true one-stop shop, with a complete suite of selling solutions to meet every need," said Ravi Saligram, CEO of Ritchie Bros. "We have many customers who, for a variety of reasons, need more control over the selling price and process of their assets. With Marketplace-E they will get the control they need while still benefiting from Ritchie Bros.' marketing and expansive global buyer network."
Ravi continued, "Marketplace-E will also open up new customer opportunities for Ritchie Bros. In our quest to lead the industry in innovation; we are constantly looking for new ways to improve the asset disposition experience. Developing a sleek, user-friendly digital platform expands the options available to OEMs, dealers, brokers and end users."
How Marketplace-E works – three selling options:
- Make Offer: List equipment online and let potential buyers submit offers, then negotiate with potential buyers to reach an agreement.
- Buy Now: List equipment online at a fixed, buy-it-now price; like a basic ecommerce transaction. Once the item is purchased, the listing is closed.
- Reserve Price: An online listing with a minimum/reserve price. The item will not sell until the reserve is met. The seller minimum is protected, but the potential highest selling price is not capped.
For more information about Marketplace-E, visit: ironplanet.com/Marketplace-E.
With no incineration, leaving behind no waste or byproducts and in just 30 minutes, ReGreen Organic's innovative recycling process transforms waste into clean, sanitary, odor-free and marketable products: Fertilizers, compost, animal feed and fuel pellets. READ MORE
West Palm Beach is among many locations – like Calgary, Alberta, and Norco, California – where a significant amount of horses and riders cohabitate for competition and sport. The resulting waste bedding creates hundreds of thousands of tons of manure per region.
Enter HiPoint Agro Bedding Corp (HPAB), who has developed a process that takes waste shavings, cleans them, pasteurizes them and re-packages them for resale and reuse. The removed horse manure can then be aerobically composted or used to produce energy in an anaerobic digester.
HPAB is currently completing site validations across North America aimed at recycling waste bedding shavings in areas of high horse and rider populations. In many cases, inadequate stockpiling of manure has caught the attention of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the public, causing significant environmental concerns with the use and improper disposal of equine bedding material.
Funding was announced recently for two projects by the Centre de recherche en sciences animales de Deschambault (CRSAD), including $665,546 aimed at developing sustainable strategies for standardizing the manufacturing and use of recycled bedding in dairy production to improve the sector’s environmental performance without reducing the profitability of businesses, as well as to respond to consumer concerns.
With the funding, the CRSAD will be able to determine the best methods for manufacturing recycled bedding from manure and to make recommendations for the adoption of the best management methods, practices and technologies, with the welfare of animals and workers and the safety of products also taken into account. Dairy producers will be therefore able to reduce their operating costs and reuse or sell the energy produced by the biodigesters, which will provide farms with an additional income stream.
“The investment in research to improve livestock housing conditions in the dairy industry will enable Canadian producers to differentiate themselves, be more competitive, improve their businesses and, especially, enhance their living conditions and those of their livestock,” said Jean-Paul Laforest, president of the CRSAD.
He told a large tour of attendees from the North American Manure Expo in nearby Arlington that the fertilizer value and bedding potential of compost are already apparent on his family's Endres Berryridge Farm, operated with brothers Randy and Steve, but he is still learning about the energizing effect compost has on the soil.
One hint of that aspect of compost use is that his alfalfa acres that have been fertilized with compost for two years have out-yielded all other alfalfa fields. "It's enough to notice," he said. "That told me this isn't hurting me. There's something to it."
He also noted that one problem they had before utilizing compost in their system is that steep alfalfa fields could not be fertilized with liquid manure and as such started to decline in fertility. Once they had the environmentally friendly, stable compost, they could feed those fields with it. They also found that applying compost to a growing crop didn't harm the plants."There are not a lot of barriers to composting," he said. "No farmer is going to go into it as crazy as we did, but I got sick of digging holes in the ground to store manure. For us, this was a way to utilize the nutrients we already have in our farm system.
"I don't think farmers should ever have to give nutrients away," he said.
Two busloads of visitors from Manure Expo joined another busload of guests from the Madison Clean Lakes Alliance to visit the Endres farm on Aug. 22 and they asked some pointed questions of the compost experimenter.
He told them that he could probably build and use a liquid manure system more cheaply than operating his compost system. Just over a year ago the Endres family incorporated a large compost barn into a new set of buildings where they raise their dairy herd replacements.
Two identically sized barns (65 by 220 feet) house the farm's heifer calves from four months to 13 months of age. Both barns feature tunnel ventilation and additional cooling fans which aid fly control; the air moving at 5 miles per hour keeps flies away. "The compost process, with the heat that is generated, is also very friendly to fly control," he adds. READ MORE
These technologies can cover a range of innovations – generate energy from animal manure, reduce on-farm waste streams, and repurpose manure by creating marketable fertilizer and other value added products such as compost.
In October, MDA awarded Veteran Compost of Harford County, Maryland, and O2Compost of Washington State a grant for $350,300 to develop a compost demonstration project plus a public education and training facility in Anne Arundel County for livestock farmers.
The project will demonstrate aerated static pile (ASP) composting technology systems at three levels: small scale (one to four horses or livestock equivalents); medium scale: (five to 20); and large scale: (20 to 40).
All three compost systems will be solar powered to demonstrate off-grid sustainability. The medium and large systems will include storage tanks to retain roof water for use in the composting process.
The project will also include formal classes and hands-on workshops, public tours for students in kindergarten through college, and alliances with government agencies and non-profit environmental organizations. In addition, a compost cooperative website will be developed to bring together producers and end users of the finished compost products.
The compost systems that are displayed will be ones that have been in use since 2001. Peter Moon, owner of O2Compost, says he started out in the composting industry in 1989, designing and permitting large-scale municipal green waste systems. Then, in the mid-1990s, he started applying some of the industrial ideas to compost dairy and chicken manure.
After seeing a chicken farm that was composting mortalities that looked tidy but suffered from terrible odor issues, he decided that an aerated bin system was what was needed. It took him a few months to figure out the answer and was convinced that it would work.
“I ended up building a prototype in my back yard because I had to prove to myself that it would work, and it worked way better than I had hoped,” he says.
Today, O2Compost offers what they call Compost Operator Training Programs. They include four basic components – the design of the system, the aeration equipment package, a detailed training manual written in layman’s terms, and unlimited technical support – for a fixed fee.
“It’s this system and three stages of bins that will be on display,” he says. “Although I don’t know of any other company that is offering anything like it, I want to make clear I didn’t invent the concept of aerated composting. Aerated static pile (ASP) composting was first developed in the mid-1970s in Beltsville, Maryland. I just reconfigured it into an aerated bin system.”
When the MDA put out the RFP in 2016, Peter immediately thought of his client and good friend, Justen Garrity, owner of Veteran Company based out of Aberdeen, Maryland. The two had known and worked with each other since 2010 when Justen took Peter’s training program.
Veteran Compost has a 30-acre farm in Aberdeen and is dedicated to employing veterans and their family members and turning food scraps into high-quality compost. The crown jewel of Veteran Compost is its vermicomposting operation –it’s one of the only commercial worm composting operations in Maryland.
Peter approached Justen and suggested that, since the company was located in Maryland, why didn’t they set up a demonstration site with bins and a larger open aerated static pile system and use it to instruct farmers in Maryland and neighboring states. They could come to them, participate in a half-day workshop and then come out to the site and see it, sense it, understand it and learn.
Justen could immediately see the value in this partnership, and so did MDA. In 2016, O2Compost and Veteran Compost received the grant.
The project would already be operational today, except for one snag. Justen and Peter had challenges finding a good site, because people in the area have been reluctant to have a composting site near them because of potential odor issues. This is despite the fact that Justen’s composting facility in Aberdeen has received zero odor complaints from neighbors in the six years that it’s been operating.
“Justen has also had to go through a process with Anne Arundel County to allow for composting on agricultural zone property,” says Peter.
It has taken a long time and numerous public hearings, but recently the county commissioners voted unanimously to allow this activity on agricultural zoned land.
Ironically, these systems will demonstrate why compost doesn’t have to generate offensive odors for several reasons: the ASP compost piles are not turned; airflow is induced into the piles resulting in aerobic conditions throughout the pile; and a biofilter cover is used for in-situ treatment of off-gases.
“It has been my experience that most people think that compost piles need to be turned to get oxygen into it,” says Peter. “What they don’t understand is that when a biologically active pile is turned, the oxygen that is introduced into the compost is then consumed by the microorganisms and depleted within 30 to 45 minutes.”
With regard to composting at the training facility, Peter and Justen will induce airflow using a high pressure, high volume electric blower and push air into the pile to replenish the oxygen and displace CO2, heat and water out of the pile.
In short, ASP composting results in aerobic composting versus turned windrow composting, which results in anaerobic composting.
Drainage isn’t a factor for the smaller systems because the bins are covered with roof structures. However, for municipal scale compost facilities managing storm water, it is always an important consideration.
“For the larger systems, municipal-type scale, yes, typically we’ll construct a pond of some kind to handle any surface water run-off.”
The liquid collected is then re-introduce back into the compost pile as process water, or in some cases directed to a sanitary sewer for processing at the local wastewater treatment plant.
“Our goal with composting is to get the pile temperature throughout the pile to exceed 55oC (equivalent to 131oF) for a minimum of three days. Meeting these time-temperature conditions effectively destroys pathogens, parasites and weed seeds in the finished compost,” says Peter.
The objective is to produce a high quality compost product that is safe to use on pastures or in vegetable and landscape gardens.
Moisture is always an important factor when composting, and will be one of the things farmers will learn more about at the site.
“Our goal is to have the moisture content somewhere between 60 and 65 percent, going into the pile,” says Peter. “At that moisture content, it will feel quite wet and you can squeeze a handful and get a drop or two to come out. At this moisture content, it won’t drain free-water that could impact surface and ground water resources.”
Peter says with dairy and pig manure, even if it’s run through a separator and the fibrous material is stacked, the base can get saturated because the water just continues to drain out. It can fill the pipes under the stack with water. To avoid this, some type of dry “bulking” material can be added. Peter often encourages dairies to look to horse stables in their area or even equine events.
“Horse farms always have that same problem, but it tends to be very carbon rich and very dry, which is exactly what you want to marry-up with wet substrates.”
Flexibility is built into the system.
“For example, companies may accumulate their food waste in batches and then mix it up to compost out. Or you can build a pile over a 30-day period as you would on a horse farm,” says Peter. “The idea with the MDA grant is to teach people what is possible, and that there is a method that’s simple and effective and an excellent investment on their farm with an ROI of two to five years.”
There is also flexibility in the use of pipes. With small, aerated bin systems, the air is delivered by an air-floor and there are no pipes to work around.
For larger systems, aeration pipes can be laid directly on the ground with the pile constructed directly on top. Some farms sacrifice the pipe when they bring in their frontend loaders. Others choose a thick-walled HDPE pipe.
“That pipe can literally be pulled out from underneath the pile and reused.”
One of the key features of the system is low maintenance. Once the compost pile has been built, it’s pretty much hands off. The blower and timer to do all of the work.
“You monitor the composting process, but you don’t need the big windrow turner and someone out there driving it,” says Peter. “You’re not paying for fuel, maintenance or repairs and you are able to greatly reduce air emissions. ASP Composting requires about 25 percent of the space when compared to turned windrow composting, and it can be operated at less than 50 percent of the cost.”
Both Peter and Justen feel that once the training facility is in operation, which looks to be late summer of 2017, farmers will be excited to discover that aerated static pile composting yields too many benefits to ignore. It speeds up the process, reduces odors and basically eliminates neighbor issues. It also destroys parasites, pathogens and weed seeds in the mix, has a small footprint, reduces the cost of operation, can handle any organic waste material and is simple to operate.
“The question I get a lot is, ‘If this is all so easy and it’s everything you say it is, why isn’t everybody already doing it?’” asks Peter. “For some reason everybody is just locked onto the idea you need to turn the pile, but you don’t. We have over 1,200 systems in operation in 21 countries. It is a simple technology that is easy to learn – and it works.”
The 2017 edition of the annual show celebrating all things manure–related is being held August 22 and 23, 2017, at the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Agricultural Research Station, located about 20 miles north of Madison near Arlington, WI.
Two action-packed days have been planned. On August 22, attendees can choose from one of three tours featuring visits to a local dairy-based anaerobic digester, examples of swine and dairy manure processing, plus composting and low disturbance manure application. The buses are filling up and space is limited. Tour registration costs $20 and is available online at manureexpo.org.
Pit agitation demos will also be held that afternoon at the research center followed by a stop by some cover crop plots. The trade show will open at noon and industry sessions – including Puck's Pump School, a gas safety seminar plus a demonstration involving control of pit foaming – will be held starting at 4 p.m.
On August 23, the grounds will open at 7:30 a.m. and feature a morning of educational sessions. Twenty-four topics will be presented in four separate tents.
Manure safety and manure management tools
• Improving safety practices around manure storages
• Manure safety
• Basics of gas monitoring equipment and procedures
• Nutrient management planning for Wisconsin farms: SnapPlus software
• Integrating erosion and P assessment with SnapPlus
• Wisconsin's runoff risk advisory forecast
Manure as a fertilizer resource
• Manure analysis trends and sample collection techniques
• Dairy manure application methods
• Secondary and micro-nutrients available in dairy manure
• Maximizing nutrient value from manure storages
• Microbial response to organic matter additions to soils
• Use of nitrification inhibitors with manure
Manure application techniques and technology
• Replacing commercial sidedress nitrogen with liquid manure on emerging corn using drag hose
• Manure application uniformity
• Replacing commercial sidedress nitrogen with liquid manure on emerging corn using a modified tanker
• Nutrient separation or improved hauling logistics
• Slurry seeding of cover crops
• Evaluating the environmental benefits and economic opportunities of windrowing composted dairy manure
Manure and environmental protection
• How does manure application timing impact P runoff?
• Manure during winter: How to manage
• Nitrogen dynamics in manured systems
• Minimizing manure and nutrient transport to tile systems
• Public perceptions
• Can cover crops and tillage help reduce erosion and P losses?
Speakers include university researchers, manure management specialists, professional engineers, agricultural agency staff, and custom manure haulers. Twelve continuing education units (CEUs) have been approved by the American Society of Agronomy's Certified Crop Advisor Program. Other state- and association-specific continuing education or certification credits are also available. They will are listed on manureexpo.org.
Manure application demonstrations, including solid and liquid manure spreaders plus compost turners are also planned during the afternoon of August 23.
Registration is free (tours are $20) and available online at manureexpo.org.
“Not long after, we learned that the soil surrounding the farm where we had been spreading liquid manure was completely saturated with nutrients,” he remembers. “At the time, in the early 1990s, we had over 350 dairy cattle. Our extension agent suggested composting our solid manure and we decided to try it as a way to deal with the excess manure. The idea of selling the compost came later.”
There were no best practices available for manure composting – let alone much basic research – so Tim was left to experiment with different methods (more on that later). But success was achieved and by 1994, Bull Country Compost was born.
Demand was strong right away – Sigrist made the product attractive by offering delivery – but as word spread, demand started to outstrip supply. They needed more manure, and about three years in, another revenue stream was born through taking horse manure from their Amish neighbors along with manure from other area farms.
Nowadays, Bull Country Compost is one of the largest Class III EPA-inspected composting facilities in Northeast Ohio.
“In 2016, we sold over 45,000 bags of compost, up from 36,000 in 2014,” Sigrist says proudly. “But we actually sell more product in bulk cubic yards than in bagged form to both consumer and retail markets.”
Ten percent of the manure currently comes from their farm (Tim’s parents John and Linda sold the dairy cows in 2013 but continue to raise about 120 dairy heifers), with the remaining from other farms, auction barns and seasonal fairs.
“We have farms where we haul out once a year and others where we do pick-up every week,” says Sigrist. “All locations pay us to take it away and there is a monthly fee to have a dumpster placed. Due to wear and tear on the dumpsters and the extensive cost of trucking – and the fact that some locations are up to 100 miles away – we can’t haul it for free.”
Indeed, it was early on that Sigrist realized it would be easier to provide large manure collection bins at farms, and that number of bins continues to grow.
“They’re 30-yard roll-off dumpsters made by a nearby manufacturer,” he says. “Because manure is so corrosive, we have to continually repair and replace them.”
Back when he started, Tim knew the basics of composting. Factors such as the type of manure, composting method (oxygenation) and weather would all affect timelines and quality of the final product. He first tried windrows turned by tractor, but it was labor intensive and the Ohio rains kept the material too wet. He researched various types of vessel structures and built one of his own with a concrete base.
“It was 150-by-80 feet with a homemade top supported by wood beams,” Sigrist explains. “There were two rows of material 10-feet wide.”
Over time, he added more vessels, making them wider to accommodate larger equipment, better aerated and better able deal with excess water. Older vessels were aerated using pipes running through the manure, and newer vessels have aeration constructed into the concrete floor through ditches with perforated pipes. This arrangement allows liquid to flow out as composting proceeds.
“The liquid is captured in a drainage system that empties into our manure lagoon,” Sigrist explains. “There is a small fan in each vessel that feeds into the perforated pipes to aid air flow, and this significantly increases the temperature as well.”
Newer vessels also sport a higher hoop roof, which also boosts airflow.
The manure is composted for six to eight weeks being moved to one of three curing sheds for six to eight months. Screening is next, then bagging in the bagging shed or placement in piles for bulk sale. Sigrist created the bagging system using auger equipment and a homemade conveyor, with which four employees can bag and stack almost five tons of compost an hour.
In total, Bull Country Compost has eight vessels, with 3,000 yards of material continually being processed by about nine employees, some full-time and some part-time/seasonal (Sigrist says that similarly to many industries, finding people willing to do manual labor like bagging can be difficult). The entire operation stretches over three acres.
Multiple groups from both Ohio State University and various local soil and water conservation districts have toured the site, and Sigrist has hosted curious visitors from as far away as Alaska.
While years ago people were generally unsure about composted manure, that has changed.
“It’s been 25 years and we have many loyal customers,” Sigrist says. “Word of mouth is the best advertisement there is. Also, many of our retail locations have an open bag of compost beside the pallet of bags for sale, and this helps people to ‘see, smell and feel’ the compost. Also, through the media and internet, people’s general awareness of soil and environmental health has risen and many consumers have learned the difference between raw manure and compost on their own.”
The farm is still active, with the heifers and 500 acres of crops. Sigrist says the manure composting and farm activities support each other in unique ways, making the entire operation able to support multiple generations of his family.
The composting business has also allowed the family to branch out into offering other services such as custom litter spreader application and custom harvesting. No specific new markets or products are being pursued, but Sigrist says they are always keen to gain a larger share of the soil amendment market at garden centers, and always listen to feedback from customers and garden professionals.
“The entire journey has been a big learning experience,” he reflects. “From finding new markets and keeping up with growth to creating vessels and streamlining the process, we had to develop our own model as there weren’t any of its kind at the time.”
One project Sigrist hopes finish in the future is to pipe heat generated by the compost to the bagging shed.
“That way, bagging can start earlier in the year in more comfort,” he says. “I haven’t gotten to it yet, but in the meantime, we bought the employees nice insulated jackets!”
Moreman, a retired vocational agriculture teacher with an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University, began his career by managing a cattle feedlot. He then spent over 25 years teaching at Texas Christian University and Clarendon Community College, where he developed and taught a two-year program in ranch and feedlot management.
Six years ago, this 81-year-old launched a successful turnkey manure composting and organic fertilizer application business headquartered in Clarendon, Texas, that has since doubled in size with 15 employees. Clarendon is about 65 miles southeast of Amarillo.
The company’s motto is, “Giving nature a hand and conserving the land.”
“I feel very strongly about conserving our resources,” says Moreman. “I think composting is one of the better things that we do, and the area that we are in, you could have three different soil types in one field, from sandy loam, to dark clay, to caliche. Compost improves the soil structure and the ability for the carbon molecules to hold the nutrients in place till the plant can get hold of it.”
A group of eight feedlot owners, who together raise about 200,000 head of cattle, annually supply Moreman with the manure he needs to make compost. The company uses its compost turning equipment on land dedicated by each feedlot to convert over 720,000 tons of raw feedlot manure annually into about 300,000 tons of compost. It then sells the compost to farmers as organic fertilizer and a soil amendment, providing the equipment and personnel to land apply it for them.
Rolling Plains Ag Compost makes its money from the sale and application of the compost, with a percentage of that income paid to the feedlot owners for supplying the raw manure.
Moreman says that there are two main reasons why the feedlots are eager to work with Rolling Plains Ag Compost. Firstly, when the feedlot cleans its pens and stockpiles the manure, it typically is compacted in large chunks, which makes it very difficult to land apply. Its nutrient content is also highly variable in this form and it often is full of weed seeds. Because the raw manure is in larger chunks, it usually takes a couple of years to break down in the field, which is why farmers tend to not see any value from it until the second year after application. However, by providing the raw manure to a composter, the large chunks are broken down, it is easier to land apply, and the nutrients are available immediately upon incorporation. Also, farmers who have applied raw manure on their fields have found that this material tends to have unwanted debris like pipes and cables mixed in with it.
Secondly, working with a composter like Rolling Plains Ag Compost, reduces the feedlots’ potential liability concerning land applying of raw manure. Moreman says based on feedback from his feedlot suppliers, the decision to compost the manure rather than land apply it has made a big difference when it comes to dealing with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Our feedlot operators tell us that if an inspector from the EPA or Texas Water Quality Board comes by and they see that they are composting that manure and hauling it out, the inspectors don’t ever bother them because that’s what they want to see done with it,” says Moreman. “But if the inspectors go in there and they have a huge pile that’s so big that it interferes with TV reception, then they get concerned.”
The composting processes gets rid of many of the pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure, and reduces the volume. Moreman says that it reduces the manure volume by as much as 5-to-1. So there is a lot less material to land apply and it tends to have more consistent nutrient content.
Because the feedlots feed their cattle concentrated rations, there is little, if any, roughage like hay or bedding material like straw mixed in with the manure, which actually makes it more valuable as a raw material for making compost because there is little to no filler.
“Dairy manure is probably worth about half as much as cattle feedlot manure because a dairy operation will typically feed a lot of hay and silage to their cattle,” says Moreman. “These beef cattle are on a high grain ration and they are not subjected to a lot of roughage, because these feedlot owners want their cattle to eat a lot of grain and convert that to beef. That’s kind of the name of the game.”
Moreman’s business operates year round. Employees are either creating the windrows, turning the windrows, or land applying the compost for farm customers.
“We are either putting compost on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat or irrigated pasture,” says Jack. “There is a crop coming off at all times, so they need compost pretty much all the time.”
While there is year-round demand, there are times of greater and lesser demand. May to July tends to be the slowest time of year, after spring crops are planted.
An important selling point to marketing the compost to farm customers is its ability to improve the water holding capacity of the soils where it is applied. Water is a valuable commodity to farmers in that part of Texas. Adding compost to dense soils increases their aeration and drainage capacity, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Most of Rolling Plains Ag Compost’s customers participate in a program where they
land-apply compost on each parcel of land on a two-to-three year rotation.
The company has worked hard to build its farm customer base, and Moreman’s background as an educator has helped. He spends considerable time hosting seminars and speaking to individual farmers about the benefits of using compost. His effort has paid off.
“You can be assured of one thing that if they try it, we are going to make a sale next time around,” says Moreman.
While compost has significant nutrient value, it does not necessarily fulfil all the farmer’s nutrient needs but represents only part of the overall puzzle. The company’s customers understand that. Most will need to add some commercial fertilizer, depending on the crop they are growing.
Typically, a feedlot will stockpile its raw manure as it cleans its pens and then Rolling Plains Ag Compost will bring in their own loaders and trucks to transport the manure to a drainage-controlled parcel of land that the feedlot has designated as its composting area. This can measure anywhere from 20 to 40 acres.
The company will create a compost windrow that measures approximately six-feet tall by up to 16-feet wide. The windrow will be as long as required by the amount of raw manure being converted. In the past, they have measured anywhere from a quarter-mile to a mile long.
The composting process consists of windrow turning, temperature measurement and moisture measure to ensure that the microorganisms responsible for the biological conversion process within the windrows are doing their job.
Part of the reason for the turning process is to ensure that the windrows are well oxygenated to support the microorganisms. As the conversion process takes place, the windrows can heat up to as much as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
To turn the windrows, Rolling Plains Ag Compost uses a CT718 compost turner by Wildcat, which is a Vermeer company. With a 44-inch diameter drum to turn, mix and aerate the material, it can process up to 5,000 tons of manure per hour. The turning takes place typically once a week.
After about six weeks, the raw manure has been converted to compost and it is ready for land application. Moreman says the compost turner is a large and powerful piece of equipment with a 500 hp Caterpillar engine. He adds that it is sturdy enough to break down the chunks in the manure pile.
Rolling Plains Ag Compost has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks to deliver the compost to farm customers. At all stages of the pen cleaning, composting, and land application process, the company depends on a large fleet of John Deere loaders to move the material as needed.
Once the compost is delivered to the farm, the compost is temporarily stockpiled beside the field and then loaded into New Leader spreaders to land apply the compost. Rolling Plains Ag Compost owns four of them. New Leader is a type of nutrient applicator manufactured by Highway Equipment Company (HECO) located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Rolling Plains Ag Compost operation, the applicators are mounted on either Chevrolet or International trucks.
Moreman says that these New Leader nutrient applicators are large and purpose-built. The box consists of a stainless steel bed with a conveyor on the bottom. The conveyor propels the compost to the back of the box, where spinners broadcast the material onto the land. The company will deploy as many nutrient applicators as needed for each job, but when all four are working, their customers are amazed at how quickly the job gets done.
“They are also very accurate,” says Jack. “There is a GPS unit on them to ensure that you don’t leave any part of the field out, and if you do, it will tell you.”
In terms of application amounts, Rolling Plains Ag Compost recommends four tons per acre on irrigated land and two-to-three tons on dry land. Once the farmer has some experience using the compost, they usually make adjustments on future applications based on the responses that they have experienced.
The 2017 edition of the annual show celebrating all things manure–related is being held August 22 and 23, 2017, at the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Agricultural Research Station, located about 20 miles north of Madison near Arlington, WI.
"Wisconsin is very excited to be able to host the 2017 North American Manure Expo," said 2017 expo chairs George Koepp and Richard Halopka. "The theme for this expo is 'Innovation, Research, and Solutions' and it is driving our focus to showcase how manure application professionals, researchers, and industry are all working together to apply manure nutrients to our fields and crops in environmentally safe, efficient, and financially productive ways."
Two action-packed days have been planned for the expo. On August 22, attendees can choose from one of three tours featuring visits to a local dairy-based anaerobic digester, examples of swine and dairy manure processing, plus composting and low disturbance manure application. Pit agitation demos will also be held at the research center in the afternoon. The trade show will open at noon and industry sessions, including Puck's Pump School, will be held later in the evening.
On August 23, the grounds will open at 7:30 a.m. and feature a full day of educational sessions covering everything from atmospheric emissions to soil health. Manure application demonstrations, including solid and liquid manure spreaders, compost turners, plus a manure spill recovery, are also planned.
"This is a great opportunity for farmers, manure applicators, equipment manufacturers, and researchers to gather, share information, and develop even more environmentally friendly and effective ways to apply manure nutrients to our cropland," added Koepp and Halopka.
In preparation for the upcoming expo, planning officials are updating the event's collectible T-shirt, a favorite among attendees.
The top 50 slogans received – as decided by expo planners – will be voted on by the public (VOTE NOW!) with the top 10 going on the back of the 2017 Manure Expo T-shirt.
Anyone who submits a slogan that makes the T-shirt will receive a free shirt.
The 2017 North American Manure Expo is being hosted by the University of Wisconsin, UW-Extension, and the Professional Nutrient Applicators' Association of Wisconsin, which also owns the event. Annex Business Media, publisher of Manure Manager magazine, serves as the show manager.
Registration is free and available online at agannex.com/manure-manager/manure-expo.
Attendees can see the latest in innovation, research and manure management solutions by taking part in one of three tours scheduled for August 22.
Tours cost $20 to attend, which includes transportation and lunch. To help with logistics, preregistration is required and can be done by visiting manureexpo.org.
Tour #1 – Statz Brothers Inc, Sun Prairie, Wisc.
Visit a second-generation owned and operated dairy operation featuring two plug-flow anaerobic digesters that process the manure from 4,000 cows. The farm also recycles the leftover manure solids as bedding and has a 20 million gallon liquid manure storage structure. Statz Brothers hosted the Wisconsin Farm Technology Days in 2015 and grows 6,000 acres of corn, alfalfa, wheat and soybeans.
Tour #2 – Arlington Agricultural Research Station, Arlington, Wisc.
The 2,000-acre Arlington station is home to the University of Wisconsin's Emmons Blaine Dairy Cattle Research Center, which houses 430 milking cows, 100 dry cows and more than 50 calves. Tour attendees will visit the operation's sand bedding processing and recycling center. They will also visit the UW Swine Research and Teaching Center's manure settling system where the liquid portion of the manure is applied through irrigation. There will also be an opportunity to visit the research station's manure runoff study plots.
Tour #3 – Endres Berryridge Farm, Waunakee, Wisc.
Learn more about composting manure and bedded pack systems. Attendees will hear about windrowing and composting dairy manure under roof, topdressing alfalfa fields using compost and recycling composted dairy manure as bedding.
All tours will leave from the North American Manure Expo site at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station, N695 Hopkins Road, Arlington. Check-in starts at 8 a.m. with buses departing by 9 a.m. Don't be late or you could forfeit your seat on the tour.
After the tours, all attendees will have lunch at the research center's Public Events Building. Following lunch, they will return to the show grounds for the opening of the trade show plus an agitation demonstration at the center's dairy lagoon, scheduled for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. The show grounds will be open until 8 p.m.
Tour attendees are invited back for day two of the expo on August 23. The grounds will open at 7:30 a.m. and feature a full day of educational sessions covering everything from atmospheric emissions to soil health. Manure application demonstrations, including solid and liquid manure spreaders, compost turners, plus a manure spill recovery, are also planned.
Registration is free and available online at agannex.com/manure-manager/manure-expo.
The emphasis of many developments was increasingly on the ability to control applications in order to better make use of the nutrients in muck and slurry, and record those applications for traceability and future nutrient planning.
The growing trend to engage contractors to spread muck has also led to machinery becoming higher in capacity and increasingly heavy duty to cope with increased workloads and more powerful tractors. READ MORE
Using a grant from the Alberta government, Marty Winchell purchased a used cement mixer, outfitting it to be used as a compost system for animal mortalities on his farm. Contributed photo.
The Winchell family farm in Alberta is relatively small – around 300 laying hens, 70 sheep, as well as a number of pigs and cattle. But not long ago, the 120-acre farm raised around 12,500 layer breeders as well as 4,200 egg laying ducks for the Filipino and Vietnamese market. When Marty Winchell went back to full time work in 2011 as the agriculture program supervisor for Clearwater County, the poultry population had to be substantially cut back.
Faced with depopulation, the Winchells first looked at selling the layers. Unfortunately, there was no market for the chickens.
“I ended up paying people 20 cents a bird to pick them up, and then another 25 cents to 30 cents a bird to get rid of them. It was quite expensive,” says Winchell.
The same thing happened with the depopulation of the ducks.
“There was no market for spent fowl in the duck world here in Alberta,” he says. “Certainly nothing that wasn’t without risk.”
Winchell decided to compost the ducks himself. He built a trough using two rows of square straws bales. He filled the trough with the mortality and then covered it with three to four feet of manure. Although it worked, it wasn’t the optimum solution.
“Every time you turn compost with any animals in it, you often expose bones and there was also odor,” Winchell says. “And although the odor dissipates quickly, we’re in close proximity of town.”
The odor can also bring in predators, which Winchell doesn’t want to expose his sheep to.
Another environmental consideration is that the farm is on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River, a river that provides water for the city of Edmonton. For that reason, they are extra cautious about any composting practices.
“We’re just trying to do the right thing,” he says.
Winchell can’t tell you when he came up with the idea of using a cement mixer to compost mortality, because he says he feels like he has always been on the lookout for one. It was definitely before the mortalities, when he was dealing with composting cracked eggs and similar materials.
“Cracked eggs are probably one of the biggest attractives I have on my farm. And, I also wanted to compost with less work,” says Winchell. “I knew that composters they sell at the hardware store weren’t large enough. I guess I was just looking for a practical way to size it up, and when I did that, it looked like a cement mixer.”
He wasn’t the only one who thought it was a good idea. Bear Smart, an Alberta provincial program, gave him a $1,000 grant to try out his innovative idea.
It took some time to get it all in place. Not only did Winchell have to find an inexpensive, used mixer, but also find a way to get it to the farm.
“With the grant, I bought a cement mixer with a bad hydraulic drive and no truck,” he says. “It cost me $1,000 to transport it here and around $800 for a new hydraulic drive, plus I had to buy some hoses. I figure I’ve got about $2,000 of my own money in it.
“If the average person were to go and buy one, they’d probably just need hoses to attach it to a tractor or a skid steer,” he adds. “I didn’t know what I was doing, so when I picked it up, it didn’t actually have the hydraulic pump, or the drive on it, so I had to find one of those and that was difficult to locate because of the age of the cement mixer.”
In the end though, the idea was sound, and the composter worked just as he had anticipated.
One of the big benefits of using a mixer as a composter is that when it turns one way it stirs the material, and when it turns the other direction the material exits.
It’s also easy and quick to use.
“It takes about 30 seconds to hook the hoses up to my skid steer,” Winchell says. “I turn it, and I’m done.”
The first thing he composted with the mixer was 300 birds. Within a month – and only spinning it three or four times – the birds were completely composted.
“I felt like it worked really well,” he says. “I would turn it in the evening and could see the steam coming out and that it was heating.”
Winchell says he could be more scientific about the process, but for now if there is any odor he adds more carbon, like a bale of straw or a bucket of shavings. And if it’s not heating, he adds water.
Over the last year, the Winchells have put into the mixer anything that they don’t feel comfortable putting in a windrow or exposed to the water. They have composted a llama, mortality from lambing, wiener pigs, as well as other waste like broken eggs – all the while adding shavings, straw and water.
“Truthfully, after over a year, I still haven’t emptied the mixer,” Winchell says.
The cement mixer holds around five yards of compost. But it’s definitely the smaller variety. Many of the newer cement mixers hold around eight cubic yards.
Winchell doesn’t have any intention of spreading the compost from the mixer on his land.
“I was at one seminar where Environment Canada indicated that if you had compost with a dead cow with BSE, spreading it on your land and then allowing cows to eat off that could be dangerous. They weren’t sure how prions moved, and were very reluctant for animal compost to be put back on pastureland. Because there are sheep in our compost, and sheep can have scrapie (not that I’ve ever had that on my farm) I will not be using this compost on anything that is used for food production for animals or humans.”
When Winchell does empty the mixer, he will be using the compost for other projects, like bank stabilization.
The Winchells do, however, still have a lot of manure left from the farm when it was larger, and continue to compost with windrows and sell that compost to neighbors.
“I usually turn it once in the spring, once in the fall. Because we live close to the river, we don’t do a lot of spreading of manure on the land. We’re trying to be responsible landowners and not put nitrates in the river. I suspect I will be spreading some compost on the property in the next couple years though.”
Winchell believes the mixer would be an ideal tool for smaller farms, not just because it’s effective, but also because it’s inexpensive and simple to use.
“If you were looking for one, I would check out industrial auctions. They aren’t expensive, because nobody wants a cement truck. You can probably buy the truck and the cement mixer for a couple grand, then drive it home, take the cement mixer off, and then sell the truck for more than what you paid for the combination.”
And he adds, “There’s not a lot that can go wrong with them. They will probably last for a very long time.”
He can see the mixer as a great composter for small farm animals.
“You can compost something completely in six to eight weeks, so there’s no reason why a broiler operation couldn’t use something like this,” he says. “Because you don’t have a lot of mortality until the last couple weeks, and if you’re placing every six-and-a-half to eight weeks, you should be able to get a batch through.”
The Winchell family (wife, Cindy, sons Oliver and Henry and daughters Grethe and Josie) isn’t shy about showing off the new composter. During the Clearwater County West County Ag Tour, 120 people came to look at the composter in action. Also, a number of articles have been written on the innovative mixer and Winchell has received some emails.
This May, the Winchells had 275 students out to the farm.
“The Grade 4 curriculum in Alberta is animal waste and plant waste and composting. So, we incorporated the cement mixer into the Grade 4 curriculum in Clearwater County and had 275 students come through my place and look at it – in addition to seeing sheep being shorn and talk on bees and whatever else.
“We’ve been a part of that program for five years. I’ve talked to them about compost before because I’ve always been composting, but this is the first year I’ve shown them the compost.”
He says his family gets involved because it’s important to educate.
“Often agriculture is vilified in social media and in the media. Education is something that I think we need to do a lot more of in order to make sure people realize that farmers are the first stewards of the land. We make our living off the land, so why would we do things that are not constructive?
We need to educate people that manure is a byproduct, but it’s also a resource.”
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