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.”
A 100-acre field of wheat stubble – located at the Arkell Research Station of the University of Guelph, home to the Ontario Agricultural College – will be transformed into a showcase for all things manure. The site is located minutes from Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
The theme of the 2013 event is Getting It Right: Precision manure application.
On Aug. 20, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., a pump school – themed PCE Pump School 101 Short Course: Fundamentals of Planning a Dragline System – will educate attendees on understanding pump performance curves and calculating friction loss. Later in the morning, interested parties can take part in a bus tour featuring lagoon agitation equipment demonstrations, a stop at a dairy-based anaerobic digester plus a tour of Husky Farm Equipment’s manufacturing location in Alma, Ont.
Education and demonstration events will be held Aug. 21. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear the newest information on manure management – including dealing with compaction issues, valuing manure resources, utilizing precision application tools, comparisons of different manure application methods, what the future of manure management and application may look like plus technology demonstrations. Guest speakers will be attending from Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Expo visitors will also have an opportunity to see the latest and greatest in manure handling equipment, including demonstrations of solid and liquid manure spreaders plus composting equipment. The day will end with a presentation on the dangers of gases in enclosed places plus a manure spill demonstration.
Attendance is free to all events but pre-registration is required. All registered attendees will receive a limited edition Manure Expo hat plus a delegate bag filled with other goodies. To register or for more information – including directions and suggestions on where to stay – visit www.manureexpo2013.com.
With the expo’s 2013 stop in Canada, the show will truly become a North American event. The manure expo first came about in 2001, when the University of Wisconsin was approached by several custom manure applicators from around the region requesting a show that provided side-by-side comparisons of agitation and manure application equipment. This led to the first show being held in Prairie du Sac, Wis., during August 2001. In order to have the deepest impact on the North American manure industry, the expo is a travelling show. Over its history, the event has been held in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania and Nebraska.
The 2013 edition of the Manure Expo is being planned and organized with the assistance of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, Annex Business Media, various volunteers within the manure management and livestock industries plus Manure
The KMC 6400 litter windrower forms windrows for composting bedding material in poultry houses, inverts the windrows, and spreads the bedding material for the next flock. Operators realize greater than 30 percent reduction in work time.
The KMC 6400 is PTO powered to maximize horsepower transfer from the tractor. Blade angle and position are adjustable with hydraulic cylinders. Hydraulic rear gauge wheels adjust the blade height, preventing floor gouging and allowing an even spread of litter. A floating hitch link keeps the blade parallel to the floor. The dual overlapping auger system has a rotation direction that reduces the dust thrown toward the operator and discharges material into the windrow instead of pushing it forward.
A discharge grill and chopper blade system breaks up large clumps of litter, releasing trapped ammonia and homogenizing moisture for more uniform composting.
The AE50 Awards are presented annually by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in recognition of that year’s product innovations in the areas of agricultural, food, and biological systems.
Aug. 21, 2012 - The North American Manure Expo happens this Wednesday at the USDA Dairy Forage Research Center just north of Prairie du Sac, WI.
Kevin Erb, with the University of Wisconsin Extension, says the day starts out with a demonstration of lagoon agitation equipment followed by a number of educational seminars. Later in the afternoon there will be demonstrations of solid, liquid and dragline manure applications with a manure spill response demonstration to wrap the day up. READ MORE
May 30, 2012 – The need to find an easier, less-expensive way to spread hog manure onto his farm paddocks was the catalyst for Australian farmer Frank Harney to purchase Seymour Rural Equipment’s Composter 4000TravelA.
The eco-shelters at Harney’s hog operation near Elmore generate 60 to 70 cubic meters of pig manure and straw every week. He needed an efficient way to handle the effluent.
April 13, 2011, Wooster, OH – A livestock mortality composting certification workshop will be offered April 19, 2012, from 6 to 8 p.m. The program will be held at the Washington County Extension office in Marietta, OH.
The livestock industry is faced with discovering innovative and economical ways to dispose of mortality losses. This need has been brought on by the disappearance of rendering plants, concerns over potential ground water pollution from burial, and the economic and environmental issues of incineration. Composting of dead animals is an option that is available to all Ohio livestock producers. Composting is a natural process in which the animal carcass is bio-degraded by bacteria to avoid pollution of air and water.
The process of composting dead animals allows bacteria and fungi to decompose the animal carcasses in an aerobic environment. By providing oxygen to this environment, the microbes are able to decompose the animal without the production of objectionable odors and gasses. When done properly, composting destroys disease causing bacteria or viruses and reduces problems associated with flies, vermin, and scavenging animals at the composting site. Before beginning to compost livestock mortalities in Ohio, producers must attend a certification workshop offered by Ohio State University Extension.
Cost of the workshop is $20 per person. To register, contact Peggy (740-376-7431) in the Washington County OSU Extension office.
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Si-Ellen Farms has been dealing with growing pains and manure management issues for more than 15 years. They feel only now do they have the ideal program in place.
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Iowa Manure Calibration & Distribution Field DayFri Jun 02, 2017 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
World Pork Expo 2017Wed Jun 07, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
Manure Storage & Handling Safety WorkshopMon Jun 12, 2017 @ 6:00PM - 09:00PM
Anaerobic Digester Operator Training CourseTue Jun 13, 2017 @ 8:00AM - 05:00PM
AgSource Laboratories Ice Cream SocialWed Jun 14, 2017 @ 2:00PM - 04:00PM
Iowa Manure Calibration & Distribution Field DayFri Jun 23, 2017 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM