Manure Management
September 18, 2017, Madison, WI – The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) approved a conditional $15 million Focus on Energy grant to BC Organics, LLC for an innovative bioenergy system in Brown County.

The system will produce renewable natural gas from dairy farm manure and other waste. The project will reduce the need to land-spread raw manure, protect sensitive groundwater and surface waters in northeastern Wisconsin, and provide positive economic benefits to participating farms.

At the direction of Governor Walker, the PSC, Department of Natural Resources, and the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection collaborated to develop a request for proposals (RFP) on innovative anaerobic digester systems that could produce renewable energy, remove nutrients from manure, protect water quality, and reduce pathogens.

BC Organics was recommended unanimously by the evaluation team comprised of expert staff from the PSC, DNR, DATCP, UW-Madison and Focus on Energy. BC Organics must obtain all of the necessary state and local regulatory approvals before construction may begin and includes an odor control plan designed to minimize impacts to neighboring landowners.

The consortium consists of 24 members led by Wisconsin-based Dynamic Concepts (Waukesha), along with WEC Energy Group (Milwaukee), US Biogas LLC (Plymouth), and BioStar Organics, among other Wisconsin based firms. The project’s proposed location is northeast of Holland, near Green Bay, is co-located with a proposed landfill owned by Brown County.

It has commitments from nine Wisconsin farms with over 22,000 animal units, with the capability to expand to include additional farms in the future. The facility is expected to begin operations by January 1, 2019. The project will employee up to 20 full-time employees.

The project involves the construction of multiple anaerobic digesters with capability to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) from manure and food waste, and eventually landfill gas. The estimated energy output of 5.7 million therms is equivalent to the home heating needs for 7,600 Wisconsin homes. The RNG will be injected into the interstate natural gas pipeline system for use as a heating and transportation fuel. 

The project will improve water quality in surface and groundwater in Brown, Kewaunee, Calumet, and Door counties using advanced nutrient separation technologies to treat the wastewater and produce other beneficial by-products including, bedding for cattle, liquid fertilizer, and dry solids that can be converted to fertilizer or used as feedstock for a renewable electric generation facility. When fully operational the project will remove 577,837 pounds of phosphorus and generate 163 million gallons of clean water annually. 

Wisconsin continues to lead the U.S. in on-farm digesters. BC Organics provides an innovative approach that could provide a model for eliminating the need to spread raw manure on the land and provides a framework that could be replicated in other parts of the state to improve environmental outcomes for the livestock industry. Specifically, it will help farmers reduce the water quality impacts of dairy farming in the karst region of northeastern Wisconsin by: reducing or eliminating the need to spread manure and overtopping lagoons; removing phosphorus from the waste stream; improving the efficiency of uptake of nutrients by plants; and virtually eliminating the pathogens in treated manure.
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
September 13, 2017, Lancaster, PA – The majority of farms got passing grades in Pennsylvania’s first year of expanded inspections in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Sixty-five percent of farms inspected under the new program met the manure-management planning requirements, and 63 percent were compliant on erosion and sedimentation planning. READ MORE
Published in State
September 11, 2017, Lynden, WA – Washington State’s watersheds scored a win in late August as agricultural waste company, Regenis, installed the first phosphorous recovery system west of the Cascades at Edaleen Dairy in Lynden, WA.

The fine solids separation system – called a Dissolved Air Floatation (DAF) unit – removes solids in manure wastewater through a system that injects the tank with air bubbles and organic polymer, causing the solids to float to the surface where they can be skimmed off, dewatered, and stored. Meanwhile, the remaining wastewater can more efficiently be applied to crops, allowing dairies to better manage their nutrient levels as they irrigate their fields.

With the DAF, a dairy can remove 80 to 90 percent of the phosphorous and 30 percent of the nitrogen in the wastewater, according to Dr. Craig Frear, Regenis’ director of research.

“That translates into a host of economic and environmental benefits,” he said. “After the solids are dewatered, you have natural fertilizer containing two of the most important nutrients for healthy crops along with several micronutrients. Not only is this organic fertilizer less expensive for dairies to transport to their fields, thereby saving fuel, but it also saves them the costs of importing new sources of chemical based phosphorous fertilizers which are unsustainable. These solids can also create a new revenue stream for dairies by selling them to neighboring farms, which creates an exponential benefit for the local environment.”

“We invested in the DAF because the future of the dairy industry is evolving, and the needle is moving towards nutrient management systems as a key element in creating a closed loop, sustainable farm where nothing goes to waste, and we steward the land with utmost care so it can feed future generations,” said Mitch Moorlag with Edaleen Dairy. “In the long run, this helps make dairies like ours more competitive, which is a win for consumers who want to support local agricultural producers and the jobs they create in smaller communities.”

The DAF unit was funded in part by a matching grant from Washington state’s Clean Energy Fund in 2016 as part of an emphasis on creating a more vibrant clean energy economy and a healthy environment throughout the state. It’s the second fine solids phosphorous separating system in Washington state (both installed by Regenis) and is one of only a handful in North America.

“Investments from our Clean Energy Fund are accelerating the pace of innovation and opening new markets for carbon reduction technologies in Washington’s rural agricultural communities,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “It’s exciting to see Regenis and Edaleen Dairy in Whatcom County lead the way in helping the dairy industry address waste management challenges by turning captured nutrients into value-added fertilizer products.”

Regenis has now installed four nutrient recovery systems on dairy farms, including the two phosphorous systems and two others designed to strip nitrogen in the form of ammonia from animal wastewater.
Published in Dairy
September 7, 2017, Idaho Falls, ID – The Idaho National Laboratory has released multiple new open-source software projects, including a program aimed at helping with manure management decisions.

The Decision-support for Digester-Algae IntegRation for Improved Environmental and Economic Sustainability (DAIRIEES) was developed in collaboration with the University of Idaho and Boise State University. It is a novel treatment system to mitigate many current environmental concerns of manure management and create value-added product from manure, including bioplastics, electricity, fertilizer and animal bedding. DAIRIEES allows users to enter characteristics about a dairy farm’s manure, manure management plan and regional market. Based on these inputs, the options are analyzed in detail using data from laboratory research to determine the most efficient use of this material. You can read more about it at dairiees.inl.gov.

All of the programs are freely available to the public and open to collaboration directly with researchers and engineers outside of the laboratory. It’s hoped that by fostering widespread distribution of the software, it will accelerate the adoption of these technologies within industry and fuel innovation in other research organizations that may build on them.

All of INL’s open-source software may be acquired at no cost at github.com/idaholab, including the following recent additions to INL’s open-source software portfolio.

Published in Other
September 5, 2017, Arlington, WI — Who knew there was so much to learn about animal droppings?

Amanda Kasparek works with farmers, as an agronomist for the Clark County Land Conservation office.

But the North American Manure Expo, held at the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Agricultural Research Station, offered Kasparek new insights, and not just about the different types of machinery on the market for spreading organic fertilizer on crop fields.

"I thought all manure was manure. I thought they were all the same," she said, as she traveled, by tractor-drawn bleacher wagon, to the various field demonstrations on Wednesday afternoon.

But not all droppings are created equal. Some is heavier; some is lighter. Some has more solid pieces; some is more easily liquefied for application. And some animals produce more effective fertilizer than others.

Paul Neeb, who came to the expo from near Kitchener, Ont., said his experience on his farm — he raises beef cattle and laying hens — has shown him that poultry manure makes, by far, the most effective fertilizer.

"A chicken," he said, "processes its food more efficiently than other animals."

An estimated 700 to 800 people came to the two-day event, which includes tours, classes, demonstrations and a trade show. Most of the license plates on vehicles in the parking area were from Midwest states such as Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota and Illinois.

Whether you're talking dairy cattle droppings, pig poop or gifts from the feathered colons of chickens or turkeys, it is anything but a "waste product."

Mark Berning, territory representative for the Ohio-based Cadman company, stood in the midst of a 62-foot, 25-hose continuous manure spreader under a sign that said "It's Time to Rethink Manure Application." He said the value of manure as fertilizer, which has been known as long as humans have cultivated crops, is even greater now, as the costs for producing and hauling chemical fertilizers have skyrocketed. READ MORE
Published in Applications
September 5, 2017, Manawa, WI - Although manure provides valuable nutrients, especially nitrogen, to high N-requiring crops such as corn, proper application is key to keeping those nutrients in the soil while reducing soil erosion.

Methods of applying manure into the ground without significantly disturbing the soil were presented to area farmers at the recent summer field day sponsored by the Waupaca County Forage Council.

During the morning presentations, speakers noted that a large portion of nitrogen, about half in typical liquid dairy manure, is in ammonium or urea form and can potentially be lost to the air as ammonia if the manure is not incorporated into the soil promptly.

Historically, tillage has been the most common method of incorporation, but tillage and, to a lesser extent, standard injection reduce crop residue cover, leaving the field more susceptible to erosion.

A common goal among producers is to find new methods for applying liquid dairy manure to maximize manure N availability while maintaining crop residue cover for erosion control.One of the field-day presenters, Dan Brick, of Brickstead Dairy near Greenleaf in Brown County, has become an active conservation leader, who's committed to finding solutions that maintain environmental quality while improving soil fertility.

Through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP), Brick invested in an additional 2.9-million-gallon concrete manure structure to contain manure and milk house waste through the winter until it can be spread safely as fertilizer in the spring on his 900 acres of crop and hay ground. READ MORE
Published in Manure Application
August 30, 2017, Ohio - When hay is harvested nutrients are removed from the field. A ton of alfalfa removes approximately 13 pounds of phosphorus (as P2O5) and 50 pounds of potash (as K2O). According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Ohio harvested 2.6 tons per acre of alfalfa in 2016.

Many hay fields are not pure alfalfa. The acidic soils of the southern and eastern parts of the state make it difficult to maintain an alfalfa or clover stand so a mixed stand of grass and alfalfa/clover is common. Stands in older fields are often just mostly grass. A grass hay crop will remove just as many nutrients per ton as an alfalfa crop. The big difference is that the annual yields from grass hay fields are usually about 1.3 tons per acre lower than alfalfa fields.

Livestock manure can be used as a fertilizer source to replace nutrients removed through hay harvest. Pen pack beef manure will contain approximately 7.9 pounds of nitrogen (mostly in the organic form), 4.4 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 6.6 pounds of potash (K20) per ton according to OSU Extension bulletin 604. Note that these are older book values and your actual farm manure nutrient levels can vary depending upon the animal's ration, the amount and type of bedding material used and how manure is stored and handled. The recommendation is to sample and test manure at least on a yearly basis. This will provide a more reliable indication of the actual nutrient content of the manure on your farm. For more information about how and when to sample manure, Penn State Extension has a good publication available on-line at http://extension.psu.edu/plants/nutrient-management/educational/manure-storage-and-handling/manure-sampling-for-nutrient-management-planning.

Let's assume a livestock producer wants to use pen pack beef manure to replenish the nutrients in a hay field where he harvested three tons per acre of hay. Since alfalfa and grass hay both remove similar amounts of nutrients per ton, we can assume the three tons of hay removed per acre contained 39 pounds of P2O5 and 150 pounds of K2O. If pen pack beef manure was used to replenish these nutrients, 8.8 tons per acre would be sufficient to replace the phosphorus. However, a rate of 22.7 tons per acre would be needed to replace the potash. The 22.7 ton per acre manure application rate would result in almost 100 pounds of P2O5 being applied per acre, far more than was removed in the three tons of hay.

A farmer would need to be cautious about using this practice repeatedly and growing the soil phosphorus level. It takes about 20 pounds of phosphorus applied to a field to raise the soil test level one pound per acre or two parts per million. So if the soil test level is low, the additional phosphorus from the manure would not raise the soil phosphorus level much in a single year.

The key to using livestock manure to replace the nutrients removed through hay harvest is to get even distribution of the manure across the entire field. Having mowed hay fields as a teenager, where bedded pack manure was applied, I would strongly urge an even distribution pattern across the field. Avoid large clumps that will plug the mower or interfere with regrowth.

If you are unsure how many tons per acre your solid manure spreader applies there is a simple way to make a determination. Make a heavy plastic piece that is 56 inches by 56 inches. Fasten it to the ground with weights on the corners and apply manure across the plastic. Fold up the plastic and weigh the manure captured. Many people use a bathroom scales for this. One pound of manure captured on the plastic is equivalent to one ton of manure applied per acre. Thus, if you captured 10 pounds of manure the application rate was 10 tons per acre.

It is common for county extension offices to have farmers ask; "Can manure be applied between cuttings"? The answer is "yes". Farmers commonly use liquid swine and liquid dairy manure between cuttings to replace soil nutrients and "boost" regrowth of the forage crop in northwest Ohio. There is the potential to damage the crowns of the forage plants but most farmers seem to like the results of the manure application. Solid manure could also be applied between cuttings instead of waiting until fall to apply the manure. The manure application should take place as some as the hay is baled.

Liquid beef manure is also being used to replace nutrients in hay fields. Liquid beef manure we have sampled has contained 40 pounds nitrogen (about half in the organic form and half in the ammonium form), 35 pounds of phosphorus (P2O5) and 30 pounds of potash (K20) per 1000 gallons of product. Applied with a drag hose, this can be an excellent fertilizer for a forage.

A final cautionary note regarding manure application to forage fields: If manure is coming from a herd with animals infected by Johne's disease, that disease can be transmitted by manure to healthy cattle. According to a publication from the US Dairy Forage Research Center at Madison Wisconsin and authored by Michael Russelle and Bill Jokela, the Johne's bacterium can survive on hay. Therefore, those authors' recommendation is that in herds with Johne's, manure should not be applied as a topdressing on fields that will be harvested as dry hay.
Published in Other
August 30, 2017, Waunakee, WI - After four years of experimenting with composting on his dairy farm near Waunakee, Jeff Endres believes "there's a lot of upside to composting that we don't know about yet."

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
Published in Compost
The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Animal Waste Technology Fund provides grants to companies demonstrating new technologies on farms and providing alternative strategies for managing animal manure.

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.”


Published in Compost
August 18, 2017, Arlington, WI – The clock is ticking with less than one week before the North American Manure Expo begins.

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.
Published in Equipment
All farmers strive to be good stewards of the soil in their fields and the surrounding environment, but they need both solid research and the right tools to optimize their success.

Phosphorus is obviously of particular concern to crop farmers.

“The harmful algae blooms occurring in Lake Erie appear to be from increasing amounts of dissolved phosphorus reaching the lake,” says Glen Arnold, associate professor and field specialist in Manure Nutrient Management Systems at Ohio State University Extension. “The phosphorus in livestock manure is less likely to reach surface waters than the phosphorus in commercial fertilizer, as the phosphorus in livestock manure is slower to become soluble once applied to fields.”

However, Arnold notes that the over-application of livestock manure can raise soil phosphorus to very high levels and result in the element being lost through both surface runoff and through subsurface drainage tiles.

Arnold believes finding new ways of applying manure to growing crops and incorporating the manure more effectively could better assure the phosphorus stays put. His research on the application of manure to growing crops first started with topdressing wheat plots in Putnam County, Ohio, in 2004.

“We wanted to capture value from the nitrogen in manure and open up new windows of application for farmers, instead of them usually applying large amounts of manure in the fall after harvest,” he explains.

Arnold and his team approached swine farmers with finishing buildings for the wheat plot experiments, as swine manure has more nitrogen per gallon than dairy or beef manure. The Putnam County Extension Office and Soil & Water Conservation District collaborated on planning, flagging the replicated plots, field application and harvesting, with plots either receiving urea fertilizer or swine manure. When the results were analyzed, wheat yields under the manure treatments were equal to or greater than the urea treatment most of the time.

By 2009, Arnold, his colleagues and county extension educators in nearby counties were using swine manure to side dress corn plots.

“We removed the flotation wheels from a manure tanker and replaced them with narrow wheels so the manure tanker could follow the tractor down the cornrows,” he says. “The yield results were very positive as the manure treatments were similar to the commercial fertilizer treatments. During unusually dry growing seasons, the manure treatments out-yielded the commercial manure treatments. The same occurred during unusually wet growing seasons as well.”



In addition to the swine-finishing manure side dress plots, during the past year the team tried liquid beef manure and liquid dairy manure, enhanced with commercial nitrogen, to side dress corn plots.

“We used a manure tanker and Dietrich toolbar,” Arnold says. “The beef manure plots performed as well as the swine manure plots. The dairy manure plots also preformed very well, which opens many possibilities for dairy producers to sidedress corn in the years ahead.”

At this point, the team has also completed a third year of side dressing emerged corn with swine manure in Darke County, Ohio, using a drag hose. The drag hose was pulled across the emerged corn through the V3 stage of growth, and the manure incorporated during application using a seven-row VIT unit. Over three years, the corn side dressed with manure averaged 13 bushels per acre more than corn side dressed with urea ammonium nitrate.

In terms of cost differences between urea and manure, Arnold notes that farmers have to eventually land-apply the manure regardless of whether it’s applied to a growing crop or not.

“Capturing the nitrogen value pays for the cost of applying the manure,” he says.

He also believes a drag hose is faster, more efficient and alleviates soil compaction concerns compared to using a manure tanker. Drag hoses also provide flexibility in that the manure can be applied anytime from the day the crop is planted through the V3 stage of corn growth, a six-week window in Ohio if the corn is planted in late April.

In these experiments on application of manure during the growing season, Arnold and his colleagues never measured phosphorus runoff, but he says that if manure is applied in the fall, more than 50 percent of the nitrogen is generally lost, and the tillage to incorporate the manure at that time causes more soil erosion than application during crop growth.

Farmers do have to watch over-application of manure to growing wheat as it will lead to the wheat field blowing flat in June in Ohio. On corn, Arnold says there is nothing to stop a person from over-applying but the extra nitrogen would be wasted.

All-in-all, Arnold believes the application of manure to growing crops works very well. He says the farmers who have participated in the on-farm plots have been pleasantly surprised at how well livestock manure has worked as a sidedress nitrogen source for corn and as a top dress to wheat.

“In addition to providing nitrogen for the corn crop, the manure can also provide the phosphorus and potash needed for a two-year corn-soybean rotation without applying excess nutrients,” he says.

In order to convince as many livestock producers as possible of the economic and environmental advantages of applying more manure to growing crops and applying less manure after the fall harvest season, Arnold and his team will allow farmers to see results first-hand. Because he’s found that farmers who participated in the sidedress plots using a manure tanker are very interested in using a drag hose, Arnold has obtained funds from several companies to build two 12-row drag hose sidedress toolbars. He expects to have them available for loan during the 2017 growing season.

“The plan is to loan the toolbars to both livestock producers and commercial applicators,” he says. “We hope to loan them out to more than a dozen participants this summer.”


Published in Applications
August 17, 2017, Fruitland, IA — All farmers know that crops need nutrients to grow, particularly carbon. That's why they spread manure or compost on their fields. But compost fades fast — half of its carbon degrades in five to eight years.

In recent years, biochar has been hailed by some as an alternative to manure or compost, but  biochar is expensive and poor quality biochar can increase the soil's acidity, damaging crops. READ MORE 
Published in Applications
Livestock producers in California received a crash course in composting earlier this summer.

Nine consecutive days of temperatures above 100 degrees in the Central Valley area of the state resulted in a large jump in cattle deaths. According to an agricultural official in Fresno County, between 4,000 and 6,000 head of livestock died in the month of June due to the heat. Adding to the problem was the temporary shutdown, due to a mechanical problem, of the local rendering plant. As a result, a state of emergency was called in at least three counties and the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program (CDQAP) released an emergency mortality disposal advisory. Under the plan, producers were provided with three options to dispose of mortalities: directly transport the carcasses to an alternate rendering facility or permitted landfill; temporarily store mortalities on farm in compost piles until they could be permanently disposed of; or, as a last resort, bury the carcasses in an emergency landfill on farm, which still required a mountain load of paperwork and possibly thousands of dollars in fees.

According to the five-page advisory, producers were encouraged to put down a waterproof liner and use dairy manure solids as a composting agent, placing each adult carcass on a three foot bed of manure and then covering with a second layer of manure three feet deep. By doing this, farmers could buy themselves an extra six months of time before the carcasses needed to be disposed of permanently off farm.

“Staff will be looking for evidence of bones and carcasses that have been left more than six months,” the advisory warned, adding the number and identity of the animals composted plus documentation they had been properly disposed of would also be required.

While this isn’t the first time California has dealt with large-scale livestock deaths due to heat, it will be interesting to see how the agriculture and landfill industry deals with the added pressure to the carcass disposal system. With the threat of animal disease outbreaks, such as bird flu or foot and mouth disease, always in the background, this negative situation provides an opportunity to test-drive the official response. Heaven forbid it would be required on a state- or nation-wide scale but it’s always prudent to be prepared.

I look forward to any lessons learned which come after the debrief.

Speaking of composting, producers and custom manure applicators can learn more about the management practice and see relevant equipment in action during the North American Manure Expo, taking place in late August at the Arlington Agricultural Research Station near Arlington, Wisc. I consider Expo one of my favorite industry events of the year. What isn’t there to enjoy? Farmers, family, food, friends, farm equipment, information, demonstrations, community: the important things in life.

This Manure-a-palooza takes a year or more of planning to bring to fruition, including hours of committee meetings and conference calls. As a frequent participant in these morning gatherings, I can attest to the time and effort by industry volunteers that goes into preparing for this event. Be sure to check out the event website – manureexpo.org – and consider taking part.


Published in Compost
Horses tend to fall under the radar when we think of manure management, says Les Ober, certified crop advisor with Ohio State University Extension in Geauga County.

“That is until somebody makes a mistake and pollutes someone else’s water, or they offend their neighbors with flies or odor,” he says. “That’s when the neighbor calls up the water conservation district and says, ‘Hey, this guy is piling manure up and he isn’t doing anything with it.’ Most of the cases in our county, where the guys (inspectors) have been called out, have not been on dairy farms or livestock farms, they’ve been on horse farms.”

Ober’s county, just east of Cleveland, has the second-highest horse population in Ohio, and he has worked extensively with equine professionals. His clients generally have small farms, small lots, with a relatively small number of animals. He advises them on hay quality, pasture management, and manure and nutrient management.

In his work, he has found that there are some common problems in the industry.

“When I talk to horse owners, of course the first thing they’re looking at is a nice new arena, or increasing the number of stalls. But what are you going to do with the manure?” he asks. “You have to think of that problem before you move ahead or move horses into the stalls. You can’t just pile it up at the back door and hope it goes away. Manure is a problem, it can offend the neighbors and it can definitely compromise water quality.”

The two areas of environmental concern are the manure produced inside the stable, and also the manure that is produced outside.

“In our area we normally have guys with four or five acres trying to keep six horses. That’s bad business, you can’t do that, especially if you’ve got a boarding stable. You’ve got to turn them out year round. What are you going to do with those horses when you turn them out? If you’re lucky the ground will be frozen but most often it’s just covered with snow and you’re going to turn it into a quagmire.”

“Here’s two things you have to look at; first, the manure inside the stable. What are you going to do with that?” he asks.

Of the manure produced outside, “what about the water quality issues outside that barn?”

“The first thing we’re going to look at is grazing, which is the traditional pastime of horses. They are just like sheep. They will graze right to the ground. Eventually, they will graze it down till everything is gone and then they will go after the grass under the fences. That is when you know you have hungry horses,” he says.

“One thing you have to understand about horses is that they are pretty much like a conveyor belt – food goes in, poop comes out and it’s continuous. Horses graze 22 hours out of 24.”

Artificial measures can be taken to protect pastures from excessive erosion due to weather, grazing or turnout.

“It is part of the real solution to all weather turnout. This has been a real boon for the horse industry, it’s not cheap but it is definitely part of the solution,” Ober says.

He explains that they take a pasture area that has been cordoned off and make sure it drains well, tiling it as needed. Then they bring in geodesic cloth and put it down as a ground cover to provide some support and so gravel is not lost. Then they cover it, first with a very coarse limestone, working up to a very fine limestone cover.

“This creates a pad that the horses follow and that solves the turnout problem,” he says. “They don’t need to be out on pastures in the middle of December punching the pasture up, then there’s a good rain and all the manure and soil that’s out there washes into the creek. That’s a problem you’ll have to deal with.”

The choice of bedding can be another issue.

“The big problem is that the majority of that bedding that is choosen is sawdust and wood chips,” he says. “It takes too long to break down, so you’ll need more microbial activity and that will suck up all the available nitrogen in the soil to break down the carbon in the shavings and bedding and you’ll have stunted grass.”

Ober notes that nitrogen ratios for wood chips, sawdust bedding are 200 to 750 to one.

“For straw bedding it’s 50 to 150 to one, which is not too bad to have to break down,” he says.

“You need to source the right bedding; straw is about $4 per bale, shavings $4 to $8. Overall cost is going to be about $45 to $46 for straw and $35 to $40 for wood shavings. Another factor to consider is that cleaning sawdust and wood shavings out of a stall is labor intensive and expensive.”

Ober points to an OSU fact sheet on nitrogen enhancement and says that if you are going to haul manure on a daily basis, you will want to add about a half cup of ammonium sulfate into your wheelbarrow load.

“This should give you enough nitrogen to start that break down process,” he says. “I would like to see maybe half to a full cup added, and I will tell you that it does work very, very well.”

Another option that people have used is the dumpster.

“This is a popular way because people today just don’t know how to get rid of horse manure. In one situation there is one dumpster for six horses that is picked up and emptied every three weeks. That works out to about $3,000 per year. If you are boarding horses, you have to consider the $250 to $300 a month for manure. That’s a major cost.

“Many farmers are using this system simply because their backs are against the wall,” Ober says. “You will save money during the summer months (when turned out) as opposed to winter but this is still not a good system for dealing with manure.”

Composting is another solid option for manure.

“We don’t see it used that much but there are definite advantages,” he says.

Make a pile about three feet high and seven feet wide, and aim for the optimal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We want to maintain the moisture so that when you grab that material you feel the moisture. Too much water kills the bacterial action. You need to keep rotating the pile and aerating it. You will end up with a product that is very, very good and you’ll be able to save most of the nitrogen. If you bring it into a nitrate form it will not leave the ground as fast. This is another sound management tool.”

Ober explains that the reason composting is not yet popular in the horse industry is due to the carbon to nitrogen ratio.

“If you can get ahold of some other materials to get in there, some green materials, some other animal material, source all the green clippings or straw then bring it all together and bring it into a compost pile,” he says.

When it is done, the compost has been through a complete cycle and the product is very good and can be used in landscaping and throughout parks.

“The process kills pathogens, flies and bacteria,” Ober explains. “The difficulty is the high carbon to nitrogen ratios, and if you use just saw dust it could take up to two to three years to get that pile of compost down just right.

“We’re talking about horse manure. And, we can haul it to landfill sites or we can get it back out to the farm where it can do some good. It is a good product and full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.”

The first thing you have to do if spreading horse manure on the field is to take a soil test.


Published in Other
August 14, 2017, Ames, IA – For the past two months, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach hosted demonstrations on manure application uniformity.

Four field days were held across Iowa. First and foremost, Extension would like to thank those who attended, the companies who helped host these events, and all those involved in the planning and execution of these field days.

More than 150 people showed up to learn more about using manure as a fertilizer resource, be informed on the science behind selecting application rates, and see some equipment demonstrations on different injection styles and evaluate how uniform manure application is at different rates.
Published in Applications
August 11, 2017, Wexford, Ireland – More than 250 delegates from across Europe and around the world will gather in Wexford next month to discuss a range of scientific research topics with potentially profound importance for the future environmental performance of Irish agriculture.

The biennial Ramiran (Recycling of Agricultural, Municipal and Industrial Residues in Agriculture Network) conference is being hosted by Teagasc and will focus on new cutting-edge strategies and technologies to improve the efficiency of manure and residue management on farms. READ MORE




Published in Other
August 8, 2017, Warsaw, NY – New state regulations that prevent farms from spreading manure on ground that is frozen or saturated has pushed improvements to agricultural waste storage capacities.

“There’s a big demand across the state, with the [NYS] DEC requiring farms to have enough storage to get through the wet and rainy seasons,” Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District Manager Greg McKurth told The Daily News after a new round of Agricultural Nonpoint Source Abatement and Control Program grants were announced August 7. READ MORE
Published in State
August 2, 2017, Welton, IA - Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Beef Specialist Denise Schwab is coordinating a conference that will address topics related to cattle manure.

The conference will be 9:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, at Buzzy's in Welton, Iowa.

The conference will feature important safety tips on managing manure to prevent illness or injury among humans and animals.

Speakers include: Extension Engineer Dan Andersen, Stephanie Leonard from Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health and Extension, and Ag Engineer Greg Brenneman.

Schwab will also share the Beef Quality Assurance, or BQA, Feedyard Assessment and certify participants in the BQA program.

Extension Feedlot Specialist and Director of the Iowa Beef Center, Dan Loy, will address keys to improving bunk management.

Preregistration is $15 by Aug. 18 or $20 after that date. The fee is payable at the door.

To register, call 319-472-4739 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in Applications
August 1, 2017, Ames, IA – Summer is here and it’s brought dry weather throughout much of the state. This type of weather is a great time to check over your manure management systems and make sure it will keep doing its job. A great place to start is with your manure storage. Fall application season is still a ways away, but a little planning now can make sure you have the flexibility to manage your manure like the fertilizer resource it is, and to make sure your storage will keep functioning for years to come.

Proper management and maintenance is necessary to prevent manure from overflowing or discharging from a storage system. Whether the manure storage is in an earthen tank, a slurry store, or a deep pit, the basic principles to maintaining and managing the storage structure are similar. In any case, frequent evaluation and preventative maintenance will significantly reduce your risk and keep your manure where you want it.
  1. Monitor the operating level of your manure storages. Have a staff gauge or a method for determining how much manure is already in your storage. Keeping track of how much manure is there can give insight into if you have enough capacity to make it to your next land application window. If you are worried you may run short this will give you an early opportunity to evaluate how you are going to handle the situation when your storage gets full. Monitoring the level can also alert you to if anything unexpected is occurring, for instance, your manure storage isn’t filling up or filling up really quickly because of a water leak or outside drainage water getting in.
  2. Visual structure inspection. A quick look over the storage can tell you a lot about how your structure is holding up – as you walk around, pay close attention to inlet points, connections, and where the sidewalls connect to the base. To make this easier make sure you are mowing around your storage and cutting down trees, watching for animal burrows, and making sure clean water is being diverted around your manure storage structure.
  3. Odor evaluation. I know odor can be a stink of a topic, but it’s something we have to deal with. Make it a part of your routine to go around your farm once a week and make a note of the odor intensity and what neighbors may be smelling. Unfortunately there usually are not easy fixes, but for those of you interested in learning more about potential odor options check out AMPAT.
  4. Safety check. We all recognize there are some safety challenges to working in and around manure storage systems. Take the time to review your safety protocols and update as needed. Taking the time to go over them will remind everyone that they are important and to protect us. While you are at it make sure to check any fences, escape ladders, and warning signs you have posted to make sure they are still in good shape, readable, and present.
  5. Clean water diversions. Minimizing outside water entering a manure storage helps keep nutrient concentrations higher making it an economic fertilizer for a farm to use. Check over the clean water diversions around your farm to make sure things like silage piles, mortality compost piles, and in-ground manure storage piles aren’t receiving water from other areas.
  6. Application equipment. Manure equipment lives a tough life, it gets used quick for a month and then put away. Take the time to check it over now before you need it again this fall and get that one last part that you’ve been meaning to fix.
Published in Storage
July 31, 2017, Waunakee, WI - A coalition of government, farmers, businesses and clean water advocates have come up with plan to help more farmers in southern Wisconsin apply liquid manure more effectively without disturbing the soil so other conservation practices can be protected.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced the partnership July 13 at Carl F. Statz and Sons machinery dealer in Waunakee, another partner in the project.

The effort will make available a Low Disturbance Manure Injection (LDMI) toolbar – a way to apply liquid manure while cutting down on soil erosion, odors and the amount of phosphorus leaving their fields, Parisi said during a short ceremony.

"Our partnership reflects a unified effort between local leaders and businesses to ensure the Yahara Watershed stays clean and healthy while providing farmers with innovative tools they need to succeed in an environmentally friendly way," he said.

Dane County and the Yahara Watershed Improvement Network (Yahara WINS) will each allocate up to $60,000 to purchase a manure tanker and the toolbar. Yahara Pride Farms will rent a tractor from the Waunakee-based implement dealer to haul the tanker and LDMI toolbar on each participant's fields.

The county's share of the deal is contingent upon approval of the allocation by the county board.

Brian Peterson, with Field's, a Mt. Horeb-based manure handling business, said it makes sense to him to have a specific tractor dedicated to using the manure-injection equipment.

"That will give it uniformity from use to use," he said. "They wanted to have something that any farmer could use."

The unit which was at the press conference is one that is being used on a Waunakee area farm, Henson Brothers Dairy, and several other farmers in the watershed are using the technology. Field's will supply a new manure tanker, toolbar and unit once the deal is finalized.

The technology was shown to farmers at a Yahara Pride field day and it created a lot of interest, Peterson said. "Farmers like it because you can't see a lot of disturbance after it goes over the field – not like you'd see with a shovel-type injector."

The flow is based on a pump and PTO speed as well as tractor speed, he explained and the unit coming for Yahara Pride will have a flow meter which will indicate to the driver how many gallons are going on.

"This system, once it was showcased in this watershed, built interest further away than just right around here," Peterson said. "It has been building interest through the county and the region." READ MORE 
Published in Manure Application

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