Production
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is reminding livestock producers to review changes made to standard animal weights that take effect in 2019.

These new weights could reclassify some livestock farms as Concentrated Animal Operations (CAOs) or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), requiring those farms to adopt new levels of compliance with nutrient management laws. | READ MORE 
Published in State
Sioux Center, IA — Recent rains and flooding have cattle producers dealing with flooded pastures, water-logged facilities and manure management challenges.

Beth Doran, beef specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach says that one of the first things to check is the structural strength of the livestock buildings, electrical equipment, and safety of the water systems. She says that the potential for flooded or spilled pesticides, fuel or oil spills and flooded grain bins should also be monitored.

Doran said taking care of animals is a priority.

She says moving cattle to drier areas is critical as wet feet can lead to foot rot and lameness. Producers will also want to watch for other signs of health issues and make sure their vaccination programs are current since soil and water-borne diseases can be present for months following flooding. According to Doran, there is also the potential for grazing animals to swallow storm debris, such as nails and staples. Consequently, cattle should be monitored for hardware disease. | READ MORE
Published in News
Bernie Teunissen recently made a major technological investment in his 3,800-cow dairy to ensure its operations will remain sustainable long into the future.

Teunissen, who runs Caldwell-based Beranna Dairy with his sons Bernard and Derek, had been disposing of manure by vacuuming it into a 5,000-gallon tank, mounted on a tractor, and spreading it on their nearby farm fields.

But after years of applications, the family's fields were approaching maximum nutrient limits, especially for phosphorus.

To remedy the problem, Teunissen and his family installed a high-tech system that separates the solid waste from manure for conversion into a high-value - and easily manageable - compost, some of which they sell to neighbors' farms and orchards. | READ MORE
Published in Profiles
A decade ago, Maryland's environmental regulators greatly expanded their scrutiny of densely packed animal farms, including the chicken houses that crowd much of the Eastern Shore's landscape.

Since then, the Maryland Department of the Environment has approved scores of new industrial-scale operations without ever turning down an applicant. That may change, though, as a Maryland administrative law judge's ruling has found a recently issued permit in violation of the agency's own rules. | READ MORE
Published in News
Montpelier, Vermont - The Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM, the Agency) has issued a revised Medium Farm Operation (MFO) General Permit (GP), following a lengthy information gathering and revision process.

The MFO GP sets standards for MFOs in the State of Vermont generating animal waste to ensure they do not have a discharge of waste to the waters of the State and operate in accordance with their Nutrient Management Plan. Unless otherwise given notice by the Agency, all farms meeting the definition of a MFO in the State of Vermont are required to operate under the coverage of this GP.

All MFOs must follow the Required Agricultural Practices (RAPs) in addition to requirements outlined in the MFO GP.

The revision process focused on streamlining the MFO GP with the RAPs, removing duplicative language, and increasing the focus on nutrient management plan recordkeeping for MFOs. All MFOs currently covered, or farms seeking coverage under the MFO GP, must submit a new Notice of Intent to Comply (NOIC) within 180 calendar days from the issuance of a new MFO GP.

Hence, MFOs should submit a new NOIC by December 12, 2018. All forms referenced in the MFO GP, including the NOIC, can be found on the Agency's website (http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo) or by contacting the Agency Water Quality Division.

These forms are subject to revision so the applicant, prior to use of a form referenced in this MFO GP, should always consult the website listed above or the Agency Water Quality Division to make sure that they are using the current version.

The Agency is required to update the MFO GP every five years as outlined in MFO program rules. The current MFO GP was issued in 2012 and was therefore due for updating; the 2012 MFO GP continued in force and effect until the new MFO GP was issued. The MFO GP was established in 2007 and underwent revision for the first time in 2012. The newly revised MFO GP will be effective from 2018 to 2023.

For more information about the MFO GP revision process, to find the associated MFO GP Forms, or to read the newly revised MFO GP in full, please visit: http://agriculture.vermont.gov/mfo

Published in State
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation is now accepting new dairy and livestock manure management practices for consideration in the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

The goal of this effort is to improve program effectiveness and increase stakeholder engagement.

Funded by California Climate Investments, AMMP provides financial assistance for the implementation of non-digester manure management practices in California, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Accordingly, all new practices must achieve methane emission reductions at California dairy and livestock operations through non-digester management practices.

Submission requirements, the process for inclusion, and additional details can be found at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/AMMP.
 
All submissions are due by 5:00 P.M. PDT on June 28, 2018 and must be submitted to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in News
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has teamed up with the National Weather Service to design a tool that helps farmers and commercial applicators determine the best time to apply manure.

The Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast tool uses past and predicted National Weather Service weather data like precipitation, temperature, and snow melt. It predicts the likelihood that applied manure will run off fields in daily, next day, and 72-hour increments.

Farmers and commercial applicators use an interactive map to locate their field and find the forecasted risk.

Users can also sign up for email or text messages for their county that alert them to a severe runoff risk for that day.

"By providing this information, we hope to give our farmers and commercial manure applicators the tools they need to make well-informed decisions," said Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. "By being able to better predict times of high runoff risk, we can decrease the potential loss of manure to our waterways and increase farm productivity by saving nutrients on the land. It is a win-win situation based on an easy-to-use tool."

When someone goes to the interactive map, the runoff risk is displayed in one of four categories: no runoff expected, low, moderate, and severe. When the risk is moderate or severe, it is recommended that the applicator evaluate the situation to determine if there are other locations or later dates when the manure application could take place.

The forecasting tool can also be used by others looking for climate information including two-inch soil depth temperatures which are useful at planting time, and six-inch soil depth temperatures which are helpful when determining fall fertilizer application in appropriate areas.

The Minnesota Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast is part of a larger federal project. The National Weather Service has provided data and guidance to states to create similar tools in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. State funding for the project was provided by the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment.
Published in Manure Application
Chittenango, NY - The dust bowl era in the Midwest displaced many families, including farmers. Edson and Harriet Durfee were one of them. Luckily for New York and Madison County, they and their three children moved back east from Nebraska and settled their dairy farm on 120 acres of river bottom soils and Honeoye hills which fed the appetites of the, then, quiet hamlet of Chittenango.

Going on five generations in the community since then, their dedicated land stewardship, soil conservation and farm management has garnered the coveted 38th annual Conservation Farm of the Year by the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District. | READ MORE
Published in News

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.

Published in Other
Pipestone, MI - Six new feedlots were built and two existing feedlots expanded in Pipestone County in 2017.

The additional six feedlots brought the number of feedlots in the county that are required to be registered to 447, according to an annual feedlot report the county must submit to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

The MPCA requires feedlots capable of holding 50 or more animal units, or 10 or more animal units in shore land areas, to be registered. | READ MORE
Published in News
The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) is now accepting applications for the 2018 Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

The AMMP is one of two programs designed by CDFA to reduce dairy and livestock greenhouse gas emissions. The program will provide $19 to 33 million in grants to California dairy and livestock operators to implement non-digester manure management practices that reduce methane emissions.

Applicants must access the 2018 Request for Grant Applications at www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/ammp/ for detailed program requirements and application instructions.

CDFA has partnered with the State Water Resources Control Board to utilize its online application site, the Financial Assistance Application Submittal Tool (FAAST). All prospective applicants must register for a FAAST account at https://faast.waterboards.ca.gov to apply. Applications and all supporting information must be submitted electronically using FAAST by Tuesday, May 22, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. PDT.

All prospective applicants should access the AMMP webpage for information regarding additional, free-of-charge technical assistance conducted by non-profit organizations, Resource Conservation Districts and California academic institutions to assist in the submission of AMMP applications.

Prospective applicants may contact CDFA's Grants Office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  with general program questions.
Published in News
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 18, 2017, Indiana - Fair Oaks Farms co-founder Sue McCloskey now has a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for general awesomeness.

McCloskey, who launched the hugely popular agritourism farm on the border of Jasper and Newton counties, was one of 15 women to receive an Awesome Women Award in the August edition of Good Housekeeping, which hits newsstands Tuesday. She was lauded for her work in turning manure into clean fuel that powers vehicles at the farm, as well as 42 delivery trucks of Fairs Oaks cheese and dairy products. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
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 16, 2017, Sacramento, CA – CDFA will begin accepting applications today from non-profit organizations, California academic institutions and California Resource Conservation Districts that provide technical assistance to grant applicants in the Alternative Manure Management Program (AMMP).

Applicants may apply for funding ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. They must meet several minimum requirements, including holding at least one technical assistance workshop, reporting on workshop attendance to CDFA, and providing computers and internet access to allow dairy and livestock operators to complete AMMP applications.

Technical assistance will be made available through a partnership between CDFA and the Strategic Growth Council to achieve the mutual objective of providing technical assistance to AMMP applicants. Technical assistance workshops that provide hands-on application assistance are critical to the success of AMMP and the reduction of methane emissions from dairy and livestock operations.

Organizations that wish to receive funding to provide technical assistance must access the "Technical Assistance: Request for Applications" at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/oefi/ammp/.

The Request for Applications contains detailed information on eligibility and program requirements. Applications must be submitted by email no later than August 16, 2017, 5:00 p.m. PDT. Grants will be awarded on a first-come-first-served basis beginning today.

AMMP is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities. The cap-and-trade program also creates a financial incentive for industries to invest in clean technologies and develop innovative ways to reduce pollution.

California Climate Investment projects include affordable housing, renewable energy, public transportation, zero-emission vehicles, environmental restoration, more sustainable agriculture, recycling and much more. At least 35 percent of these investments are made in disadvantaged and low-income communities.

For more information, visit California Climate Investments. This effort is in partnership with the Strategic Growth Council which provides technical and community outreach assistance funds from the California Climate Investments.
Published in Business/Policy
August 16, 2017, Des Moines, IA – The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial assistance to eligible livestock producers to assist with manure and nutrient management from their operations.

This article provides updates of interest to producers and technical service providers who may be interested in or are pursuing assistance from NRCS.


  • Open feedlots are an inexpensive but potentially environmentally risky way to operate an animal feeding operation. IA NRCS offers potential incentives to producers to decommission/remove open lots and convert to a roofed, confinement operation. A recently published pamphlet: "Open Feedlot Management – Best Options" offers information regarding open lot to confinement conversion.
  • IA NRCS is in the process of updating the Waste Facility Storage-313 standard. This standard provides technical guidance for planning, design, and installation of agricultural waste containments. Some of the changes include: modification of structural design requirements to account for changes in accepted concrete and timber design, improvements in safety criteria, changing requirement of staff gauge from optional to required, and the addition of criteria specific to solid manure stacking facilities. Specific proposed changes include the removal of the IDNR Open Feedlot Effluent Alternatives for Open Feedlot Operations as an acceptable design alternative to meet NRCS requirements. Also, a minimum design period is being considered for storage facilities to better integrate animal waste systems with current management and cropping systems.
  • A recently published IA Instruction: "Requirements for Subsurface Geologic Investigations for Animal Waste Storage Facilities" provides requirements that apply to technical service providers and other non-NRCS engineers who are providing technical assistance for NRCS programs. Compliance with this instruction will help ensure geologic investigative requirements have been fulfilled as noted in the deliverables of the appropriate conservation practice statement of work.
  • Another instruction of interest for technical service providers for NRCS programs is the "Technical and Financial Assistance for an Animal Feeding Operation and the Associated Land Application of Manure Through a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP)." This document provides guidance for the specific procedures, roles and responsibilities, and administrative and technical checklists to be used when technical service providers are involved in the conservation planning process for animal feeding operations.
For more information regarding NRCS technical and financial assistance visit your local NRCS field office or visit the NRCS website.
Published in State
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
August 14, 2017, New Richland, MN - Hi-Way 30 Hogs proposes to double its swine facility located about four miles west of New Richland from 2,400 to 4,800 hogs.

Due to the proposed expansion, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) is conducting an environmental review and is accepting comments through August 23.

The facility in Section 15 of Byron Township currently has one barn that holds up to 2,400 swine. Keith Schlaak of Hi-Way 30 Hogs proposes to build a second barn and double the size of the rural New Richland operation. READ MORE 
Published in Companies
When Tim Sigrist came back to the family farm in Dundee, Ohio, after college, his father John told him he needed to find a new revenue stream. Eventually that would be a booming composted manure business, but first Tim drove a canned milk route.

“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!”


Published in Profiles
July 20, 2017 - Take a tour of the McCormick Farms Reclamation System. This video demonstates how the McCormick Farm is able to clean barns and recycle the sands and separate the solids from the liquids in order to recycle all the bedding.

McCormick Farms values sustainable development, thus have an automated system integrated directly in the farm to keep the cows clean and reuse and recycle wastes.

Cows currently are all bedded with sand, so it is very important for the cows well-being that their bedding is kept dry. For more information, watch the video above!
Published in Dairy
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