Success in Agriculture
More than 150 farmers, businesses and agricultural leaders were on hand in mid-June as Crave Brothers Farm and Crave Brothers Homstead Cheese of Waterloo hosted a Green Energy Showcase for June Dairy Month.

The Green Energy Showcase kicked off with an overview of two bio-digesters and green energy production, and an update on farm and cheese plant activities. And of course, it was a celebration of June Dairy Month.

The idea behind the showcase was for participants to learn about the family business, sustainable agriculture practices, modern agriculture technology, animal husbandy and green energy production. | READ MORE
Published in News
Garden pots that are made from cow manure, containing nitrogen, and biodegradable. In the northwest hills of Connecticut is a second-generation dairy farm run by two brothers, Matt and Ben Freund, who saw the potential of the idea, and made it happen.

The brothers milk 300 Holstein cows with five robotic milking units. With the variable profitability of a dairy farm and increased regulations on nutrient management, Matt Freund started to look for other ways to be sustainable on their farm and to make better use of the manure that his cows were producing. | READ MORE
Published in Profiles
The Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation (CABEF) is proud to announce the winners of their annual scholarships. Each of these exceptional students will receive $2,500 for post-secondary agricultural education.

The 2018 winners are:
  • Adriana Van Tryp, Burdett, Alta.
  • Laura Carruthers, Frenchman Butte, Sask.
  • Pete Giesbrecht, Winkler, Man.
  • Owen Ricker, Dunnville, Ont.
  • Jeremy Chevalley, Moose Creek Ont.
  • Émilie Carrier, Princeville, Que.
  • Justin Kampman, Abbotsford, B.C.
Each year, CABEF awards scholarships of $2,500 to Canadian students entering their first year at an accredited agriculture college or university. CABEF is a charity foundation that encourages students to pursue their passion for agriculture and to bring their new ideas and talent to the industry.

Scholarship winners are evaluated on a combination of leadership attributes, academic standing and their response to the essay question, "What do you consider to be the three main opportunities for the Canadian agriculture industry and which one inspires you the most?"

"We are proud to support the future of the Canadian agriculture industry by providing these scholarships," said Jenn Norrie, chair of the board for CABEF. "With the high-quality applications received from students across the country, the future of Canadian agriculture is bright."

For further information about CABEF's work, visit cabef.org.
Published in News
Brodhead, Wisconsin – Founded in 1828, the KUHN brand has progressively become a leader in the agricultural machinery industry. Through aggressive growth and development, and an ever renewed capacity for innovation, KUHN continues to help drive the modernization of agriculture across the world.

Progressive advancements in hay, crop production, landscape and livestock equipment have helped producers maximize productivity and the return on their investment. The company has filed more than 2,000 international patents over the years.

KUHN recently introduced two machines, the MM 1100 Merge Maxx hay merger and Interceptor 8050 high-speed tillage system that are recognized in early 2018 as AE50 award winners. The AE50 recognition means both machines are among the year's most innovative designs in agriculture.

KUHN continues to draw on its vast experience to prepare for the challenges ahead in the industry. The world of farming and the needs of producers are changing fast. The size of farms is growing, markets are globalizing, consumer demands are greater and technology is always advancing.

"Today, more than ever, we believe in the future of agriculture and our industry. Our 190 years of experience and commitment from our staff, combined with the performance of our distribution networks, ensures proximity to customers and enables us to look to the future with passion and confidence," explained Thierry Krier, KUHN group CEO. "We are obviously proud of this longevity, but above all we want to recognize the loyalty of our customers and partners around the world, without them-none of it would be possible."


Published in News
The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards is an opportunity for the industry to recognize how innovation and creativity sparked by one farm, one person or one organization can have a ripple effect that goes well beyond their farm gate or front door.

This year, the seventh-annual awards celebration took place in Lombard, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, to honor the dairy farms, businesses and partnerships whose practices improve the well-being of people, animals and the planet. This year's winners addressed water quality, manure management, recycling and more. | READ MORE
Published in Profiles
Tom Butler admits he was naïve back in 1995, when he stopped growing corn, tobacco, and other crops and began raising 8,000 hogs on his farm outside Lillington, North Carolina.

Butler, a spry 77-year-old who still runs the operation, has been experimenting with ways to do better ever since. He covered his waste pits to help reduce odor. He became the second farmer in the state to capture and burn methane gas from manure to create renewable energy.

Now, he's the proud sponsor of the state's first biogas microgrid, a self-sustaining power system that could improve electric reliability, cut electric costs for his Harnett County community, and maybe spur wider reforms in the multi-billion-dollar hog business. | READ MORE
Published in News
An innovation that could have a huge impact on water quality problems in the United States, a system capable of removing almost all phosphorus from stored livestock manure, was developed by a team of researchers from Penn State and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service.

Excess phosphorus, primarily in runoff from land application of manure, accounts for about 66 percent of impaired conditions of U.S. rivers and has created large areas of eutrophication — dead zones — in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, where aquatic life cannot survive.

Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The system devised by Penn State and USDA scientists — dubbed MAPHEX for MAnure PHosphorus EXtraction — involves a three-stage process, including liquid-solid separation with an auger press and centrifuge; chemical treatment with the addition of iron sulfate; and final filtration with diatomaceous earth. The machine is designed to process manure from manure-storage tanks or pits on dairy farms.

"This technology could be a game-changer if we can modify it to achieve lower operating costs," said lead Penn State researcher Alex Hristov, professor of dairy nutrition in the College of Agricultural Sciences. "The final stage uses diatomaceous earth to filter phosphorous from the fluid and that material is expensive."

Clinton Church, with USDA Agricultural Research Service's Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit, said the team is currently looking at recycling the diatomaceous earth.

"We are also trying to find a less expensive substitute for the filtration stage of the MAPHEX process, such as replacing the filtration stage with another centrifuge," Church said.

When tested at 150- and 2,700-cow dairies, about 98 percent of the phosphorus was removed from manure slurries, along with 93 percent of the solids.

As currently configured, the MAPHEX system would cost approximately $750 per dairy cow per year for a dairy operation — an unrealistic cost when EPA is not imposing restrictions on phosphorus runoff from farms and no government subsidies exist to pay for such technology.

But in the future, if the government enforces clean water regulations on agriculture and if

MAPHEX can be made more affordable to operate, its potential is enormous, Hristov believes.

"We anticipate that refinement of the process and beneficial uses of the solids removed from the manure — such as for plant bedding, compost and fertilizer — will improve cost-efficacy considerably," he said. "And from a stewardship point of view, some larger farmers who can afford to may want to implement a system like this."

Penn State and USDA, which were granted a joint patent on the system in 2017, are looking to license the technology, probably to a large agricultural or waste-processing company. They are not looking to enter into a business arrangement to produce the system, Hristov and Church noted.

Research on the MAPHEX system was conducted in central Pennsylvania, part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and an area with an intense focus on developing treatment systems for manure. Manure from the dairy sector was estimated in 2010 to account for 20 percent of all phosphorus in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Explaining why Pennsylvania was the perfect place to develop MAPHEX, Hristov pointed out that the majority of dairy farms in the study area are small, with fewer than 100 head of cows milked. But an increasing number of larger operations with more than 1,000 head can now be found.

"The liquid nature of most stored dairy manure reduces its potential for off-farm transport and was the impetus for developing treatment options to manipulate manure solids and nutrients," Hristov said.

MAPHEX was designed to be a mobile system that fits on two large flatbed trailers to service a number of small- or medium-size dairies. If it is scaled up to have the capacity to treat manure from a large dairy, it would no longer be mobile.

"If the system is produced by an ag company, we think manure haulers can make a business out of it, a few small dairies could cooperate and buy one, or big dairies with thousands of cows can build a stationary system."

The MAPHEX is not just for cow manure. Church said the technology is compatible with swine manure and it probably could work with chicken manure, too, but because the latter is dry, it would have to be diluted before the process could work.

Also involved in the research were Tyler Frederick, graduate student in animal science, and David Otto, Mike Reiner and Sarah Fishel, USDA Agricultural Research Service staff at the Pasture Systems and Watershed Management Research Unit.

A Chesapeake Stewardship Grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a Research Applications for Innovation grant from the College of Agricultural Sciences in 2017 supported this work.
Published in News
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
Kinston, NC - Many homes in Eastern North Carolina may now be powered by an alternative source of energy that uses a mixture of natural gas and swine-derived biogas.

A switch thrown last week by Duke Energy infused methane captured from Duplin County hog lagoons into a natural gas pipeline.

Optima KV is the project developer and has partnered with Duke Energy to supply the energy and Smithfield Foods to donate the land for a facility to collect the hog methane. Once collected, the gas is cleaned and injected into the natural gas pipeline to serve two Duke Energy plants in Eastern North Carolina.

The project is expected to generate about 11,000 megawatts-hours of renewable energy annually, enough to power about 880 homes for a year, according to the N.C. Pork Council. | For the full story, CLICK HERE.
Published in Biogas
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
Marin County, Calif. - On one organic dairy farm, the feed truck runs on cow power.

"I was able to put together a fully electric truck to feed the cows that's powered by the cow's waste. We claim that's the first one in the world to do that," says Albert Straus, CEO of Straus Family Creamery in Marin County, California.

When cow manure breaks down, it releases methane, a potent global warming gas. But that methane can be captured and used to make electricity. Using technology called a methane digester, Strauss has been converting his cow's manure into energy for the last 14 years. The process produces enough electricity to power the whole farm. And now, that energy is also being used to charge his electric truck. | For the full story, CLICK HERE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
It's likely not the first thing you think of when you see elephant dung, but this material turns out to be an excellent source of cellulose for paper manufacturing in countries where trees are scarce, scientists report. And in regions with plenty of farm animals such as cows, upcycling manure into paper products could be a cheap and environmentally sound method to get rid of this pervasive agricultural waste.

The researchers are presenting their results today at the 255th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world's largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 13,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

The idea for the project germinated on Crete, where Alexander Bismarck, Ph.D., noticed goats munching on summer-dry grass in the small village where he was vacationing. "I realized what comes out in the end is partially digested plant matter, so there must be cellulose in there," he recalls.

"Animals eat low-grade biomass containing cellulose, chew it and expose it to enzymes and acid in their stomach, and then produce manure. Depending on the animal, up to 40 percent of that manure is cellulose, which is then easily accessible," Bismarck says. So, much less energy and fewer chemical treatments should be needed to turn this partially digested material into cellulose nanofibers, relative to starting with raw wood, he conjectured.

After working with goat manure, Bismarck, who is at the University of Vienna, Austria, his postdoc Andreas Mautner, Ph.D., and graduate students Nurul Ain Kamal and Kathrin Weiland moved on to dung from horses, cows and eventually elephants. The supply of raw material is substantial: Parks in Africa that are home to hundreds of elephants produce tons of dung every day, and enormous cattle farms in the U.S. and Europe yield mountains of manure, according to Mautner.

The researchers treat the manure with a sodium hydroxide solution. This partially removes lignin -- which can be used later as a fertilizer or fuel -- as well as other impurities, including proteins and dead cells. To fully remove lignin and to produce white pulp for making paper, the material has to be bleached with sodium hypochlorite. The purified cellulose requires little if any grinding to break it down into nanofibers in preparation for use in paper, in contrast to conventional methods.

"You need a lot of energy to grind wood down to make nanocellulose," Mautner says. But with manure as a starting material, "you can reduce the number of steps you need to perform, simply because the animal already chewed the plant and attacked it with acid and enzymes. You inexpensively produce a nanocellulose that has the same or even better properties than nanocellulose from wood, with lower energy and chemical consumption," he says.

The dung-derived nanopaper could be used in many applications, including as reinforcement for polymer composites or filters that can clean wastewater before it's discharged into the environment, Bismarck says. His team is working with an industrial consortium to further explore these possibilities. The nanopaper could also be used to write on, he says.

The researchers are also investigating whether the process can be made even more sustainable, by first producing biogas from manure and then extracting cellulose fibers from the residue. Biogas, which is mostly methane and carbon dioxide, can then be used as a fuel for generating electricity or heat.
Published in News
August 28, 2017, Haverhill, MA — It is going to decrease the smells emanating from a Bradford farm. It is going to improve the fertilizer needed to grow hay and corn.

It will also provide enough energy to light up as many as 600 homes.

An anaerobic digester — a structure that converts methane gas from cow manure and food waste into electricity — is coming to a two-acre plot of land on a hill atop Crescent Farm on Willow Avenue in Bradford.

The farm's owners, the Davidowicz family, are hoping that construction of the digester — which will be managed by Vanguard Renewables of Wellesley — will begin this fall and that it will be up and running next year.

"We're going to start building it in October or November and it should be running by March or April," said Cody Davidowicz, the oldest son of the farm's owners, Michael and Debbie Davidowicz. Cody Davidowicz will be operating the digester.

In May, the city inked a deal with Vanguard to purchase power generated by the digester for 13 cents a kilowatt hour, and estimates it will save the city as much as $300,000. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
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, 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
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 27, 2017, California - A liquid organic biofertilizer made from the material that is left over after manure or food waste is digested to create clean electricity compares favorably in nutrient value with commonly used synthetic materials in trials on canning tomatoes and corn.

UC Davis professor of biological and agricultural engineering Ruihong Zhang designed an anaerobic biodigester nearly 10 years ago that is used to turn food waste from campus dining halls into clean energy.

Several dairies have also invested in digesters to treat their manure, which would otherwise emit the greenhouse gas methane, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture offers grants to help defray the cost.

Cost is the major stumbling block to more widespread use of the technology, and the trial of a biofertilizer made in the campus digester is an attempt to see if the bottom line can be made just a little more favorable. READ MORE
Published in Anaerobic Digestion
July 26, 2017, Petaluma, CA – Tesla, mooo-ve over: California dairy farmer Albert Straus, a pioneer in organic dairy and sustainable agriculture, announces the launch of the first full-scale electric truck – powered by cow manure.

This new full-scale-electric feed truck is the next step in Straus' quest to show that his Marin county organic dairy farm can be carbon positive, using agriculture as a solution to reversing climate change.

Straus, along with a local mechanic, spent eight years developing the 33,000 lb. gross weight truck to use as a feed truck on his farm. The truck measures, mixes and hauls feed before dropping it into the trough for his nearly 300 organic dairy cows.

An environmentally-friendly alternative to diesel-fueled trucks, the feed truck's motor is charged from electrical power generated from methane gas produced by the cows' own manure.

California dairy farmers are facing pressure to lower methane emissions under the state's ambitious new greenhouse gas reduction laws, which include methane emission reduction targets of 40 percent below 2013 levels by 2030.

The state's Air Resources Board says that much of the reduction should come from converting methane from cow manure into energy. Dairy manure accounts for about a quarter of the state's methane emissions.

"What I've tried to do is create a sustainable organic farming model that is good for the earth, the soil, the animals, and the people working on these farms, and helps revitalize rural communities," said Albert Straus, CEO and founder of Straus Family Creamery.

Straus added, "My electric feed truck is not only a practical tool for my organic farm. It is also a symbol of the resourcefulness we need to fight climate change, which threatens our business and the future of American farming."

Straus' methane digester has been powering his farm since 2004, fueling his all-electric Toyota RAV4 and Nissan Leaf plus smaller farm vehicles and machinery. Working with the Marin Carbon Project, his 500-acre farm is California's first dairy to develop a 20-year carbon farming plan to sequester 2,000 metric tons of carbon every year.

Straus' goal is to demonstrate to the farming community and public that farmers can implement and teach others practical solutions to climate change. Ultimately, Straus is working towards getting his farm off fossil fuels entirely.

United States plug-in electrical vehicle sales have increased nine-fold since 2011, per Inside EVs. Yet Straus believes he is the first to put a full-scale electric feed truck into use, getting the jump on Tesla Motor's electric semi-truck slated for September 2017 release.

Next, he plans to unveil an all-electric Farmers' Market truck to transport his company Straus Family Creamery's organic milk, cream, yogurt, ice cream and butter to local markets in San Francisco Bay Area.
Published in Energy
Texan Jack Moreman, owner of Rolling Plains Ag Compost, is proof positive that those who teach can also do. In fact, he has parlayed his extensive feedlot and manure management knowledge into a highly successful organic fertilizer and soil amendment business.

Moreman, a retired vocational agriculture teacher with an animal husbandry degree from Texas Tech University, began his career by managing a cattle feedlot. He then spent over 25 years teaching at Texas Christian University and Clarendon Community College, where he developed and taught a two-year program in ranch and feedlot management.

Six years ago, this 81-year-old launched a successful turnkey manure composting and organic fertilizer application business headquartered in Clarendon, Texas, that has since doubled in size with 15 employees. Clarendon is about 65 miles southeast of Amarillo.

The company’s motto is, “Giving nature a hand and conserving the land.”

“I feel very strongly about conserving our resources,” says Moreman. “I think composting is one of the better things that we do, and the area that we are in, you could have three different soil types in one field, from sandy loam, to dark clay, to caliche. Compost improves the soil structure and the ability for the carbon molecules to hold the nutrients in place till the plant can get hold of it.”

A group of eight feedlot owners, who together raise about 200,000 head of cattle, annually supply Moreman with the manure he needs to make compost. The company uses its compost turning equipment on land dedicated by each feedlot to convert over 720,000 tons of raw feedlot manure annually into about 300,000 tons of compost. It then sells the compost to farmers as organic fertilizer and a soil amendment, providing the equipment and personnel to land apply it for them.

Rolling Plains Ag Compost makes its money from the sale and application of the compost, with a percentage of that income paid to the feedlot owners for supplying the raw manure.

Moreman says that there are two main reasons why the feedlots are eager to work with Rolling Plains Ag Compost. Firstly, when the feedlot cleans its pens and stockpiles the manure, it typically is compacted in large chunks, which makes it very difficult to land apply. Its nutrient content is also highly variable in this form and it often is full of weed seeds. Because the raw manure is in larger chunks, it usually takes a couple of years to break down in the field, which is why farmers tend to not see any value from it until the second year after application. However, by providing the raw manure to a composter, the large chunks are broken down, it is easier to land apply, and the nutrients are available immediately upon incorporation. Also, farmers who have applied raw manure on their fields have found that this material tends to have unwanted debris like pipes and cables mixed in with it.

Secondly, working with a composter like Rolling Plains Ag Compost, reduces the feedlots’ potential liability concerning land applying of raw manure. Moreman says based on feedback from his feedlot suppliers, the decision to compost the manure rather than land apply it has made a big difference when it comes to dealing with organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Our feedlot operators tell us that if an inspector from the EPA or Texas Water Quality Board comes by and they see that they are composting that manure and hauling it out, the inspectors don’t ever bother them because that’s what they want to see done with it,” says Moreman. “But if the inspectors go in there and they have a huge pile that’s so big that it interferes with TV reception, then they get concerned.”

The composting processes gets rid of many of the pathogens and weed seeds in raw manure, and reduces the volume. Moreman says that it reduces the manure volume by as much as 5-to-1. So there is a lot less material to land apply and it tends to have more consistent nutrient content.

Because the feedlots feed their cattle concentrated rations, there is little, if any, roughage like hay or bedding material like straw mixed in with the manure, which actually makes it more valuable as a raw material for making compost because there is little to no filler.

“Dairy manure is probably worth about half as much as cattle feedlot manure because a dairy operation will typically feed a lot of hay and silage to their cattle,” says Moreman. “These beef cattle are on a high grain ration and they are not subjected to a lot of roughage, because these feedlot owners want their cattle to eat a lot of grain and convert that to beef. That’s kind of the name of the game.”

Moreman’s business operates year round. Employees are either creating the windrows, turning the windrows, or land applying the compost for farm customers.

“We are either putting compost on cotton, peanuts, corn, wheat or irrigated pasture,” says Jack. “There is a crop coming off at all times, so they need compost pretty much all the time.”

While there is year-round demand, there are times of greater and lesser demand. May to July tends to be the slowest time of year, after spring crops are planted.

An important selling point to marketing the compost to farm customers is its ability to improve the water holding capacity of the soils where it is applied. Water is a valuable commodity to farmers in that part of Texas. Adding compost to dense soils increases their aeration and drainage capacity, and increases the water holding capacity of sandy soils. Most of Rolling Plains Ag Compost’s customers participate in a program where they
land-apply compost on each parcel of land on a two-to-three year rotation.

The company has worked hard to build its farm customer base, and Moreman’s background as an educator has helped. He spends considerable time hosting seminars and speaking to individual farmers about the benefits of using compost. His effort has paid off.

“You can be assured of one thing that if they try it, we are going to make a sale next time around,” says Moreman.

While compost has significant nutrient value, it does not necessarily fulfil all the farmer’s nutrient needs but represents only part of the overall puzzle. The company’s customers understand that. Most will need to add some commercial fertilizer, depending on the crop they are growing.



Typically, a feedlot will stockpile its raw manure as it cleans its pens and then Rolling Plains Ag Compost will bring in their own loaders and trucks to transport the manure to a drainage-controlled parcel of land that the feedlot has designated as its composting area. This can measure anywhere from 20 to 40 acres.

The company will create a compost windrow that measures approximately six-feet tall by up to 16-feet wide. The windrow will be as long as required by the amount of raw manure being converted. In the past, they have measured anywhere from a quarter-mile to a mile long.

The composting process consists of windrow turning, temperature measurement and moisture measure to ensure that the microorganisms responsible for the biological conversion process within the windrows are doing their job.

Part of the reason for the turning process is to ensure that the windrows are well oxygenated to support the microorganisms. As the conversion process takes place, the windrows can heat up to as much as 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

To turn the windrows, Rolling Plains Ag Compost uses a CT718 compost turner by Wildcat, which is a Vermeer company. With a 44-inch diameter drum to turn, mix and aerate the material, it can process up to 5,000 tons of manure per hour. The turning takes place typically once a week.

After about six weeks, the raw manure has been converted to compost and it is ready for land application. Moreman says the compost turner is a large and powerful piece of equipment with a 500 hp Caterpillar engine. He adds that it is sturdy enough to break down the chunks in the manure pile.

Rolling Plains Ag Compost has its own fleet of semi-trailer trucks to deliver the compost to farm customers. At all stages of the pen cleaning, composting, and land application process, the company depends on a large fleet of John Deere loaders to move the material as needed.

Once the compost is delivered to the farm, the compost is temporarily stockpiled beside the field and then loaded into New Leader spreaders to land apply the compost. Rolling Plains Ag Compost owns four of them. New Leader is a type of nutrient applicator manufactured by Highway Equipment Company (HECO) located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In the Rolling Plains Ag Compost operation, the applicators are mounted on either Chevrolet or International trucks.

Moreman says that these New Leader nutrient applicators are large and purpose-built. The box consists of a stainless steel bed with a conveyor on the bottom. The conveyor propels the compost to the back of the box, where spinners broadcast the material onto the land. The company will deploy as many nutrient applicators as needed for each job, but when all four are working, their customers are amazed at how quickly the job gets done.

“They are also very accurate,” says Jack. “There is a GPS unit on them to ensure that you don’t leave any part of the field out, and if you do, it will tell you.”

In terms of application amounts, Rolling Plains Ag Compost recommends four tons per acre on irrigated land and two-to-three tons on dry land. Once the farmer has some experience using the compost, they usually make adjustments on future applications based on the responses that they have experienced.

Published in Compost
July 20, 2017, NY - On Wednesday, Aug. 9, the New York Ag Leadership Luncheon at Empire Farm Days will honor Mike and Peter Dueppengiesser as recipients of the 2017 Agricultural Environmental Management Award.

Ag Commissioner Richard Ball is scheduled to present the Empire State's top environmental award to this third-generation family farm for their exemplary environmental management.

The brothers' Dueppengiesser Dairy Co. of Perry, N.Y., is proof that farms can grow and be both sustainable and profitable by being environmentally responsible.

They closely worked with Wyoming County Soil and Water Conservation District to meet the state's top (Tier 5) standards while growing their business from 110 milking cows and 750 acres in 1990 to today's 1,100-cow milking herd and 2,100 cropland acres. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
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