Monday, June 16, 2014

Waste Management on Hog Farms

The Hatton meeting regarding a proposed hog confinement operation brought up a slew of questions. In fact, a list of questions—which were somewhat answered—were handed out at the meeting.

So, with that in mind, how about a little Q&A? The following questions are from the community meeting and I will briefly answer them to the best of my knowledge and ability. 

What is the management plan for air quality and smell control?

While every farm is different, there are a few options. On our farm, we rely on trees to help control odor and fans to maintain air quality within the barns. Some farms also add air scrubbers, which basically ‘scrub’ the ammonia out of the air to reduce atmospheric ammonia. To my knowledge, these are not widely used yet because of cost but they are still in the development phase and I look forward to seeing how they develop in the future.

Another fantastic invention that is gaining popularity is digesters. Digesters convert methane gas into electricity. These are fascinating but again, there is a cost issue so not everyone uses them.

One last way we control odor is by knifing manure into the ground instead of using a traveling gun or running it through a center pivot irrigation system.

Explain how below-building waste pits work.

Basically, the pig does his business wherever and whenever he (or she) pleases. Then, their ‘business’ falls through the slat flooring and is stored in a reinforced concrete basement that is about 8 feet deep and the same length as the barn. Then, twice a year—in the fall and spring—they are pumped out and knifed into the field as a natural fertilizer.

Pit under construction.

What is the average nutrient value of the waste? Does it add organic matter to the soil or only nutrient value?

The great thing about manure is that it is basically a nutrient package deal. Just like the phone and TV companies, they bundle it. In most cases, manure provides all your phosphorus and potassium needs and the bulk of your nitrogen. Of course, only soil and nutrient testing will give a for sure answer to what is there and what isn’t but those are the three nutrients farmers always need and they are the three that are always present in manure. For farmers that don’t use manure, they have to purchase separate chemical fertilizers to cover each of these nutrient needs. Manure also adds organic matter that improves overall soil health. If you care to learn more about the nutrient and economic value here are a couple resources:

Nutrients and Value of Liquid Hog Manure

Economic Value of Liquid Hog Manure

 Will the hog urine be applied to the soils and what is the expected effect on soil quality due to urine?

I was surprised to see this question on the sheet, but it is a valid question. Yes, the poop and pee fall through the slats and into the same pit so it’s all mixed up together into one big pot of liquid gold. See previous question for soil quality concerns

How frequently will the waste pits be pumped dry?

Every fall and spring the fields get feed—by way of manure.

Do you have any questions about farming? Let me know in the comments and I’m happy to answer them.

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