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Five Manure-Handling Challenges

Article-Five Manure-Handling Challenges

1 Remember your neighbors are watching.Neighbors seem to pay closer attention to hog units when they see you operating manure handling equipment. Heightened awareness by producers and employees can head off neighbor relation issues before they start, says John George, Agricultural Engineering Associates, Uniontown, KS.George suggests communicating with the neighbors about the operation and plans.

1 Remember your neighbors are watching.

Neighbors seem to pay closer attention to hog units when they see you operating manure handling equipment. Heightened awareness by producers and employees can head off neighbor relation issues before they start, says John George, Agricultural Engineering Associates, Uniontown, KS.

George suggests communicating with the neighbors about the operation and plans. "Whenever practical, give them an opportunity to express concerns and ideas and develop some philosophical ownership in your success," he says.

In addition, manage your manure utilization methods for as low of odor and nuisance potential as practical. Put yourself in the neighbor's position and then analyze what you can do to address his concerns.

Before applying manure, check the weather, temperature, humidity and wind direction. Consider the proximity of neighbors' houses to the fields. Be considerate. Whenever possible, don't apply on weekends, holidays or during family and community celebrations.

2 Calibrate manure application equipment.

Proper calibration takes time and adjustment. And, the right attitude towards manure also helps.

Producers must remember manure is a resource that can replace the use and cost of commercial fertilizer, George says. Therefore, the same attitude should apply to both types of crop nutrients.

Calibration is critical, says Alan Sutton, professor of animal science at Purdue University. A variable nutrient content, changing conditions of soil and application method, plus variability of equipment all affect the calibration.

Sutton offers a simple equation to establish liquid manure application rates. Begin by noting tank capacity, determine the area covered by a tank of manure and the speed of application. Dividing the gallons of manure applied by the area covered equals the application rate (gallons per acre). To adjust the rate, adjust the speed of application.

If you don't know your tank capacity, weigh it empty and full and divide weight by 8 lb. Sutton estimates manure weighs from 8 to 8.3 lb./gal.

3 Estimate the appropriate dollar and nutrient value for manure.

The value of manure is more than its level of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Begin with soil tests to determine the nutrient status of potential application sites. Also, estimate the yields you expect from the next crop produced on that land, suggests Ted Funk, University of Illinois Extension agricultural engineering specialist.

Manure is more valuable on land with low nutrient levels, especially if the next crop will have high nutrient requirements. Conversely, if the cropland available has adequate nutrients for the next crop, the value of manure may be little more than the cost to haul and apply it, Funk says.

Feed composition has an impact on the crop nutrients that will be available. Higher protein levels in nursery and finishing diets may contribute to higher nitrogen levels. Therefore, testing and adjustment of application rates need to reflect each stage of production.

The number of samples that should be tested depends on the facility, storage and agitation of manure, according to Sutton. Less agitation of manure equals more variability and therefore, more tests are required to get an accurate analysis, Sutton says.

Figuring the value of manure sold to a neighbor depends on a number of factors, such as current commercial fertilizer prices and the availability of nutrients. This allows the buyer to compare available N, P and K with commercial fertilizer. Variables include crop needs, soil nutrient status, hauling distance and the price the buyer is willing to pay.

4 Record where, when and how much manure was applied to land.

Manure management records need to include soil testing, manure nutrient testing, field application rates and crop yield results.

Records documenting manure application rates and manure nutrient levels should be compared with crop yields, Sutton says. Based on that comparison, producers can make better decisions on the nutrient application rates.

"Producers need to keep records on what response from the manure they are getting with the crop," Sutton says. "The bottom line is that you have to keep data on your operation. There can be variation from farm to farm."

5 Address worker safety and environmental issues with written plans.

Employee training means workers know the safe way to handle manure and how to use emergency medical and environmental plans.

Randy Fonner, coordinator of the University of Illinois Extension Certified Livestock Manager training program, notes that most producers have an emergency plan but too often it is not shared with employees.

A written plan needs to be reinforced with employee training and monthly inspections of facilities and equipment. Inspect pumps, values and tanks of hauling wagons, the couplings of traveling guns, any equipment that could break or leak.

The Department of Agricultural Engineering at the University of Illinois has developed a sample emergency response plan that includes manure spill and general emergency responses.

The plan for a manure spill includes:

* Designate a contact person or persons to notify if an emergency occurs;

* Post the list of contact people and emergency telephone numbers at the entrance of each unit;

* The contact person determines the amount of personnel and equipment necessary to correct the problem; and

* The contact person will use emergency response team and equipment list to mobilize enough manpower and equipment to correct the problem.

The emergency response team may include nearby producers, farmers or contract manure handlers who can quickly bring the necessary equipment and people to operate it. Producers need to have pre-arranged agreements for their emergency response team. Also, it is important to have land access agreements with neighbors. This gives you legal permission to enter their property to contain a spill.

The general emergency response should include:

* An emergency phone list, including the operator, fire department, sheriff, emergency medical services (EMS), public health office and local and state environmental authorities.

* Directions to farm, farm map, facility maps (which indicate hazardous materials and areas that must not be entered without assisted breathing devises), fire and power outage response plans and a list of medical conditions of employees that EMS personnel would need to know.

Funk stresses that people need to stay away from buildings where deep pits are being agitated. Employees need to know that if they see pigs succumbing to the gas, agitation must be shut off.

If affected by hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas, pigs will show respiratory distress including pulmonary edema, breathing difficulties, loss of consciousness and death. The initial effects of H2S at 20 ppm for 20 minutes on humans include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

After the agitation is shut off, no one should enter the building without allowing time for complete ventilation or using a self-contained breathing apparatus. (For more information, consult the Pork Industry Handbook No. 104-Safety in Swine Production Systems.)

"People should never enter a confined space such as a manure pit without all appropriate safety equipment and personnel on hand," George says.