Gear Up for Nutrient Management Plans

Pilot projects reveal that comprehensive nutrient management plans offer pork producers broad benefits, but they need to get on board to understand and implement a system on their farm.

Pilot projects reveal that comprehensive nutrient management plans (CNMPs) offer pork producers broad benefits, but they need to get on board to understand and implement a system on their farm.

For John Kellogg, the decision to sign up for a CNMP pilot project to supplement the series of conservation practices he has already implemented on the family farm was a non-issue.

That's largely because he really has no choice in the matter. His 1,450-sow, farrow-to-wean operation is located near Yorkville, IL. Just a half-mile or so east are groups of fairly new suburban homes. And newer housing developments run in almost a solid line along the nearby Interstate Highway 55 corridor to Chicago, barely one hour away.

His 850-acre (half-owned and half-rented) farm is in an area zoned as agricultural, providing some protection from city neighbors.

Proactive Approach

Kellogg strives for a proactive environmental approach that is socially acceptable. One example: he hosted a tour group of 40 “Teachers on a Bus” participants from Naperville, IL. After hearing about his conservation programs, three or four avid gardeners were very anxious to see firsthand how he managed mortality composting.

“To me, that is really a good sign because there is so much bad publicity about how we handle our dead animals and odors,” says Kellogg.

All mortalities are composted in a row of concrete bins behind the hog barns.

“Our primary reason for composting is to keep the rendering truck out of here to minimize the potential disease threat to our farm,” says Kellogg. The carbon source used to generate heat is stored on-site. Wood shavings, bits of paper, horse bedding and other cheap sources of fiber are layered 12 in. deep below and above mortalities in the concrete bins to speed decomposition. It is land-applied as solid compost after 6-9 months of composting.

Two concerns need to be addressed with composting, he warns. Rodent control must be closely monitored. Kellogg places bait boxes around all hog building perimeters near the composting site. Because the composting site does not have a roof, Kellogg built a small trench at the front of the bins to address the concern of runoff. It flows into a nearby cornfield where nutrients are utilized.

In addition, Kellogg has installed a series of filter strips so that farm drainage doesn't damage nearby waterways.

A reduced-tillage program provides more residue on farmland and minimizes soil loss.

And the Illinois producer plans ahead when he is going to pump out manure to expedite the process. That saves him a lot of money and reduces the number of days that manure is hauled.

“The strongest odor with manure is when you are applying it to the land,” declares Kellogg. “It used to take us a month, two times a year, to pump out manure. Now we can do it in about two and a half days, three times a year. It's cheaper, faster and more neighborhood-friendly.”

Previously, manure was pumped out conventionally, with vacuum tanks sucking it out of pump-out ports on the sides of the buildings. Now, 4-in. pumps and hoses have been installed to pump manure from 24-in. pull-plug pits in farrowing and from 8-ft.-deep breeding/gestation pits. Manure flows to a central gestation pit area. A custom manure applicator is hired to pump manure into a tanker and surface spread it in 40-ft. swaths on nearby fields. Kellogg's employees then immediately follow up by disking the manure into the ground.

As part of the CNMP project, Kellogg believes that every pork producer wants to be doing the right thing when it comes to environmental management. “CNMPs can help them in that quest to be sustainable and profitable in the long run,” he says.

“As producers look for proactive environmental management tools, the CNMPs can provide them a road map for economic resource management for their individual farm,” relates Carrie Tengman, director of Environmental Services for the National Pork Board.

CNMP Pilot Projects

There were 42 farms in seven states, from Arkansas to Iowa to Pennsylvania, involved in the CNMP pilot projects, reports Tengman. Phase I has been completed and Phase II should be done by the end of 2003.

Those producers received assistance in developing CNMPs and found that the process did more than just meet environmental regulations. It helped identify practices that can benefit an operation, Tengman notes.

But it also highlighted that producers don't readily have a good handle on what CNMPs are or how they work, she adds.

In short, a CNMP is an environmental plan for an operation that can be used to make solid business decisions. It is not a required part of meeting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) rules. But a CNMP can help fulfill the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requirements as required by the CAFO rule. And CNMPs are needed to secure Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) funding.

The pork checkoff program has devised a curriculum listing the seven steps producers must follow to formulate a CNMP. Details can be accessed by calling the Producer Service Center at (800) 456-PORK.

What Is a CNMP?

It's a component of a conservation plan:

  • Unique to animal feeding operations;

  • Ensuring that agriculture production goals and natural resource concerns dealing with nutrient loads, and adverse impacts to water quality, are addressed.

    Components of a comprehensive nutrient management plan include:

  • Conservation planning;

  • Manure and wastewater handling and storage;

  • Land treatment practices;

  • Nutrient management;

  • Recordkeeping;

  • Feed management; and

  • Other utilization activities.