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Articles from 1999 In June

Odor Research Goes High-Tech

The odor control research arsenal is getting better, according to Purdue University agricultural engineer Al Heber. He says researchers are now becoming better equipped with more highly sophisticated analytical equipment. Consequently, the war on odor will be more strategically fought.

"We're beginning to take the guesswork out of this research and starting to scientifically quantify odor and emissions," says Heber. As federal, state and local governments come up with various air quality standards or setback requirements, having a scientifically grounded set of data on what is actually being emitted is essential, he says.

The research effort at Purdue was moved substantially forward with the assistance of private industry. Monsanto's EnviroChem division had developed a manure pit additive, Alliance, and wanted to test it and document its effects.

When the company explained the type of comprehensive test they were considering, Heber's eyes lit up.

Since it's impossible to simulate a 1,000-pig unit with an 8 ft. pit and varying weather conditions and ventilation rates, Monsanto wanted a field test. They found two, 4,000-head finishing sites, one with natural ventilation, another with power ventilation.

Specially modified trailers were fully equipped with a complex set of tubes and pipes to pump air from above the pit, within the buildings and near the fansat each site. Data-collecting equipment in the trailers recorded the information. Heber estimates each trailer cost about $150,000 equipped.

The Alliance solution was sprayed into the top of the pit via a gate-mounted pipe and nozzle that extends 6 in. through the slats. An aerial mist in the pit covers most of the manure slurry surface. One nozzle was installed in each pen and spraying cycles were prescribed using programmable logic controllers. Alliance was delivered for a total of 24 minutes/day. Target amounts were 300-660 parts of the product per million parts of fresh manure.

Air was pumped continuously through two gas-sampling tubes from inside each building into the trailer.

A personal computer at each site controlled sequential switching of three gas analyzers (ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide) on 15-minute sampling intervals.

Ammonia was measured with chemiluminescence-based ammonia analyzers after conversion to nitric oxide. The analyzers detect small light emissions triggered by a controlled chemical reaction within a chamber. These state-of-the-art analyzers run about $18,000 each. Hydrogen sulfide was converted to sulfur dioxide and measured with pulsed-fluorescence, sulfur dioxide analyzers ($11,000 each).

These analyzers can measure specific fluorescent wavelengths given off by sulfur dioxide when it's exposed to pulses of ultraviolet light in a chamber.

Carbon dioxide was measured with an infrared sensor ($2,000). Gas instruments were normally calibrated weekly, another important but expensive process, says Heber.

A PC-based data acquisition system ($5,000) also continuously recorded air temperatures, building static pressure, outside relative humidity and temperature, inside wet bulb temperatures and wind speed and direction.

Dust samples were taken periodically and weighed with sensitive scales in the laboratory. Manure samples were obtained from the pit biweekly, and analyzed for total nitrogen, dry matter, phosphorus and potassium.

This full-scale data collection continued through three groups of pigs at one barn and two groups at the other. All told, Monsanto put in close to a million dollars, says Heber.

Although significant reductions in ammonia could be documented, the overall impact on odor was not statistically significant, he says. The product is in reformulation and may be tested again this year.

But in the process, the pork industry has gained substantial data and equipment (as Monsanto donated much of the lab equipment to Purdue) to pursue further research. Eight technical papers have been published already; Heber says there's data enough for at least another eight.

Heber says they were able to nail down ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide emission levels in the study. These levels are important in establishing air quality standards and scientifically grounded setback limits. See the odor link on Heber's Web site ( for an interactive program to calculate setbacks for your own site. The program factors in animal units, building type, manure storage method, prevailing wind and weather conditions, among other things.

Another side benefit was establishing that there's 30% more heat production from pigs than older data had suggested, says Heber. "We think the more modern genetics create an animal with a higher metabolism," says Heber.

The biggest benefit of the project is the quantifying of emissions, says Heber. "There's a big mistake of people going around sniffing and saying whether they smell something or not. That leads to a lot of confusion.

"Remember, concentration is different than emission. You can burn your finger with a match but you can't heat your house with it," says Heber. He makes an analogy with a farm site with a finisher and a nursery. On the farm, being next to the high concentration from the 8-in. fan of the nursery, "you just about fall over." Meanwhile, the air from the 48-in. fans of the finishers doesn't seem as bad. But, the high emissions from the finishing barn's 48-in. fans will take longer to dilute than the low-emission nursery. These high emissions may catch the neighbor's attention 1/2 mile away.

Gives Pigs A "Fresh" Start

If you haven't made the switch to all-in, all-out (AIAO) production yet, now is the time!

As margins narrow, even in the face of low grain/feed prices, every producer must use every efficiency factor at his/her disposal.

If you are already using AIAO production, let's review:

* Are you using AIAO in all phases?

* Are you capturing all the advantages a well-managed, AIAO system can offer?

* Are there phases of your system that could be improved by a stricter AIAO schedule?

There is no set system that works best on all farms. Most units built in the last few years were designed for AIAO and pig flow. However, just because units were designed for AIAO, doesn't ensure they are being managed correctly for top productivity or profitability.

The basic concept behind AIAO is to keep a group of pigs together throughout production. With each move, pigs are given a "fresh start" because facilities have been vacated, cleaned and disinfected.

AIAO works for several reasons: improved sanitation, less disease transmission, easier to adapt phase feeding methods, more accurate production records, more accurate medication and better use of labor.

The key element of the AIAO concept is the all-out element. When the room or building is completely emptied after each group, the area can be cleaned and disinfected - a major reason for improved efficiency.

AIAO can be done by pen, by room, by building or by site (farm). With each step up, disease prevention improves because direct contact by pigs of different ages and health status is improved.

AIAO by pen is of limited value because younger pigs share the same air space making disease spread likely.

AIAO by room is better, but it's difficult to have separate air flow, people traffic and manure storage and handling for each room.

Health security improves tremendously when an entire building is operated AIAO. The disease threat from one group to the next is reduced unless there are many buildings on one site and a wide age spread. If animal and people traffic are controlled, the only major risk is airborne disease spread.

Two-site, three-site, multi-site and wean-to-finish buildings all lend themselves to AIAO pig flow.

Since over 60% of the cost of production is incurred after the pig reaches 40 lb., the potential payback from improved efficiency is very high when AIAO is used in finishers.

Depending on the level of performance you've been able to achieve without AIAO, 7% improved feed conversion, 12% increased daily gain and death loss reduction are achievable.

Strict AIAO creates a whole new set of challenges. Coordinating pig flow throughout the entire operation is probably the most difficult, particularly in older operations where buildings, pens and rooms vary in size. When remodeling or building new, make sure all the rooms can handle the proper number of pigs.

Preventing pigs of different ages from sharing air space is another major challenge. Aerosol spread of respiratory diseases from group to group will reduce the benefits of AIAO even if the schedule is strictly adhered to and sanitation between groups is good.

Employees must be kept well informed on production events. Failure to get pigs moved and rooms cleaned usually has a ripple effect throughout the operation.

Case Study A 1,200-sow herd had confinement and outside facilities. The pig flow was AIAO in both, with batches filling the space in one group.

The outside facility had 1.61 average daily gain (ADG) and 3.37 feed conversion (FC). The inside facility had 1.78 ADG and 2.95 FC. Death loss and percentage of substandard pigs was the same for both.

Both sites used a "single-day sell," which appeared to have some "cost" because substandard pigs were discounted. Sites were totally emptied, washed and refilled.

The herd is positive for porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), Mycoplasmal pneumonia, circovirus, and had some episodes of Streptococcus suis, encephalitis and ileitis. Still, death loss from weaning to slaughter was under 6% and light and cull pigs were about 4% at closeout.

Seeing the huge difference in performance, outside vs. confinement, the producer's goal was to confine all pigs. The facility had several rooms and the pig flow was now AIAO, by room, instead of by facility or site. He also moved light pigs between rooms; percentage at full value appeared to increase.

However, the first closeouts for the facility were not as good as hoped. ADG was 1.53 with 3.25 FC, by room. AIAO was being compromised. Pigs were being shuffled between rooms, pens of pigs were being mixed. With a larger age spread within the same air space, health was worsening. Although he had his pigs in better facilities, the compromises within those rooms were far more costly than the lesser performance at the outdoor AIAO site.

Bending the rules for AIAO pig flow is generally caused by a failure to achieve consistent weekly (batch) production. The only solution is to achieve weekly production targets and leave some spaces empty if targets aren't met.

Up Against The Wall

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Bob Bergquist agrees.

Bergquist is owner of EnviroPork, a 5,000-sow, farrow-to-wean operation near Larimore, ND. When North Dakota's Department of Health found him in violation of state odor restrictions, he found himself up against a wall. Rather ironically, that wall inspired him to develop another wall, the vertical wall biofilter, in an effort to reduce odors.

Engineers he consulted for odor control ideas suggested trying a biofilter system modeled after University of Minnesota trials (see "Biofilters Provide Low-Cost Odor Solution," page 12). Concerned about the effect of a biofilter on fan efficiency in his two, 80 x 560 ft. tunnel ventilated barns, and restricted by space to lay out the horizontal biofilter vegetative strip, Bergquist suggested the engineers modify the idea, incorporating some windbreak ideas that he had heard of.

They built a 9-ft.-high superstructure out of treated lumber, positioning it 8 ft. (two fan diameters) away from the fans at the end of the barn. The superstructure was closed off square with the 80-ft. wide barn, with doors provided to give access to the area between it and the barn. (The accompanying photos show a similar structure built by Premium Standard Farms, Princeton, MO.)

Bergquist built the superstructure about a foot off the ground and spread gravel underneath. A plywood skirting is attached to restrict air flow.

Within the superstructure, two, 4 x 4 ft. chicken wire "cells," one on top of the other, divided by a 2 x 4 in., are lined up straight out from each of the 10, 48-in. fans on the ends of the barn. The chicken wire cells are 2 ft. thick and stuffed with barley straw. They decided to use the two 4-ft. cells rather than an 8-ft. straw wall to limit settling of the straw. The top is left open.

"When we presented the idea to the Health Department people, they laughed and said this would never work," says Dan Stepan, engineer with the University of North Dakota's Energy and Environmental Research Center. "We got it built and low and behold it worked better than anybody had even anticipated."

Hydrogen sulfide emissions, as measured with a Jerome Meter, have been reduced from 50 ppb down to 2 ppb.

Measurements of odor taken with a scentometer dropped to 2 or less. (The scentometer records a 0, 2, 7 or 15.) Frequent readings of 7 and 15 had put EnviroPork in violation.

Stepan agrees more research is needed to explain the lower odors and emissions, but he notes a smoke test provided some clues.

"The smoke test showed the air flow patterns between the fans and the filter wall and what you see is a real good recirculation pattern in the chamber," he says. He believes the mixing in the chamber and the air getting pushed upward where it can be more fully dispersed are key points. He also says the filter wall traps a significant amount of the particulate matter - a large proportion of odor.

Additional trials will be conducted this summer to try and force more air through the filter and to channel more air further upward. Smoke tests indicate only 10-15% of the air gets blown through the wall.

Bergquist says maintenance so far is limited. Rain soaks through the filter and evaporates. Chicken wire can be removed from one side, the old straw taken out and the cell repacked. He expects to repack it every spring.

There was concern about the wall's impact on fan performance. But, Bergquist says, readings before and after biofilter installation show they've improved performance. He speculates the wall serves as a windblock, thus, actually aiding fan efficiency.

Barley straw and wheat straw have both been used as a medium. The barley seems to work better. "There may be some microbial action that does some biodegradation of some of the odor compounds," says Bergquist.

A roof is being considered to help with the recirculation process, and also to prevent the wall from catching snow. A 20-ft. snow drift caused some fans to break off last winter. So far, the project has cost less than than $2,000. Bergquist says that's a price he was willing to pay now that the Health Department standards are being met.

New legislation passed this year in North Dakota gives livestock facilities a half mile setback. Although EnviroPork is a mile and a half from the nearest neighbor, a suit filed by environmental and family farm advocates had forced the Health Department to take measurements at the section road, 50 ft. from the barns.

Producers and researchers elsewhere are tinkering with ideas similar to Bergquist's. Premium Standard Farms (PSF) began experimenting with what they're calling "air dams" last summer. Although no hard scientific data on odor and dust reduction are available yet, PSF environmental affairs director Dave Townsend says field observations have them convinced the air dams work. It convinced them enough that by the end of the summer they'll have built about 200 of them on their tunnel ventilated barns in Missouri, spending an estimated $1,000 on each structure.

The PSF design is similar to Bergquist's. They use primarily 2 x 4 in. lumber, high density polyethylene, chicken wire and straw. The PSF structure is also set 8 ft. out from the barn, but varies in that it uses an angled extension rather than a fully closed off end. PSF only went 3 in. thick with their straw, but ran straw the full length of the building and all the way down to the ground.

Townsend says they based their air dam idea off North Carolina State University agricultural engineer Bob Bottcher's windbreak designs. Bottcher has had success reducing odor with windbreaks built from pipe frames. His design uses tarps connected with grommets and breakaway ties. Modeled after similar designs used in Taiwan's poultry industry, Bottcher says the windbreaks work well on tunnel ventilated barns, especially those that blow out directly over a lagoon.

Using Nutrition To Control Odor

Recent research results from the University of Kentucky indicate that NH3 emissions from swine manure can be reduced by lowering the dietary crude protein level or by adding certain additives to the diet.

Kentucky researcher Gary Cromwell conducted experiments to evaluate the link between protein and volatile gases emitted from hog manure. Exhaust gas concentrations from each of 12 simulated anaerobic manure pits were monitored every 2.4 hours for 2-3 weeks. The experiment looked at ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2) using a multi-gas monitoring system. Manure pH and volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations were also determined.

In one experiment, 84 pigs (three replications of four groups of seven pigs, which weighed on average 50 lb.) were fed an 18% crude protein (CP) diet with or without Yucca schidigera extract (Ultimate Gold, 0.2%), a microbial product (Microsource S, 0.05%) or a fructooligosaccharide (inulin, 3%) for 6 days.

Cromwell says Yucca, inulin and the microbial product reduced NH3 emissions by 15, 29 and 38% (P<0.10).

In another experiment, 36 pigs (three repetitions of three groups of four pigs, average weight 72 lb.) were fed the 18% CP diet with or without a zeolite (clinoptilolite, 2%) or a 14% CP diet with lysine, threonine and tryptophan added to equal the level of these amino acids in the 18% CP diet. The trial lasted 15 days.

Feeding the low CP diet reduced NH3 emissions by 29%; the formulation with zeolite reduced emissions by 9%.

Although detectable, H2S emissions were too low for accurate quantification.

In a third experiment, fortified corn-soybean meal diets containing 16.5, 14.5, 12.5 or 10.5% CP were each fed to three pigs (average weight 114 lb.) in metabolism crates for 14 days. The 12.5% CP diet was supplemented with lysine and the 10.5% diet with lysine, threonine and tryptophan to equal the levels of these amino acids in the 14.5% CP diet.

The results were quite pronounced and clear on the relationships between the decrease in dietary protein and ammonia levels, notes Cromwell. NH3 and pH decreased linearly (P<0.01) as dietary CP decreased. (21.4, 13.8, 13.4, 10.1 ppm; 8.04, 7.75, 7.35, 6.75, respectively).

CH4 and CO2 were not affected and H2S was undetectable. VFA levels were not affected by diet, except for trends (P<0.15) in butyric acid and valeric acid.

Ration Formulation The research correlates with somewhat similar work done at Purdue University. Purdue animal scientist, Al Sutton, thinks the best approach to control odor through nutrition so far, still is to provide the pig, as closely as possible, with the essential available nutrients based upon its genetic potential and stage of growth.

"We want to keep that nutrient excretion as minimal as possible, giving that pig a lower potential for creating the compounds responsible for odor production," according to Sutton. Avoiding over-formulation, using phase and split-sex feeding regimens, the use of synthetic amino acids, and incorporating new products such as phytase and low phytate corn into the diet are the common means of applying this concept.

Another concept Sutton points to is the microbial route. "We can manipulate the microflora transversing the gastrointestinal tract of the pig. When we selectively inhibit certain microbial groups or alter the fermentation pattern of existing microflora, we've shown we can control potential odorous end products."

Finally, notes Sutton, changing the composition of the diet may change the physical characteristics (pH, dry matter content, buffering capacity, dietary electrolyte balance) of urine and feces that control odor production.

Phosphoric Acid Along those lines, North Carolina State University researcher Theo van Kempen has launched a project testing the use of phosphoric acid instead of dicalcium phosphorus in swine diets. Van Kempen theorizes that by supplying an undegradeable asset, the excreted pH will go down and by lowering excreted pH, ammonia emission can be lowered. Since phosphoric acid is cheaper than dicalcuim phosphorus, the idea makes sense from the ration cost side.

In Europe, Dutch research has shown positive results in a similar experiment using benzoic acid, but benzoic acid is not approved for use in the U.S., notes van Kempen.

Van Kempen is also upbeat about attacking odor nutritionally. "Where there's a will, there's a way," he says. "We can make diets such that they produce less ammonia and they don't have to have an increase in cost that is enormous."

The challenges for his experiment will be from an engineering side. "The question will be, 'Can we use phosphoric acid in the feed mill?' We use liquid methionine, we use liquid choline, why can't we use liquid phosphorus?"

Van Kempen says most pet food companies change cat food diets to drop the pH of the urine as an aid in preventing urinary tract infections, so the concept is not entirely new.

Another engineering problem arises with very acidic urine. "You can get to a point where you're dissolving the concrete," says van Kempen, noting that as we focus on solving one problem, others may arise.

Bell Farms, Sioux Tribe Proceed With Joint Venture

It's quite a sight to see 24 identical, 2,000-head, wean-to-finish barns appear on the horizon in an area where there is often little else to see but the horizon. The breathtaking sight of the white and silver buildings between the prairie and the sky near White River, SD, has prompted many passers-by to ask what exactly is going on at the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Those buildings are part of the first phase of a plan to bring economic development to an area that hungers for jobs and opportunities.

Phase I of the Rosebud Farms pork project includes plans for a total of 72 wean-to-finish buildings on three sites. Additional phases have been proposed. If and when the entire project is completed, 220-250 jobs may be created. The project is a joint effort between a Bell Farms partnership called Sun Prairie and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (see sidebar).

As seems to be the case with many hog operations these days, rumors fly. The saga of the tribe's efforts to improve its members' lifestyles took an unforeseen turn when environmental groups initiated a messy legal battle to stop the project.

Though they have generally maintained a policy of trying to do things right while keeping a low profile, Rich, John, Steve and Graydon Bell, Bell Farms, Wahpeton, ND, and Norman Wilson, Rosebud Sioux Tribal Chairman, agreed to share their story with National Hog Farmer readers.

Seeking Economic Development The Rosebud Reservation has a population of close to 23,000 people, and covers approximately 900,000 acres of land in south-central South Dakota. Unemployment on the reservation hovers near 90%. "The unemployment figure for our people is almost unbelievable, but it's true," says Rosebud Sioux Tribal Chairman Norman Wilson.

Bill Huber, Parmelee, SD, along with Wilson and several other tribal members, have been involved in recruiting economic development for their community.

Because of the resources available on or near the reservation lands - including inexpensive corn, wide open spaces and the abundance of water resources - hog production was targeted as a possible economic development opportunity for the area. Several pork production entities were contacted before the tribe became aware of Bell Farms. Wilson heard Bell Farms might be interested in working with a reservation on a project so he contacted Rich Bell to learn more.

"They (the Bells) explained all of the environmental safeguards they believed in, how they built their buildings and about all the latest technology that they used in their pork production operations," Wilson recalls. As they learned more about how the operation could work, Wilson and other tribal members thought the employment opportunities and skills required might be a good fit for their people. Wilson says the amount of money that investors were willing to put into the project was impressive, too.

The Bell Farms partnership consists of 30 people. Rich Bell and his sons coordinate the many facets of the Bell Farms partnership throughout the U.S. The arrangements and investors vary with each project.

In the case of the Rosebud project, Sun Prairie is the general partnership that owns thepigs. The Bell Farms partnership is part of this arrangement.

When it comes to pork production in South Dakota, the state's anti-corporate hog farming constitutional Amendment E makes understanding what business entities are legal, and which are not, a bit complicated. As the Rosebud Farms project began to develop, statements started appearing in the press claiming Sun Prairie could not operate in South Dakota if it were not for the sovereign immunity of the Indian reservation. Reports implied that the project would not be legal under the state's anti-corporate farming law. Rich Bell says these allegations are untrue because Sun Prairie is a general partnership, in which all partners are equally, individually liable. It is not a corporation, he says.

The Process While the tribe was considering whether or not to enter into an arrangement with Bell Farms, Huber flew with other tribe members to the Bell Farms site in Lamar, CO, to learn more about how the group operates. He was impressed with the manure handling systems and lack of odor at those operations. Tribe members were adamant that the project not be harmful to the environment.

Some have argued the plan to locate the project in Indian country was designed to avoid environmental regulation. In fact, the measures adopted by the tribe and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for protecting water resources exceeded any requirements of federal or state law in South Dakota.

Huber says when the project was first proposed, many people said the environmental restrictions the tribe put on the project would make it impossible to build to those specifications.

The tribe required the sites to be located on Pierre shale, a highly impermeable soil, to minimize risk of groundwater contamination. Another requirement stated cultural resources had to be protected.

In the spring of 1998, after preliminary questions were answered and concerns had been addressed, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Sun Prairie (the Bell Farms partnership) began negotiations for a land lease to develop a multi-site hog production facility on tribal trust land. Considerable work had to be done to make sure the correct site was chosen. Concerns about the waste-containment structures, protection of groundwater and drinking water and monitoring activities had to be addressed.

The BIA is the trustee for U.S. Indian lands, and the federal government holds the lands in trust for the Indian people. BIA staff performed an unannounced inspection of Bell Farms facilities in Colorado to learn about actual operations that would occur at the project.

The BIA assigned its Rosebud agency realty officer and soil conservationist to evaluate the preliminary site selection process. Twenty-two tracts of land were selected for further evaluation and consideration for project sites. The Rosebud Agency Natural Resources staff and Aberdeen area environmental engineer met technical and leadership representatives of Sun Prairie and the tribe to further review the project.

During the process of selecting the right sites, Sun Prairie and the tribe evaluated all of the potential sites, covering some 4,000 acres. Proper siting was crucial.

Special surveys were conducted to make sure there would not be an adverse impact on water resources, or archaeological, paleontological or historical resources. If locating the pork production facilities on a particular site would affect any of those areas, the site was rejected.

Numerous soil borings were taken to assure the right soil type in the location of the facility. Many sites were rejected because of inappropriate soil types. Specialized, independent consultants prepared the environmental assessment and the associated archaeological and endangered species surveys.

Biologists and entomologists were employed to conduct surveys to make sure no endangered animals, insects or plants were located on the site.

All project sites were located on land devoted exclusively to agricultural use.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) engineers assisted Bell Farms specialists with developing an extensiveand safe manure handling system. The EPA engineers were able to review all plans.

The BIA reviewed comments from interested parties, some favoring the project, others opposing it. The majority of tribal comments supported the project.

An environmental assessment for the project was prepared in June 1998 for the BIA's South Dakota office. Based on the final environmental assessment, released in August 1998, BIA Rosebud Agency Superintendent Larry Burr issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact to the Environment" from the project. No other environmental reviews were required.

In August 1998, the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council adopted a tribal resolution which authorized the lease for the project. The lease was approved and recorded.

In late September 1998, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Sun Prairie started construction on the first site of Phase I of the project. The project consists of two phases. Phase I consists of three, wean-to-finish sites. If the project continues, Phase II would consist of five sow sites and five additional finishing sites.

Activists Appear Just as the construction of the Rosebud Farms project was getting off to a good start, in November 1998, and well after the appeal time against the BIA's decision had lapsed, a coalition of activist groups, including the Concerned Rosebud Area Citizens, Prairie Hills Audubon Society of Western South Dakota, South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, and the San Francisco-based Humane Farming Association sought to stop the construction of the project.

The groups filed suit in Washington, DC, challenging the BIA's decision not to require an environmental impact statement during the consideration process before issuing the Finding of No Significant Impact. The suit alleged this violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

The government filed an answer in the litigation in January 1999, denying any violations of either act in connection with the hog construction project.

In a confusing and seemingly contradictory development, one day after the government filed an answer in the lawsuit saying there were no violations, Washington, DC-based Kevin Gover, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, sent a letter to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, stating that the BIA's approval of the lease for the project was void for failing to fully comply with the National Environmental Protection Act. The activist groups asked for their lawsuit to be dismissed, citing the assistant secretary's letter voiding the lease approval. The court dismissed the case.

No Lease, No Land This put both the tribe and Sun Prairie in a tight spot. Concrete had already been poured. Buildings had been built. And all of this was done on land on which there suddenly was no valid lease. A total of $5 million had already been spent at this point and the project was stopped. Pigs were on the way to fill the first buildings.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Sun Prairie instantly challenged Assistant Secretary Gover's authority and decision to void the lease. They sued in Federal Court in South Dakota, seeking a legal declaration that the environmental assessment prepared for the project complied with the National Environmental Protection Act.

Lawyers for both Sun Prairie and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe argued the financial threats to both the tribe and to Bell Farms were very significant. Voiding the lease could cause big problems with the lenders who were financing the building project.

The tribe would be unable to recover approximately $45,000 for improvements designed specifically for the project.Tribal members employed in the construction of the project would be laid off, and tribal members anticipating employment in the operation would not have the opportunities they had been hoping for.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe wanted the lease to continue. No interested party ever filed an administrative appeal to place the issue before Assistant Secretary Gover. Gover made his decision in an arbitrary fashion, according to the judge in the case. Issuing a temporary restraining order and then a preliminary injunction preventing the BIA assistant secretary from enforcing the lease withdrawal, Judge Charles B. Kornmann ruled that Gover's exercise of authority was, "arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion," and therefore void.

This ruling meant the construction could continue on Phase I, but the final decision is still pending. The final ruling is expected soon. The activist groups have already voiced their intent to appeal if the lease is upheld.

The construction of the first of the three sites making up the first phase of the Rosebud Farms project is nearing completion. Tribal chairman Wilson says the tribe is still committed to the project. Rich Bell says Bell Farms and Sun Prairie are still optimistic about the success of the project, too.

However, there are still lingering uncertainties. As Wilson relates, "As far as I can tell, this would be one of the first times any outside investors were that interested in working with people on a reservation. First the question was, could we prove to the investors that it was safe for them to invest their money on the reservation? After much negotiation we got over that hurdle. Now we got started, and here came the environmentalists."

Judge Kornmann seemed to agree, "This court, sitting as a court of equity as well as of law, finds it offensive to any sense of justice that a federal agency, especially the BIA, charged as it is with enormous trust responsibilities to Native Americans and their tribes, can be allowed to claim that the BIA violated the National Environmental Protection Act and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Sun Prairie should suffer the enormous financial and other consequences of such BIA action or inaction. These things should not happen in the United States of America."

Kornmann went on to say that without a preliminary injunction, the project would probably have been terminated and future projects with tribes would be harder to come by.

"Indeed, the failure of this project based on administrative ineptitude and procedural unfairness would absolutely deter private entities from pursuing economic relationships with the various tribes," Kornmann says.

The Rosebud Farms project is a joint effort between Sun Prairie and the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The project consists of two phases. Construction on the first of three, identical, 48,000-head, wean-to-finish sites that will make up Phase I of the project is nearing completion. This first site is called Grassy Knoll Finish, and is located west of White River, SD, population 652.

Sun Prairie * Sun Prairie is a general partnership.

* Sun Prairie handled all financing, equity and market contracts for the first phase of the project.

* Sun Prairie contracts with Bell Farms for management of the site.

* Sun Prairie owns the pigs. The Bell Farms partnership is part of this arrangement.

* The Sun Prairie arrangement is not affected by South Dakota's anti-corporate hog farming law, Amendment E, because each member of the general partnership has individual liability.

Rosebud Sioux Tribe * Rosebud Sioux Tribe provides the land for the building sites, water to sites, roads and utilities and facilities construction, at no cost to the project.

* The Rosebud Tribe will get 25% of the profits from Phase I.

* Sun Prairie gets 75% of the profits from Phase I.

Phase I * Three 48,000-head, wean-to-finish sites.

* 24 buildings/site.

* 2,000 head/building.

* 36 pens/building.

* 40 acres/site.

* Each site is sized to accommodate the pigs generated by a 5,000-sow site/Bell Farms operation in Colorado.

* Pigs will be brought in to fill one building weekly, 52 weeks/year.

* Pigs are placed in buildings at an average weight of 12 lb.

* Pigs are marketed at an average weight of 260 lb.

* Pigs are contracted to local packers.

* The development of Phase I of the project is expected to take one to two more years.

Buildings * "These are the best barns in the system," says Trent Loos, cell coordinator for Phase I ofthe project. (Farms located in a particular area are called cells.) "We have the ability to keep every pig at an ideal comfort level all the time."

* Chimney fans are used with naturally ventilated, curtained sidewalls.

* LP gas brooders help keep the small pigs in good microenvironments.

* Pigs are fed by hand on mats for the first 8 days they are in the buildings.

Waste Handling System * The buildings are designed so that waste and wastewater are collected in concrete flush lanes located beneath slotted concrete floors. A low temperature, anaerobic digester at the site biologically treats the manure.

* After treatment, the wastewater is conveyed by gravity flow to an evaporation system connected to the digester.

* Water from the digester is used to flush the buildings to reduce the demand for fresh water.

* The treated wastewater from the digester is disposed of in a series of terminal evaporation ponds. This means there are no land applications or discharges of wastewater from the unit.

Employees * Each of the three, initial, wean-to-finish sites will employ between 15-17 people when completed.

* Loos has good things to say about the employees who have been working at the facility. There has been tremendous interest in the job opportunities that the hog production facility can provide. "We want our employees to have a good lifestyle," Rich Bell explains. The employees receive competitive pay, medical and wellness benefits as part of their employment package.

* Loos says the company has retained a family atmosphere as it has grown. Employees complete an extensive training program to learn about areas such as barn environment, genetics, herd health, marketing, nutrition and finance. "We want the employees to understand every part of the process," he says.

Phase II-Sow Sites * Five, 5,000-sow production sites are proposed for Phase II of development of the project.

* Also part of Phase II would be the construction of five, 48,000-head wean-to-finish sites. These sites would be identical to the three Phase I sites.

* Rosebud Tribe will have the option to buy out the project partners after 15 years for a portion of the original facilities cost.

* Rosebud Tribe may continue to contract with Bell Farms for operational management, for a management fee.

Construction Construction, engineering and design of the project has been overseen by National Swine Builders. This is a division of Bell Farming Group and is managed by Rich's son, Steve Bell.

The Anderson Group Inc., a design and construction management company, has supervised work at the building site. Local contractors and labor have been used whenever possible.

The Smell Of Money

Pork producers have long used this phrase, sometimes almost affectionately, in describing the odor of their operations.

Tolerance of the, well, let's just call it unique aroma associated with hog production, has come with a wink, a nod and the knowing statement that "it's the smell of money."

With the growth in the size of operations and the ever-growing sprawl of urban residents into rural areas, the smell of money has taken on a new meaning.

Now, the money is being spent on eliminating the smell. The attack on odor is many fronted. Mike Williams, director of North Carolina State University's Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center, notes that the management of odor emissions involves a complex set of scientific, economic, social and political issues.

Williams says that it may not be practical or feasible to eliminate odor, but that "we can take significant steps to manage or mitigate odor." He recommends a systems approach using a combination of the many technologies available today (see summary of odor control technologies on page 44).

All across the U.S., Williams and other university researchers have turned their focus on odor-related projects. Some attack the problem from the engineering side with filters (pages 12 and 38), while others tackle odor from the source with nutrition (page 36).

And, private industry has jumped into the fray. Some offer possible solutions such as ozone treatment (page 31), while others provide systems for managing lagoons, covers and chemical additives to treat manure. Large investments are being made in genetically altering feed ingredients as well.

Private agricultural engineers have seen their business boom as new legislation has forced some operations to find a way to meet strict air and odor standards.

The people closest to the smell, the producers, are investing their time and money to address the issue. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has launched a $10 million On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program (page 10). The National Pork Board also has targeted a good portion of its research budget toward odor and air quality projects (page 56).

What is the cost of an odor problem? A jury recently awarded about 100 neighbors of a Premium Standard Farms operation near Princeton, MO, a $5 million settlement, citing health and nuisance concerns from the air emanating from the hog set-up. Those kind of numbers give a whole new meaning to the smell of money.

New Fat-Free Lean Equations Provide Production Efficiency Targets

Much as the new production and financial terms and standards were developed to help pork producers and their lenders more accurately evaluate their businesses, the newly revised Fat-Free Lean prediction equations can be used to standardize and compare different carcass measuring methods.

The Fat-Free Lean prediction equation or FFL can be used to give an accurate measure of the pounds of lean pork produced even when pigs are sold to different packers using different carcass measurements.

Originally introduced in 1994, the equations have been updated using data from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Quality Lean Growth Modeling Project (QLGMP) completed in 1998. This project included the most comprehensive carcass separation and lean content evaluation ever undertaken. Over 690 half-carcasses were separated into lean, fat and bone. The lean, fat and other soft tissue were then analyzed for total lipid content and the total lipid free lean (Fat Free) was calculated.

The carcasses were from a sample of market pigs that varied greatly in genetic type, diets fed, sex and slaughter weight (190-360 lb.) The average slaughter weight was 289 lb., reflecting the need for information about heavier market hogs. Previous Fat-Free Lean prediction equations were based on historical, university carcass separation data, often at 200-250 lb. weights and representing genetic types of 10-30 years ago. The genetic types represented in the development of the updated FFL prediction equations represented in the QLGMP crossbred market hog group were Berkshire, Danbred, Duroc, Dekalb Swine Genetics, Hampshire and Newsham Hybrid.

New FFL prediction equations were developed for five types of measurement: last rib Ruler systems, Fat-O-Meater, AUS ultrasound systems, live animal real time ultrasound scans and loins broken at the 10th rib. Even though the broken loin measurement is the most accurate, it is rarely used due to the damage to the loin that must be discounted. Equations including genetic type, diet and sex effects are included in a new NPPC publication. (Copies are available by writing National Pork Producers Council, P.O. Box 10383, Des Moines, IA 50325 or calling (800) 456-7675; also see NPPC's Web site at

Most producers will use one or more of the following four FFL equations to determine their lean pork production. These equations use fat thickness, loin muscle depth or area, and carcass weight to predict pounds of Fat-Free Lean. The SCAN live animal equation will be useful at market hog shows when actual carcass measurements cannot be obtained.

The information needed for producers to calculate total Fat-Free Lean can usually be taken from packer market reports. Some packers may adopt these equations and automatically provide the pounds of FFL on their market reports. Producers or packers wanting to calculate FFL percentage should divide the pounds of FFL by the carcass weight, then multiply by 100.

In addition, producers may wish to calculate the feed-to-FFL efficiency ratio to help determine their production level. Production cost of FFL/lb. helps target profitability.

Free On-Site Consultation Keeps Environmental Concerns At Bay

The National Pork Producers Council's (NPPC) On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program has a big name, and it could save producers big headaches. The program offers free consulting advice by bringing well-trained experts in the fields of manure management, crop consulting and odor control right to their production sites.

The purpose of the program is to help producers identify areas in their operation that may need correction. The producer sees the operation every day and may not notice subtle changes that could impact the environment. The assessment provides a fresh set of eyes - and noses - to identify challenges before they become big problems. One of the main goals of the On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program assessment is to prevent an environmental problem or challenge from occurring, according to Dan Uthe, program director.

Assessment In Pairs Two assessors, such as an agricultural engineer and a crop consultant, conduct every site visit. Having two assessors helps insure a more balanced assessment. The assessors walk through the operation, answer questions and take time to explain to a producer why certain situations could become a problem.

The information gained from the farm visits is not passed on to regulatory agencies. If there is a flagrant, reportable violation the producer would be informed first. The producer is giventhe first opportunity to report the violation.

No reportable violations have been found in the more than 500 assessments that have been conducted to date.

No Charge There is no charge to producers for the assessment. The funding for the project comes from an American Clean Water Foundation grant. The assessment identifies things a producer can change, however, it is up to the producer to financially implement the changes. If problem areas are identified, resource people to help correct the problem are suggested - university extension service, National Resources Conservation Service or private consultants, for example.

The Process The time required for an audit varies according to the type of production site. Uthe estimates an average farrow-to-finish operation could be audited in six hours.

The process consists of an entrance interview to gain a working knowledge about the operation. Next, the assessors walk through the operation, being careful to observe the farm's biosecurity rules. The producer needs to accompany the assessors during the site visit in order to answer questions and receive suggestions. An exit interview follows the walk-through.

The producer receives a written report with the assessors' conclusions within a month of the visit.

Parts Of The Assessment Before an assessment team will visit a farm, the producer must first contact his or her state pork producer association. An assessment form is sent to the producer prior to the assessors' visit.

The same forms must be used throughout the U.S., whether an assessment is conducted in North Carolina, Iowa or Hawaii. This ensures uniformity in questions asked and in areas viewed at every operation assessed.

Form A is the request form the producer fills out to request the assessment and to provide information about the operation. This form gives the assessment team an idea of what they are going to see when they go out to the farm. It includes operation location, type of operation (i.e., farrow-to-finish, nursery only, finish only, etc.), a description of the buildings, an explanation of the manure containment system and details about land application plans.

Form B is divided into 10 separate sections, each dealing with a specific part of the operation. This form is what the assessment team uses during the walk-through of the operation.

Each extensive section of the form deals with a specific part of the operation. There is a section on anaerobic lagoons, for example. Another deals strictly with manure containment. There is also a section on dead pig disposal.

Every producer gets a written report following the assessment. The written report is designed to be 3-7 pages long and is presented in easy-to-understand terminology. The first section of the report lists any high-risk areas that need to be addressed immediately. Other sections deal with topics such as the general site, buildings, manure containments, land application and mortalities.

The report outlines strengths, challenges and recommendations in each category.

Strengths - Uthe says assessors find a lot more strengths in operations than challenges.

Challenges - What topics does the producer need to address? What areas have the potential to be a problem?

Recommendations - "For every challenge we need to have a recommendation," Uthe explains. "It doesn't do any good to list the challenges unless we have a recommendation about how to correct the challenge."

Betty Baker, Baker Finishing Farm Inc., Holdenville, OK, participated in the On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program and had an on-farm assessment. Baker wants to do as much as she can to control odor from her 6,000-head finishing farm.

Baker notes the suggestions made during her assessment were helpful. "The assessors suggested things like putting more gravel around buildings to help reduce vegetation," she explains.

NPPC has been tracking the implementation rate for suggested changes. Uthe says producers have been quick to correct potential problem areas. "In some cases, employees have been busy making suggested changes before the assessors even leave the site," Uthe says.

Unlimited Participation The On Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program was announced in 1997 and started in the spring of 1998. The producers who participated to date ranged in size from 40 sows to several thousand sows, from one building to dozens of buildings on a site, and from total confinement to some outdoor operations. There is no limit to the number of producers who can participate in the program. NPPC's goal is to see every U.S. pork producer go through the assessment.

The On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program has the opportunity to be an on-going program. Producers may be able to have inspections repeated on a regular basis in the future.

Information from the assessments could prove valuable in the future, too. NPPC has been putting together an anonymous database using information gathered from inspected sites. The database could eventually be used as a research tool to help evaluate topics such as what types of manure containment systems work best in a particular area or what kind of troubleshooting has worked in the past for a specific problem.

Baker says the program gives producers a chance to be proactive and offers a positive approach to finding odor solutions.

Producers interested in setting up a site visit should contact their state pork producers association and ask for information regarding the "On-Farm Odor/Environmental Assistance Program," or contact Dan Uthe, NPPC, at (515) 223-2600.

Biofilters Provide Low-Cost Odor Solution

Biofilters are low-cost, effective ways of reducing hog odors and gases from mechanically ventilated hog buildings, according to University of Minnesota research.

Biofiltration is not well understood, says Minnesota agricultural engineer Kevin Janni. We do know that the process uses microorganisms to break down odorous gases and expel harmless end products to the environment, he explains.

Janni observes, "We just know we take the media (filtration system), put some organic material in it, add water to it, blow air through it, keep it moist and it will do the job. It will remove a tremendous number of odorous compounds.

"Biofiltration works very well for treating odors because most odorous emissions are made up of numerous compounds at low concentrations that are readily oxidizable. The microorganisms use those exhausted gases for growth and what they actually convert them to we are not sure," continues Janni. The byproducts of the oxidation process are water, carbon dioxide, mineral salts, some volatile organic compounds and various microbes.

Biofilters were first used on livestock facilities in Germany in the late 1960s and in Sweden in 1984. Used in pig and calf shelters, they were reported to be 70% efficient in removing noxious odors and gases.

Air is exhausted from the hog building using ventilation or pit fans connected by a duct to the biofilter plenum, explains Janni. The plenum distributes the air evenly across the biofilter media which screens out odors and gases before the contents are exhausted into the atmosphere (see Figure 1).

Fellow Minnesota researcher Richard Nicolai first proved the value of the biofilter system that he designed in 1996. The 20 x 20 ft. biofilter treated the air exhausted from a pit fan on a farrowing barn.

Using an olfactometer, odor was reduced an average of 78% as it passed through the biofilter. Reduction ranged from 29% in April to 96% in August. The biofilter was less effective in April because it became too dried out.

It is important that a 45-50% moisture level be maintained in the biofilter, stresses Janni. Hydrogen sulfide was reduced 86%, ammonia was lowered an average of 50% (ranging from 28% in March to nearly 100% in July). The biofilter functioned well through the winter and only needed moisture added during mild and warm weather to prevent excessive drying, explains Janni. In a second Minnesota trial in 1997, four small biofilters (5 x 7 ft.) were built to treat exhausted air from a deep pit nursery. Odor was reduced an average of 89% with hydrogen sulfide concentrations lowered an average of 96% and ammonia reduced an average of 78%, Janni reports.

Last year, University of Minnesota scientists collected data from a full-size (6,900 sq. ft. in three sections) biofilter used to treat all of the ventilation air expelled from a 750-sow gestation/farrowing facility at a farm near Hector, MN, owned and operated by Nicolai. Average odor levels were cut 82% during 10 months of operation; hydrogen sulfide was dropped 80%, ammonia 50%. Biofilter Challenges

Because the biofiltration process involves bacteria and fungi that live on the media surface, it is not like a dust filter that needs periodic cleaning, stresses Nicolai. Rather, the living system must be supported with the correct nutrients.

"For a biofilter to operate efficiently, the media must provide a suitable environment in which microorganisms can live and reproduce, have good moisture-holding capacity and have a high porosity," says Nicolai.

An early biofilter used dark red kidney bean straw and compost. Later Minnesota studies used shredded wood and compost. Janni says wood maintains biofilter porosity longer than bean straw. Compost provides a vital source of microorganisms and nutrients. Table 1 lists the characteristics for various relatively low-cost biofilter media that are available in the upper Midwest, says Nicolai.

As mentioned, proper moisture levels must be maintained in biofilter media. Too much moisture will reduce the media porosity and too little will dry it out and it will not work. The challenge, says Janni, is how to develop a system that will periodically provide water to the filtration system so it isn't up to the producer to do it manually.

Another challenge is to keep the biofilter media from plugging due to dust buildup. Plugging is expected to occur in biofilters used for extended periods of time, but it is unknown when dust plugging will occur, says Janni.

Good rodent control is essential, too. Rodents burrowing through the media seeking warmth will cause channeling and poor filtration results. Rabbits, woodchucks and badgers are also suspected of burrowing through and nesting in biofilters, he points out.

Excessive vegetation on the biofilter surface can reduce its efficiency by causing channeling and limiting oxygen exchange. Roots can plug the system. Remove noxious weeds before they produce seed.

Ventilation Changes A biofilter system cannot be installed with existing ventilation. "Biofilters create a pressure drop the fans must overcome to blow the air through the media," says Janni "This pressure drop and its impact on the ventilating system must be taken into account when designing a biofilter. Adding a biofilter to a duct connected to the ventilating fans of a livestock building without accounting for this added pressure drop will cause significant ventilation problems." Most shallow (1 ft. deep) biofilters can treat between 7 and 17 cfm. of ventilation air per square foot of biofilter without creating an excessive pressure drop, he explains.

Naturally ventilated barns with pit fans offer a different challenge, says Janni. The biofiltration system will treat the pit fan exhaust, but the odor emissions from the rooms above the pits would not be covered. Janni says an option being considered at the University of Minnesota is to treat the rooms by sprinkling soybean oil to control the dust and keep down odor levels.

Cost Considerations Amortizing construction and operating costs over three years, the cost of the full-scale biofilter system discussed in this article came to 22 cents/pig produced/year. Rodent control costs came to $275/year. Other operating costs included $125/year to cover the cost of sprinkling and for the extra power to run the ventilation system, according to Nicolai.

Design Details The on-farm research trials led to development of a publication covering specific biofilter design elements and management recommendations. The Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Update (BAEU-18) can be obtained from the University of Minnesota Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, 1390 Eckles Ave., St. Paul, MN 56078-6005 or by calling (612) 625-9733. Design information is also available on the Web at

The publication will be updated as more information becomes available. Further research on biofilters is ongoing on three separate poultry, dairy and swine sites around the state, says Janni. That project should be wrapped up this summer.