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Articles from 2001 In September

Foot-and-Mouth Disease Update No. 14 (Week 30 of Outbreak)

Filed Sept. 19, 2001

Something of a milestone this week, the number of affected farms logged since the outbreak (200 days ago) has now exceeded 2,000.

New cases are now averaging two/day in the two remaining ‘hot spots’. This does not include the 6,000 odd farms within the ring-fence zones, which also had their stock slaughtered as a precaution (contiguous culling).

The forecast we made just 14 days into the outbreak – estimating it would cost Britain £9 billion (US$13 billion) – looks to be chillingly accurate. Government sources announced this week that FMD has cost our farmers about £4 billion (US$5.7 billion) and that it has cost tourism, allied industries and the countryside ‘somewhat more’. Some of us think the ‘somewhat more’ is optimistic as it is difficult to get figures.

Stop the presses. Figures today (September 19) suggest we have only had one new case confirmed in the last five days in the last remaining hot spot. Could we dare hope it is at last over?

The Pig Situation

Our pig industry has got off lightly. So far, the estimated loss put out by the National Pig Association (NPA) is £70 million (US$100 million). However, this figure needs to be viewed in context to the numbers of pig farmers now left in Britain after a series of lean years, which now numbers about 3,000.

Those 3,000 have made nothing like $100 million in profit this year – more like a tenth of it, if that. Eventually, those farms directly affected will get compensation.

The real damage, however, has been suffered by those unaffected pig producers who have been prevented from selling their stock or hampered by law from moving their stock to other farms (nurseries or grow-out units) due to proximity movement restrictions.

As a result of movement restrictions, artificial insemination has really blossomed, as many sows cannot be brought in to boars if the breeding unit is separate. AI is the only option left. Our AI studs are coping with the 30% increased demand.

Causes for Concern

The Government is still trying to dodge a full and impartial public enquiry as to the cause of the outbreak (exotic meat imports) and its subsequent handling of the affair. They are holding three ‘official’ enquiries, but all of them are really being conducted by those responsible. Everyone is cynical of the outcome, of course. As a result there are no less than five private enquiries being set up, which seems silly.

Now the European Commission is going to hold an enquiry too. While this looks to be a good thing, there could be no obligation that those responsible for past actions must appear to give evidence, under oath, in a court of law. The British authorities not being honest enough to face the scrutiny of a full public enquiry cause this most unsatisfactory situation.

2002 Environmental Stewards of the Pork Industry

When Hillcrest Pork decided to expand and modernize its production operations back in 1998, the Hirschman family made a decision: This new facility would tread lightly on the environment surrounding its Plymouth County, IA, location.

“We live in a small community where our neighbors are also close friends,” says Frank Hirschman. “Our first and foremost thought when we considered expanding our swine enterprise was the perceptions of our neighbors and our local community. We didn''''''''t want anyone to feel they had to move away because we were putting up a 2,500-sow operation.”

The initial consensus of the community was favorable. The Hirschmans received even more support when they announced plans to include aeration of the manure storage system.

“We wanted to design an environmentally benign and economically sustainable manure storage and handling system,” Frank explains. The nearby community of Kingsley employed an aeration system in its city lagoons, so the Hirschmans started planning with that concept as its first choice for treating swine effluent.

Bubbling away in a two-cell earthen storage basin system, the aerators have delivered the kind of performance the family and neighbors expected. Aeration is the heart of the new operation''''''''s environmentally friendly design, but it is only one of many comprehensive management practices the Hirschmans employ.

Family Heritage

Hillcrest Pork is the very definition of family pork production. It is owned and operated by Frank and Jenny Hirschman, along with their son, Don, and his wife, Bobbi. Don and Bobbi''''''''s daughter, Addison, represents the family''''''''s fourth generation to call these northwest Iowa hills home.

The Hirschman farm historically was a corn-soybean row crop operation paired with a 200-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operation. Don and his wife came back to the farm in 1997, so the family decided to upgrade to a 2,500-sow, farrow-to-wean unit with all confined housing, on contract with Farmland Foods.

“We now have all of the animals in environmentally controlled, comfortable, clean and easy-to-manage housing,” Frank says. “Gone are the bitter, cold nights of hogs piling in the bedding to keep warm; no more fighting to get a mouthful of feed; no more vaccinations on the run; no more ‘ornery’ boars that were dangerous to move in large, outdoor pens. No more mud, snow, rain or ice to challenge our dedication to pork production.”

The new operation, constructed and populated in 1998, features four buildings: two breeding-gestation barns, a farrowing barn and an isolation unit. The manure storage is a two-cell aerated earthen storage basin.

Manure management involves shallow (2-ft.) flush pits under each building. The pits have 8-in. pull-plugs that are pulled according to a schedule. The breeding and gestation barns are flushed once or twice per week. Farrowing rooms are flushed twice per turn.

The manure flows to the first stage of the earthen basin, where the aerators help break down solids and keep them in suspension. The injected air also helps reduce odors.

The two-cell system provides storage for at least a full year''''''''s production. Cell 1 holds about a 90-day storage. Top water flows by gravity from Cell 1 to Cell 2, which can hold about 420 days worth of storage.

Cell 2 provides recycled water for flushing and recharging the shallow pits in each building, except for the isolation unit, where fresh water is used.

Aeration Helps

Each cell has a floating aerator (Aqua-Vac), which pushes air into the effluent. Cell 1 has a 3.5 hp unit, and Cell 2 has a 10.5 hp unit.

The aerators are operated continuously for about nine months of the year. When water temperature in the cells drops below 40° F., bacterial action slows to the point where shutting down the aeration system is recommended. It typically stays off from mid-December through mid-March.

Running an aeration system does add costs, but Don points out that on a per-pig basis, the additional amount is very small. Total operating cost for the system runs less than $4,000/year, or roughly 7¢/pig.

“I want to live here and raise my family here,” he says. “We want to do those extra little things that will help make our environment better. It''''''''s hard to put a monetary value on that.”

Settled solids from Cell 1 are recycled to crop ground, usually each fall, using an umbilical cord with an injector system. These nutrients usually fertilize a subsequent corn crop.

Effluent from Cell 2 is more dilute and is typically used to irrigate an alfalfa crop throughout the spring, summer and fall. The Hirschmans wait for calm wind conditions to apply the effluent through a traveling gun.

Both Frank and Don have been certified for confinement site manure application through the state''''''''s regulatory system.

GPS grid sampling of soils and testing of effluent keeps application rates in line with agronomic needs. Yields are high without use of additional commercial fertilizer. When extra manure is available, it is applied on neighbors'''''''' fields. “Our neighbors tell us they would take all the extra manure we can give them,” Frank says.

Hillcrest Pork also uses composting of baby pig mortalities to handle losses in an environmentally friendly, as well as cost-effective, manner. An existing hoop structure houses the composting site, and sawdust is acquired locally for use as the carbon source.

Farmland''''''''s environmental/natural resources staff help keep the Hirschmans up to date on the latest environmental regulations and has assisted them in writing an emergency action plan.

Aesthetics Play Role

Extra attention is given to the landscaping around buildings. The family has planted shelterbelts of trees and shrubs on the north, west and south sides of the site. A grove of trees already existed on the east side.

The trees not only enhance the appearance of the site, they also provide a windbreak and may reduce odor by collecting dust from the exhaust fans and by breaking up the odor plume, they say.

Grass is kept neatly mowed, and a farm sign and rock garden serve as a friendly welcome for visitors. The shelterbelts and the grass-backed terraces that help control erosion also host a variety of wildlife. The family has spotted pheasants, songbirds, coyotes, deer and rabbits in the shelterbelt.

Jenny points out that the extra effort to manage these environmentally friendly details pays off not just in better neighbor relations, but also for the family and employees who work in the buildings.

“Our farmhouse is the closest dwelling to the site,” she points out. “The way the place looks, and the efforts to keep odors down, makes it a nice place for us to work and also a fun place for me to take my granddaughter to look at the pigs. For the most part, this new operation has far less odor than when we were raising hogs outdoors.”

The farm hires three local persons to help in the breeding operations and three to work in farrowing. Five students from the local high school help with weekend chores. Neighbors are hired to haul animals to market.

Being good environmental stewards, the Hirschmans say, begins with being good neighbors and being involved with the local community. The family remains active in the local church and the pork producers association.

“Environmental stewardship isn''''''''t just a concept around here,” Frank says. “It is a way of life. We hope to preserve our natural resources for many generations to come.”

Kids run along a row of red oaks. Butterflies flutter amongst purple coneflowers. Rabbits play hide-and-seek among the shrubs.

These aren''''t scenes from a park or a nature trail. They are snapshots from everyday life at Pig Oaks, a Carroll County, IA, hog operation, home to Brent and Janis Gehling and their four kids — Alyce, Paige, Cassie and Sam.

Pig Oaks is built on Brent''''s home place — a blend of a traditional Iowa farmstead with four modern, 960-head finishing buildings.

“This has been a process of balancing and blending it all to make it work,” explains Brent. “But above all, we have always focused on making this a good place to raise a family.”

Although the farm name reflects the family''''s favorite tree, a variety of other trees, shrubs and bushes literally surround the buildings. The biggest planting is on the west side.

The original idea, spurred by a hard winter in 1999, was to plant a “living snow fence” to help keep snow away from the buildings. However, after consulting with USDA''''s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Gehlings ended up with a 2.9-acre shelterbelt, enrolled in the continuous Conservation Reserve Program.

The shelterbelt includes more than 400 trees and shrubs, plus a strip of native grasses and flowers. Located between the barns and a heavily traveled county road, the shelterbelt draws a lot of compliments. When trees grow large enough, they will block the view of the hog buildings from the road, explains Janis.

And, with help from the kids, the Gehlings also planted 239 willows, 103 low-spreading evergreens and four sumacs around the buildings, mostly to the north and east. Evergreens planted in the 1980s, now about 30 ft. tall, are a buffer to the south between the buildings and the home''''s backyard. And, of course, there are red oaks and pin oaks as well.

Modernizing Pork Production

The hog operation has undergone a major change since Brent began farming in 1980. The operation was mix of crops and livestock, with hogs finished outside.

The Gehlings began modernizing in 1993, when they built two, double curtain-sided finishers with stainless steel feeders and swinging waterers. A second set of finishers, with tunnel ventilation and wet/dry feeders, was built in 1997.

Both sets of buildings have shallow pits with pull plugs, which allow manure to flow to one of two, 8-ft. deep, open top, outside storage tanks. Each tank measures 110 ft. in diameter and holds 577,500 gal. with a 1-ft. freeboard. Plugs are pulled on each 2-ft. pit about every six weeks.

Finishing 10,000 pigs per year fits well with the farm''''s 477 crop acres, managed in a 50/50 corn-soybean crop rotation. “Our manure management objective is to gain the greatest economic advantage possible, and capture the nitrogen (N) for use in making a corn crop,” Brent says. “We try to do that while achieving sustainable solutions to environmental, food safety and community relations issues.”

Manure, Crop Management

Manure management is part of a continuous improvement process on the farm, as highlighted by the whole-farm Resource Management System plan.

The Gehlings recently purchased a manure tanker with injectors to apply the manure each fall on soybean stubble that will be planted to corn the next spring. Brent has been certified as a commercial manure applicator through a three-hour course held each year by Iowa State University and USDA-NRCS.

All fields receiving liquid manure have been GPS-mapped in 2.5-acre grids. Manure is tested each year for nutrient content and pH. Soil is tested regularly to see that manure applications are matching agronomic needs.

As another management step to help balance crop needs with manure nutrients, Pig Oaks now feeds phytase (Ronozyme P) in finishing diets. Phytase is an enzyme that helps release phosphorus from plant-based feedstuffs. It also helps reduce the need for dicalcium phosphate in the diet and the amount of phosphorus (P) excreted by pigs.

Early indications show that the amount of P in manure will be reduced by at least 30%. That means phosphorus will not be building up in soils.

Stewardship Mission

“Manure management is just one component of a much larger management vision on the farm,” Brent says. “We recognize that water utilization and conservation, watershed management, air emissions and quality and plant and animal health, as well as our own health, are all equally important in our long-term strategies.”

Pig Oaks also is demonstrating its commitment to environmental stewardship by joining the Western Iowa Livestock External Stewardship pilot project. The first such effort in the nation, this voluntary project demonstrates how effectively farmers can document, measure and chart progress of their environmental stewardship mission. The two-year project includes 19 cattle and hog operations on 23 sites.

A coalition of public and private institutions, the meat industry and trade association stakeholders are sponsoring the project, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency''''s Sector-based Environmental Program as the catalyst.

“Our primary goals for joining this project are to continue to learn new aspects of environmental stewardship from other participating producers, as well as our NRCS District Conservationist and our certified crop advisor,” Brent says. “It also helps us to begin the process of incorporating a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan within our planning module.”

He admits that when they built the new units in 1993, “we had no idea of the value of the manure resource we were producing.” However, after attending Iowa State University workshops and others, the Gehlings decided to start knifing in the manure and eliminating use of commercial fertilizer.

“I remember how nervous we were that spring when we decided not to apply any anhydrous ammonia,” he says. “But it worked!”

Pig Oaks uses a late spring N test and a fall stalk test developed at Iowa State to verify that N levels have been adequate for the crop.

A quick calculation of manure value shows that the resource is adding significantly to the operation''''s bottom line. Analysis from 2001 found that manure contained 35-22-37 (N-P-K) per 1,000 gal. Gehling applies 4,000 gal./acre. Thus, the total N-P-K delivered to fields is 140-88-148.

At prices of 14.7¢/lb. for N, 22.7¢/lb. for P, and 12.8¢/lb. for K, the manure provides the equivalent of $59.50/acre of commercial fertilizer.

With fertilizer application costs at $9/acre, Brent figures the total cost to apply an equivalent amount of commercial fertilizer would be $68.50/ acre. The cost of applying 4,000 gal. of manure ($0.0085/gal.) is $34/acre, so the total savings is $34.50/acre.

Subtracting an additional $4/acre each year for the costs of the spring nitrate test, the fall stalk test, the manure sample analysis and the grid soil mapping, manure still has a $30.50/acre annual advantage when compared with commercial fertilizer.

“The farming economy of today pushes us to achieve the greatest advantage possible without sacrificing yields, production or environmental soundness,” Brent says. “The $30.50 per acre savings we have realized through the use of our manure instead of commercial fertilizer has been a real plus on our family farm.”

Good Neighbors

Even before the first Pig Oaks buildings were erected, more than 110 neighbors from their small community signed a petition opposing the family''''s plan to build modern hog units.

“This experience brought home the importance of farm aesthetics and neighbor relations,” Janis says. “We remained visible and active in our community, and it has all worked out well.”

She points out that consumers have higher expectations today for pork producers — from the way hogs are raised to assurances of quality. Pig Oaks grows hogs under contract for Farmland Foods'''' All Natural Program, which monitors the absence of antibiotics in feed, water and carcasses, and requires producers to follow strict guidelines concerning drug and growth promotant use.

“The public keeps raising its demands of the pork industry,” Janis says. “We continue to change our operation to reflect those demands.”

But at the end of the day, Pig Oaks is all about family. “We continue to work to maintain and upgrade our farm aesthetics, not only for the image of the pork industry and for the community, but for ourselves,” Janis says. “This is all part of raising a family.”

Yuma County, CO, bills itself as the place “where production agriculture lives.” Bordering Kansas on the east and the Front Range area on the west, this county features 3,000 sq. mi. of wide-open spaces.

Fed by irrigation from the Ogallala Aquifer, concentric circles of center-pivot corn stretch from horizon to horizon, boosting Yuma to its annual ranking as one of the top five corn-producing counties in the nation.

While agriculture takes place on a giant scale here, Alliance Farms attends to the smallest details of its environmental management plan to make sure that pork production fits the farming picture for this arid, High Plains territory.

Co-op Concept

Alliance Farms Cooperative Association began operations near Yuma with one 2,500-sow, farrow-to-feeder pig unit in 1992. The cooperative was established to allow Midwest farm family operations to capture some of the efficiencies of vertical integration.

A share in Alliance assures producers deliveries of large, uniform shipments of pigs on a regular basis. Hogs are typically fed homegrown grain, allowing the shareholder to add some value to a farm''s crop operation. Shareholders typically arrange their own marketing contract with a packer.

The concept proved successful. Alliance expanded operations in Colorado, established an operation in Illinois and now offers either weaned pigs or feeder pigs to shareholders. Shares in Alliance are held by pork producers in nine Midwestern states.

Colorado Farms Recognized

A pair of 2,500-sow, farrow-to-wean units (#102 and #103), sharing a quarter-section of land in Yuma County, has been recognized with a 2002 Pork Industry Environmental Stewardship Award. These units not only have proven their ability to manage the environmental aspects of pork production, but also have worked with state officials to test the leading edge of environmental management.

The emphasis on good stewardship at Alliance Farms is a reflection of the values of its owners, says Jim Ensz, chairman of the Alliance Farms board of directors. “The farmers who own this company are environmental stewards themselves,” he says. “They understand that, if you are going to set things up for the next generation and the one after that, you need to take responsibility. The owners of Alliance Farms have charged management with taking a proactive approach.”

That includes acting as a source of information for the makers of the state''s rules and regulations. Alliance Farms has worked closely with state officials through the process of writing and implementing Colorado Amendment 14, put in place four years ago to regulate the industry. The rules are considered some of the most stringent in the nation.

“Our working relationship with state officials has been very good,” says Ron Swehla, operations manager for Alliance Farms. “We try to sit down and talk about the issues, and come to a centerline position that will protect the environment but also allow producers to survive.”

The state''s regulatory departments have an open invitation to visit Alliance Farms. “Sitting in Denver, they are a long way from the situation, and are bombarded with all kinds of opinions,” Ensz says.

“We will show them whatever they want to see,” adds Brian Larson, the area production manager for Colorado. “We work hard at what we do, and we are proud of the job that we do.” Larson is an employee of Hostetter Management Co., a firm that provides management on a contract basis for Alliance Farms.

Pilot Composting Project

Alliance Farms recently worked with the Governor''s Office of Energy on a pilot composting project.

Conducted from February through April 2001, the project involved composting of placentas and pig mortalities from birth to 21 days of age. These items were blended with a wood byproduct from a forest restoration project and composted to make a nutrient-rich, environmentally safe soil amendment and fertilizer. Alliance also worked with the Colorado School of Mines to evaluate recycled, baled tires used as partitions for the composter bays.

The site, located between units #102 and #103, demonstrated that composting could be used to handle mortalities with no runoff or leaching, and without emitting odor. Success of the project has increased interest in composting. Results are being evaluated to determine if a regional composting site could be established, Larson says.

Capturing Manure''s Value

Nutrient management at Alliance Farms is a straightforward commitment to a circular flow of nutrients. A two-stage lagoon system processes nutrients so they can be delivered via center pivot to a thirsty corn crop growing adjacent to units #102 and #103.

Buildings feature shallow, pull-plug pits. The plugs are pulled on a strict schedule to make sure bacteria in the first-stage lagoon are fed regularly.

The second-stage lagoon is typically pumped three times during a growing season. Nutrients are carefully monitored through regular soil and effluent testing to make sure application rates match agronomic needs. Effluent is transferred via buried lines to the sprinkler and typically is applied without dilution.

The effluent is contracted to local corn growers who own the irrigation equipment. Alliance Farms works with the grower''s crop consultant and comprehensive records maintained for each field. Each production site documents water use, lagoon depth and volume, soil testing of effluent nutrient content, heavy metal concentration, field locations, dates of application, amount per application and amount of nutrients delivered to the field.

Even though Alliance Farms is located on the lonely prairie, it maintains a comprehensive odor control effort. “Alliance Farms has been persistent about saying that a well-managed lagoon treatment system abates odor,” says Jim Reitz, Farmland Foods. Farmland is the largest shareholder in Alliance, and Reitz worked closely with the state as it developed requirements for covered lagoon systems.

Alliance Farms pointed out that a correctly operating lagoon system has three zones of activity — an anaerobic layer at the bottom, a facultative layer in the middle and an aerobic layer at the top.

At sow farms #102 and #103, the aerobic layer at the top of the lagoon is an approved alternative cover. Regular measurement and monitoring of the lagoons, using a standardized collection hood and olfactometry measurement techniques, have proven the effectiveness of this alternative. Air samples are drawn from above the lagoon and the odor level is measured in a laboratory.

“I''ve been working with Alliance Farms since 1997. Its commitment to odor management and practices to abate odor is very obvious,” says Mike Veenhuizen, an environmental consultant with Livestock Engineering Solutions. “Alliance has taken proven technology and put the package together in an environmentally sound system.”

Careful attention to keeping buildings clean helps reduce odors, too. A biological pit and lagoon additive (PitRemedy) is used to enhance the biological breakdown of solids and decrease odors.

Reducing the burden on the Ogallala Aquifer is of critical importance in the area. Alliance Farms figures the use of recycled effluent from the second stage of the lagoon saves more than 86 million gal. of freshwater each year. Managers keep a close eye on water usage at each site by recording water meter readings and lagoon levels every other week. They also check daily for any indication of a freshwater leak.

Community Involvement

Alliance Farms also works beyond its property lines to keep communications open. “As one of the largest employers in Yuma County, we would like to be a leader, a good neighbor,” Larson says. The farm donates to the local library and hospital, contributes to local 4-H and FFA chapters, and remains involved in the county fair, the Yuma County Economic Development Corporation, the Colorado Livestock Association and the Colorado Pork Producers Council.

Alliance Farms has worked with USDA officials to establish windbreaks and tree lines, and has about 180 acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. As a result, pheasant populations are on the increase, and wild turkey, deer, waterfowl and birds of prey also are abundant.

“The team of Alliance Farms management and employees are serious about their role as environmental stewards,” says Larson. “Environmental stewardship is a continual process of monitoring current practices, and evaluating and implementing any new technology that can enhance our relationship with the natural resources that surround us. We want the local community to know that Alliance Farms exceeds expectations as environmental stewards.”

Pits Have Little Impact on Water Quality

An Illinois State Geological Survey study reveals that deep manure pits under hog barns have little effect on nearby groundwater quality.

Two-thirds of newly constructed hog barns in Illinois use either a deep pit below the barn or an above ground slurry storage system to contain manure.

An on-going, two-year study by the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) and the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, investigates whether deep pits affect groundwater quality. The research was funded by the Illinois Council for Food and Agricultural Research and the Illinois DNR Environmental Trust Fund.

Based on nine months of data collected from 18 wells at two hog finishing sites, the quick answer is that deep pits have little or no impact on groundwater.

Ivan Krapac, ISGS geochemist, outlines locations of the research:

Site D is a 2,400-head finishing facility located on 19.8 ft. of silt, loess, loam and sandy soil. Under the soil is a thick layer of shale and limestone. Water wells in the area are deeper than 230 ft.

Site E is a 2,300-head facility located on 16.5 ft. of silty clay diamicton and sandstone. Most water wells pump from the sandstone layer and are less than 99 ft. deep.

“These facilities are representative of what is being built today,” Krapac says. “The presence of a sandstone aquifer less than 19 ft. below ground surface at Site E suggests a greater potential vulnerability for groundwater contamination than at Site D.”

The researchers inspected the pits under each barn during construction and found that cracks in the pit walls were most prevalent near pump-out stations. Thus, monitoring wells were located near the pump-outs at each facility.

Six wells were drilled at Site D, and 12 wells were drilled at Site E. Approximately 150 groundwater and pit manure samples were collected during the first nine months of the study. They were analyzed for inorganic and bacteriological constituents.

Results and Conclusions

Researchers conclude that Site D, after two years of operation, did not have significant pit leakage.

Although nitrate concentrations near Site D were greater than background tests (samples collected up-gradient of the facility), tests indicated the nitrates were likely not from manure.

Site E, after 18 months of operation, has a limited impact on local groundwater quality, Krapac says.

Elevated nitrate and chloride concentrations were detected in samples taken within 13 ft. of the pit, but testing was inconclusive in determining the nitrate source.

“If it is leaking, the seepage has a very limited and localized effect on groundwater,” he says.

These results are based on the relatively short-term operation of these facilities, and continued monitoring is required to determine the long-term impacts of these facilities on the environment, Krapac reminds.

Fecal bacteria were detected in many of the groundwater samples. The use of manure on nearby fields and the presence of other indigenous animals near the facilities makes it hard to tell the source of fecal bacteria, he says.

Monitoring will continue at each site, and further research is planned to evaluate and identify the potential sources of bacteria and to determine the occurrence of viruses and antibiotics in groundwater.

The researchers also point out that trace and heavy metal concentrations in groundwater samples collected from both sites were less than drinking water standards. Although some evidence suggests that pit leakage may be occurring, the presence of inorganic constituents in the groundwater would have little impact on human health, they report. A potential concern may be the presence of fecal bacteria in the shallow groundwater, although this water is not a drinking water source.

Two Faces of Swine Influenza Virus

Swine influenza virus (SIV) is a disease we have faced for many years. Wide temperature swings in the spring and fall are traditionally times for most problems. But, we also see chronic infections.

SIV is easily transmitted in the air. Continuous production systems have the most problems.

SIV usually affects grow-finish pigs. It can also impact sow herds, causing sows to go off feed and run fevers, resulting in breeding problems. Farrowing rates and the size of litters decline after an outbreak.

New Strain Challenge

Two years ago, we began dealing with the new H3N2 strain of SIV. Most of the infected herds had no previous exposure or immunity so the impact was quite dramatic. Sow death losses increased, overall performance decreased.

Today that strain of the virus is quite endemic in sow herds and grow-finishers and it is difficult to distinguish from the more common H1N1 strain. Strain identification is vital to setting the best farm control strategy.

Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) has taught us to stabilize the breeding herd to control PRRS throughout the system.

The same is true for SIV. The immunity level and exposure level of replacement gilts greatly influences the stability of SIV in the breeding herd. If SIV is not stable in the breeding herd, the virus is shed to the weaned pigs, resulting in positive pigs entering the nursery or finisher.

Case Study No. 1

An 800-sow, farrow-to-finish farm has had SIV for several years. Serological profiling indicates that titers are present for both the H1N1 and H3N2 strains. The farm purchases all of its replacement gilts as iso-wean gilts from a single source. Serological monitoring of this source indicates that these pigs carry both strains of SIV.

It is our goal to immunize these iso-wean gilts or expose them to the virus so they have immunity prior to going into the breeding herd. We have isolated the H3N2 strain from this farm and are using that as an autogenous H3N2 vaccination. We are also using a commercial H1N1 vaccine.

After 12 months of this program, we have less off-feed sows and clinical SIV problems in the sow herd. However, sow titers continue to be high. We have also started semi-annual sow vaccination with the two different SIV strains.

Respiratory problems in grow-finish have decreased. However, the herd is still positive for PRRS and Mycoplasmal pneumonia. We occasionally see pigs die from a respiratory disease complex.

Our control protocol has not eliminated the problem. But we feel we have stabilized the herd and are close to reaching acceptable production levels.

Case Study No. 2

This farm is a 1,500-sow, farrow-to-finish operation that utilizes three-site production. Pigs were experiencing a respiratory problem 12 to 16 weeks after placement in the finishing barn. Serological profiling indicated the presence of PRRS and both strains of SIV. We worked to stabilize the PRRS within the herd and disregarded the SIV.

Through a series of nasal swabs of nursery pigs, we isolated H1N1 and H3N2 strains of SIV. We then formulated an autogenous vaccine from these isolates and vaccinated the sow herds on a semi-annual schedule and vaccinated the nursery pigs with the first dose at weaning and the second dose three weeks later. There was dramatic improvement in the finishing pigs. Serological profiles showed pigs were still positive for both SIV strains.

Steps to Avoid SIV

Both strains of SIV are affecting today's pig production. It is likely there will be new strains introduced in the future. Good biosecurity is not always adequate to prevent the introduction of SIV. The virus spreads very easily through the air and is not routinely tested for by a lot of genetic suppliers.

Likewise, there are few SIV-negative sow herds. As veterinarians, our goal is to institute programs to reduce the effects of SIV. We feel it is important to know levels of both strains of virus in your breeding herd and grow-finish. Visit with your genetic supplier to understand SIV status of replacement stock. To understand how SIV is affecting your herd:

  1. Perform adequate diagnostics to learn the extent of SIV infection;

  2. Know the health status of your replacement gilt supplier, and

  3. Identify the specific SIV strain you are dealing with to ensure your vaccine program includes that strain.

Work with your veterinarian to understand and control SIV in your herd.

Performance Unchanged By Phytase

Phytase added to swine diets reduces the phosphorus in manure, but does not impact pig performance or the cost of feed rations, according to researchers at Iowa State University and Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Rapids, IA. The project was funded by the Iowa Pork Industry Center.

Four replications of 100 crossbred pigs were tested in Kirkwood's 600-head, double-curtain sided, totally slotted facility. Fifty pigs, averaging 90 lb., were assigned by sex to the control and phytase diets. Barrows and gilts alternated between test and control diets.

Phytase activity is expressed as phytase units (FTU)/unit of feed. Typical inclusion rate for corn/soy diets is 115 to 150 FTU/lb. For example, BASF's Natuphos 5000 contains a guaranteed minimum of 5,000 FTU/g. or 2,268,000 FTU/lb. For the project, split sex diets were formulated to be nutritionally comparable in four phases with high oil corn, soybean meal and from 125 to 150 FTU/lb. of phytase.

Liquid and solid manure samples were taken every two weeks and tested for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Initial water dilution levels in the shallow manure pits under the test and control pens were standardized to 30 gal. of water per pig. The pigs came off test at approximately 240 lb.


Feeding phytase reduced the phosphorus (P2O5) in the solid manure by 17% and lessened the liquid manure P2O5 by 22%. The average daily gain was 2.03 lb. for the control pigs and 1.97 lb. for the phytase-fed pigs. Feed efficiency was 2.91 for the control group, 2.75 for the phytase group. The cost of the phytase diets ranged from $0.59 to $1.20/ton less than the control diets.

Researchers: Larry McMullen, Iowa State University Extension Service; Arlin Karsten, DVM, Kirkwood Community College. Contact McMullen at (319) 462-2791 or email

News Update

County Health Ordinance Challenged

Iowa's first county health ordinance is being challenged in court by a coalition of area livestock and grain farmers.

The Worth County (IA) Board of Supervisors passed a health ordinance July 8 that aims to protect against air and water pollution and ensure worker safety.

But the result may be to displace agriculture, charges Doug Tempus of Northwood, IA, 180-sow, farrow-to-finish producer and spokesman for Worth County Friends of Agriculture, which filed the suit. The Worth County (IA) Farm Bureau and six persons are co-plaintiffs.

“Worth County cannot afford to lose any more farmers,” he says. “As the number of regulations increases, so does the cost of doing business, forcing more farmers to leave.”

Compliance costs for this ordinance are projected at $2,500-$6,000 up front and $330 annually, says Tempus. Ironically, those costs will drive out the smaller producers the ordinance was originally supposed to protect. That would leave a livestock vacuum best filled by larger producers who could spread out the cost of compliance over more animals, he says.

The cost of violation is a fine of $50/day/source violation. The ordinance:

  • Sets maximum allowable air emission standards for buildings, manure storage and treatment and carcass disposal. It sets emission standards at the property line for carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, carbon monoxide and ammonia.

    If an odor complaint is registered by a resident within two miles of the site, the county board of health must test the site within 72 hours. The property owner has 10 days to correct the problem. The plaintiffs charge that rule is a violation of state law.

  • Covers worker safety. All employees who work at least two hours a day and at least 60 hours a month in a confinement building are covered. They must be tested at employer expense for pulmonary function every six months. The employer must pay for tuberculosis testing at the start of employment. Personal protective gear is to be provided.

    Also, indoor air quality tests are to be taken every quarter for hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and dust.

  • Applies water pollution standards to all confinement livestock operations except those that do not contain liquid manure storage. The operation must prevent leakage into the water supply. Three monitoring wells are to be placed around each building and manure structures to monitor twice a year for nitrates, fecal coliforms and bacteria. If contamination is found, an impermeable barrier is to be built.

The ordinance states that the terms of the ordinance become effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Floyd County's (IA) board of health has also recommended a health ordinance be passed. And, two dozen other counties are looking at the ordinance.

Des Moines attorney Eldon McAfee represents the livestock plaintiffs in the Worth County case. He represented a group of Humboldt County livestock producers in their battle over a ordinance that was designed to protect the public's well-being and safety. It was struck down by the Iowa Supreme Court in March 1998. That was followed by state legislative action also in 1998 that expressly preempted Iowa counties from adopting ordinances regulating livestock operations. The Worth County ordinance provides the first test of the scope of those state actions, he says.

USDA Publishes New “3/70/20” Confidentiality Rule

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has published the a new confidentiality rule for mandatory price reporting.

The 3/70/20 rule, which replaces the 3/60 rule, allows price reports to be published as long as three conditions are met: 1) at least three entities provide data at least 50% of the time over the most recent 60-day time period; 2) no single entity provides more than 70% of the data for a report over the most recent 60-day period; and 3) no single entity may be the sole reporting entity for a report more than 20% of the time over the most recent 60-day period.

In addition, USDA has added a new swine market news report. The “National Daily Direct Hog Prior Day — Slaughtered Swine” report includes net cost price information, live and carcass weight data and carcass characteristics for all hogs slaughtered the previous day. The report also gives information on hog slaughter scheduled for each of the next 14 days.

USDA Releases New Direct Marketing Publications

The USDA has issued two publications to help producers market directly to consumers.

The updated “Farmer Direct Marketing Bibliography” contains more than 70 new entries and three new categories on farm-to-school marketing, Internet marketing and technology transfer in rural areas.

The “National Directory of Farmers Market and Direct Marketing Associations 2001” lists 41 local, state and national farmers markets and direct marketing associations.

Both publications are available at For more information, contact Jennifer-Claire Klotz at (202) 720-8999 or email

Europe Tightening Welfare Laws

Widespread proposals are afoot within the European Union (E.U.) to strengthen and harmonize welfare standards affecting the production of all livestock.

Europe, particularly Sweden and Britain, is much further down the welfare route — especially in pig production — than is the United States. The new E.U. proposals (Table 1) are designed as a catch-up process for those E.U. states which seem to be dragging their heels.

Do these new proposals matter to America? Sure, very much so. If your hog industry continues to reshape itself as it has done so impressively over the past five years — within the next five or so years, America will need the huge, 15-nation European export market (which is already a larger one than the whole of your own domestic market), to help dispose of surpluses. And the E.U. still has five more eastern European nations clamoring to join the club.

America can produce good pork. It can produce cheap pork. But because it's not produced to European Commission Directives on Welfare, you won't have much chance of securing some of this market. Now the future barriers look even higher.


“Aha,” I hear you say. “This is a smart bit of protectionism by these guys.” It is not — at least not directly or even intentionally, for two reasons.

Tightening standards in food production methods is a vote-winner. Consumers in countries like Sweden, Germany, Britain, Denmark and, increasingly, France are very conscious that all meat they buy should be clean, wholesome and produced to certain high standards. This also includes the welfare and comfort of the animals. As this legislation/regulation develops, this will increasingly close the door to “back-door” meat importation. The recent foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) disaster in Britain, which almost certainly started this way, has really alerted the public to its dangers. For example, 55% of British consumers said that animal welfare was more important to them after the FMD outbreak, than it was before. And only one day after the first case of BSE (a totally different disease) was announced in Germany, beef consumption dropped 60%.

Supermarket Actions

In the more advanced E.U. nations, except for France, the supermarkets sell 85% of the pork, and it is likely France is moving that way. Many large retailers already have a list of production constraints and will only buy from their own farmer-suppliers or from imported sources which meet these self-imposed standards. They have the inspectors to enforce it, too. At present, American pork does not meet these stipulations in the way it is produced in a variety of major areas.

Of course, business chains are very much influenced by raw material price — and if your export price is cheap enough, who knows if and how they'll try to move the goalposts.

But the legislative control from the E.U. Central Directive could discourage these short-term initiatives, which is why America, if it wants a share of our pork market in the future, should take note of the new proposals summarized in Table 1.

Americans have said to me blithely — “John, if our pork's cheap enough — and yours is so expensive by comparison — we'll find a way!” Sorry, but I don't think you will!

You are going to need “designer pork” for our market. Had you better start acting now?

Table 1. Proposals by the E.U. Commission (May 2001)
Category Proposal
Sow stalls Banned, but sows may be kept in individual pens for four weeks after service, but they must be able to turn around.
Farrowing crates Recommends more research into alternatives before a ban is proposed.
Bedding and rooting All pigs to have permanent access to high fiber food for investigation and manipulation. At present, slats are frowned on, but there is no proposal to ban them.
Castration, tail docking, tooth clipping, ear notching Castration to be banned. Tail docking and ear notching strictly on the basis of veterinary advice. Tooth clipping and grinding under discussion.
Stock people High level of general training with an increased emphasis on welfare. Licensing stock keepers is under discussion.
Weaning The current legal minimum age is 21 days. Proposal that it should be harmonized at 28 days.
Feed Additives All additives suspected of causing resistance to human disorders to be banned, with a constant review of existing and new products in all other usage areas. Much tighter control of drug use on farm with full usage records.
Note: These are proposed legislation for all E.U. hog producers. If made European law, it would be extremely unlikely that imports would be allowed which fail to meet some or all of these criteria. The time scale is likely to be from five to 10 years hence; some sooner (like feed additives), some later (like stalls).

Sawdust Used to Compost Manure

University of Illinois Extension researchers have tested the use of sawdust to compost liquid hog manure. They report low odor emissions and high quality compost, which was applied to add organic matter to sandy Illinois soil in Mason County, IL.

To begin the experiment, 50 gal. of agitated liquid finishing barn manure were mixed with each cubic yard of sawdust. The resulting compost contained about 50% moisture.

Duane Friend, natural resources extension educator in Springfield, IL, explained that about 2,000 gal. of manure and 40 cu. yd. of sawdust were used to make four piles that were 4 ft. high by 15 ft. wide by 20 ft. long. The piles were made using a tractor with a front-end loader.

After 13 months, samples were taken and tested for E. coli and salmonella. Three of the four piles had less than 0.3/gram of E.coli and no salmonella.

The fourth pile had 2.1/gram E. coli and tested positive for salmonella. Friend theorized that the fourth pile didn't have the appropriate amount of moisture and therefore did not compost as efficiently as the other piles.

The compost was spread with a box spreader at two rates — 30 tons/acre and 15 tons/acre — on two plots of sandy soil planted with pumpkins and squash. A control plot received no compost.

Testing revealed that the composted manure increased the organic matter of the soils by 1-2% in the first year of application. The compost had significantly increased the organic matter in the top 5 in. of soil.

“We took samples last summer and found that the organic matter was higher in the plots treated with manure than in the control plot,” Friend says.

He suggests that producers could use existing equipment — tractor with front end loader and a box spreader — to start composting.

A PTO-driven compost turner and a tractor with a super-low gear (1/10 mph) are needed for more intensive composting.

Friend estimated that the compost piles required 20 hours of labor during the 13-month process, including spreading the compost.

The study was funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Agriculture's Sustainable Agriculture Program.

Researcher: Duane Friend, University of Illinois. Contact him at (217) 782-6515 or email

Science Counters Emotion Over Odor

Ag engineers have built an odor modeling tool for livestock producers and their communities to help diffuse controversy over odors before construction.

Nothing sets a rural community on edge quicker than a proposal for a new livestock feeding operation. Neighbors often ask how the livestock odors will affect their lives and enjoyment of their property.

The University of Minnesota (U of M) Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Department has developed OFFSET (Odor From Feedlots Setback Estimation Tool) to predict odor levels from livestock units. The model also predicts how many hours per month neighbors will be affected by odors from the facility.

U of M Ag Engineer Larry Jacobson has spearheaded the effort. In 1995, the state's Feedlot Manure Management Advisory Committee (FMMAC) appointed a livestock odor task force to find a way to stem growing public concern about livestock odors.

“The FMMAC recognized that odor was one of the most difficult issues associated with some livestock operations and their neighbors,” says Paul Burns, assistant director in the ag development division of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. “The system was developed to help both producers and local governments have a tool to help make siting and separation distance decisions based on reasonable, rational bias, rather than guesswork.”

“The task force recognized that this issue was becoming a problem with the consolidation of the livestock industry,” Jacobson adds.

In 1997, the state legislature appropriated $400,000 to the university for research and development of OFFSET.

Odor Samples

First, an olfactometery lab was set up and a group of people trained to be odor panelists. The engineers began collecting hundreds of odor samples from 70 swine, dairy, poultry and beef farms around the state. Sampling included more than 200 livestock facilities. The samples were analyzed by the odor panel and the information placed into a database.

That database assigns an Odor Emission Number (OEN) for each type of production and manure handling system (See Table 1).

The OEN is not based on animal units, but is figured on a per square foot basis. This simplified approach is easy for local government officials to measure and understand, Jacobson says.

Odor control technologies are also assigned a value. For example, using biofilters on exhaust fans has an odor control factor (OCF) of 0.1. Geotextile storage covers earn a 0.4. Straw or natural crust on manure earns a 0.3 or 0.5, depending on thickness. If no OCFs are used, a 1 is assigned.

Table 1. Odor Emission Numbers
Phase/Storage Type Housing Type/Ventilation Odor Emission Number
Gestation Deep pit, natural or mechanical 50
Pull plug, natural or mechanical 30
Farrowing Pull plug, natural or mechanical 14
Nursery Deep pit, natural or mechanical 42
Finishing Deep pit, natural or mechanical 34
Pull plug, natural or mechanical 20
Hoop barn 4
Cargill, open front open lot 11
Earthen Basin Single or multiple stage, no crust 13
Steel or Concrete Storage Tank Above or below ground 28

The engineers then selected the dispersion model, known as INPUFF2. This computer model was developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to estimate movement of odor plumes from industrial sites. In addition, historical weather data was added to the OFFSET formula.

Using all of the information from the odor sampling, dispersion model and weather patterns, the engineers developed a graph, where odor emissions, separation distances and odor annoyance-free levels are plotted. (See Figure 1).

The corresponding amount of time each month when noticeable odors are detectable are as follows:

  • 99% - 7 hours;
  • 98% - 15 hours;
  • 97% - 22 hours;
  • 96% - 29 hours;
  • 94% - 44 hours, and
  • 91% - 66 hours.

How it Works

The mathematical equation used is: OEN x square footage x OCF/10,000 = odor emission factor. This equation is used for each building or manure storage structure and added together for the farm's total odor emission factor.

By using Figure 1, the producer proposing a new building site or expanding an existing operation can figure out how far the barns and associated manure storage need to be from neighbors based on the odor annoyance-free level, or how often those neighbors will smell odors from the facility.

Offering Options

“This model allows people to see, before they build, what kind of impact odor will have on their neighbors,” Jacobson says.

The model is based on average management of livestock facilities, including adequate manure handling, prompt removal of dead animals and operational ventilation equipment.

The model is production sites (buildings and manure storage units) only, and does not attempt to model odors from manure agitation, pumping or land application, he says.

In 1999, to test the model, the engineers trained citizens and producers in a three-mile square area of Nicollet County, MN, to monitor and measure odors for a five-month period. A total of 20 farms with swine, cattle or poultry were located in the test area.

“The people who live in the test area helped us determine if the model worked,” Jacobson says. “We trained them to measure the odor (on a 0 to 3 intensity scale), then told them to go about their regular business. If they smelled something, they wrote it down.”

Each recorded odor event was checked against wind direction and velocity data from an on-site weather monitoring station. If one of the farms in the test area was confirmed as the odor source, the engineers ran the OFFSET model and compared its predicted value to the citizen reading.

County Ordinance

As this test was going on, the Nicollet County Commission was revising its land use ordinance and reconsidering how the county regulations applied to existing and future livestock farms.

“We didn't want to set up an ordinance that would limit the farms from growing,” says Judy Hanson, St. Peter, MN, pork producer and county commissioner. “We wanted to enable the existing farms to do what they were doing and expand if they want to - understanding that the structure of agriculture is changing.”

This summer, Hanson and the rest of the commission approved a new land use ordinance that requires livestock farms to apply OFFSET. New feedlot construction must meet a 99% odor annoyance-free level at one-half mile from smaller cities in the county and one mile from the larger communities of St. Peter and North Mankato. A 93% odor annoyance-free rating is required from rural residences, schools, churches and parks.

“Producers still can build facilities anywhere they would like, they just have to use odor controls,” Hanson says. “It gives producers freedom, but it comes at a cost.”

The value of OFFSET is that the model gives predictability to livestock producers in changing times, says Nicollet County environmental services officer Tina Rosenstein. The model also comforts rural citizens who have concerns about odor.

“We can show them with the program how many hours a month, on average, they will smell the odors,” she says. “We have put reason into the discussion. People are worried about being ‘stunk out’ and we have countered with sound science.”

Using the OFFSET model does not eliminate any potential building sites for future livestock facilities and has leveled the playing field for producers who need to expand their operations, Rosenstein says.

“The university is working hard to measure odor and develop odor controls,” she says. “That will help give more options to producers.”

More Testing

This summer, regular citizens were again involved in the evaluation of OFFSET, as they were trained to monitor odors around selected sites.

“We've asked five different counties in the state to pick one or two sites. Then we asked the neighbors around the site to keep an odor log,” says Jacobson.

Hanson's two, 1,000-head contract finisher barns are part of the testing. She and eight neighbors are logging the date, time, sky condition, precipitation, wind direction, wind speed, temperature and, most importantly, odor intensity when they smell hog odors.

Jacobson and his team will use the information to further test, modify and improve the model, if necessary.

“This is our best shot right now to determine what setbacks are needed to mitigate or alleviate some of the problems caused by livestock odors,” he says.

Partners Capitalize on Above-Ground Storage

The owners of a 5,000-sow operation invest in a 2.7 million-gallon manure storage and treatment system.

As southern Iowa farmers began to exit the hog business in the mid-'90s, the Farmers Cooperative Co. of Afton, IA, saw their feed business slump.

Integrators helped pick up some slack. But the company sought long-term security for their business and for area pork producers.

To that end, the co-op's board of directors formed a value-added, limited liability hog production company. They invested in a 5,000-sow, farrow-to-wean operation on 320 acres near Kent, IA called Partners In Pork.

The Farmers Cooperative worked hard to win the trust of the local community. They invested heavily in an above-ground manure storage and treatment system. Solids from a separator are used to build soil quality on farm slopes. “This system was built with the neighbors in mind,” explains farm manager John Lichthardt.

On the production side, they contracted with Farmland Livestock Production to supply the genetics, feed, veterinary care and anything else that goes in or on the animals, says Lichthardt. Farmland also provides the resources for performance records and pig transportation. The farm is responsible for the rest — facilities, land, labor, utilities, insurance, water and manure management.

Partners In Pork produces 2,200, 10-lb. pigs a week, fed on contract with Farmland by area farmers. Most producers feed pigs 10 lb. to 45 lb. Then the pigs move to other Farmland locations to be finished. Like many start-up operations, there were some glitches. But with about three years of operation experience, production is humming along at 23 pigs weaned/sow/year.

The farms' 320 acres is cash rented to another area farmers/co-op member/owner who also custom applies the manure to co-op-owned and neighboring farmland (totaling 1,200-1,300 acres). Neighbors like getting the manure, which is injected using a dragline hose system, Lichthardt says.

And the cooperative is pleased with the progress of production and manure handling programs, says Eli Vaughn, Farmers Cooperative Co. general manager.

Making Positive Choices

Vaughn recalls the board of directors talked about going the easier route, putting in an earthen lagoon to store manure.

He observes, “We can't afford to stub our toe. We have to perform. We spent a lot of extra money on manure storage technology, but long-term we think this is a system that we are going to be able to sustain and not upset the neighborhood.”

The above-ground, Slurrystore manure storage tanks offer several pluses, adds Lichthardt. They are sealed, self-contained structures that are easily observed for leaks; the 18-ft.-high vessels also greatly reduce noticeable odor. The main storage tank is 2.3 million gal. The adjacent treatment tank is 400,000 gal.

Three times a year, effluent is pumped from the main tank to adjacent hay/grass and crop acres. Testing shows the manure is generally comprised of 15-16 lb. of nitrogen per thousand gallons of effluent, he points out.

Umbilical application is the preferred means of spreading effluent on the fields. “This system is faster, cheaper, more land and road friendly than traditional manure tankers,” he says.

Last year, the farm's manure hauling bill came to $50,000, says Lichthardt. Manure hauling and application, while a priority, only comprises 2-3% of the total farm budget, he explains.

Treated, Recycled Manure

As needed, stored effluent is pumped from the main manure tank to a nearby treatment tank. There it undergoes both natural, anaerobic treatment and aerobic action. Air from twin blowers is piped up through the bottom of the treatment tank, powered by a 60-hp. motor. After about a week of treatment, that clarified effluent is pumped back to the barn, into the 2-ft.-deep pit recharge system, says Lichthardt.

Because that recycled water has been treated, it helps reduce the level of odor inside the buildings, he comments.

Also, the 16 employees at Partners In Pork are very meticulous about cleaning and disinfecting the 728-crate farrowing barn and the three gestation barns totaling 4,400 crates. The farrowing barn is comprised of 14 rooms of 52 crates each. All production and employee areas are kept spotless in this shower-in, shower-out unit. That all adds up to cleaner exhaust air, Lichthardt emphasizes.

Water Management

The farm's other big success story in manure/odor management relates to water usage, says Lichthardt. “I don't think nearly enough operations manage their water usage like they should. We consistently stay in the 4- to 5-gal./sow/day range. Hogs get what they need without squandering water.” Figure 1 shows the pattern of water usage since recordkeeping was started in July 1999.

“Water troughs with drains on one end and a timer at the other are not a very good way to conserve or even manage water usage,” he charges.

At Partners In Pork, all hogs are hand watered. Nothing is on a timer. Employees turn the water valves on and off, making sure troughs don't spill over.

The result of proper water management is less water in the pit and less effluent volume to be flushed and land-applied, stresses Lichthardt. Water records show that each weekly flushing of the entire farm requires 643,300 gal. of recycled water and 175,000 gal. of fresh water. It takes 12,800 gal. of water per week to pressure wash the barns.

Farm wells are virtually non-existent in southwest Iowa. Water is pumped from two farm ponds to an underground, 90,000-gal. storage tank on the farm to be used for hog drinking water.

Additional fresh water for employees for drinking, showers, laundry, etc. is provided by the Southwest Iowa Rural Water Association. Water has been purchased from the association for hog drinking during times of drought.

Well Worth It

“Neighbors are finding out that our manure is a pretty good deal,” observes Lichthardt. “It contains everything they need for a healthy plant population. They also appreciate the fact the treated water lacks odor.

“While our application costs can be as high as $75/acre,” Lichthardt maintains, “it's not just about economics. Sometimes it's got to be about cooperation, good relations in the community and trying to do the right thing.”

Pilot Project To Test Manure ‘Balance’

A pilot project of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Sustainable Industries Partnership Program seeks to find a “balance” between the cost of maintaining the building environment at Partners In Pork and the proper acreage for manure application, says manager John Lichthardt.

The EPA interest is fueled by the need to document what manure technology really works for environmental stewardship for the hog industry, says Joe Lally, manager of Environment/Natural Resources for Farmland Livestock Production and coordinator for the farm project.

The two-year-long study will encompass the whole process involving manure from discharge through field application.

A key part will be to study the liquid-solid manure separation system being tested at the farm and how it might be used with existing earthen manure storage structures, says Lally.