As new technology moves manure management to a higher level, you need a clear view of your goals. You also may need to adjust your thinking.

Previously, you may have viewed manure as a useless waste product.

You wanted to dispose of it as quickly and cheaply as possible.

But now you see it as a valuable resource. You attempt to control the amount of nutrients you apply to the land while trying to minimize manure odors.

There is an avalanche of new technology promising to eliminate, or at least reduce, the effects of manure handling. As you move toward more complex manure-handling systems, your demand for capital, management and labor increases.

However, the complete solution will not come suddenly or in one neat package. Improvements are achieved only by making calculated and methodical adjustments over time.

I suggest that as you look for ways to improve your operation, you evaluate any applied technology by these three criteria:

What initial capital expense and structure changes are needed?

What maintenance resources will you need to sustain the improvement?

Are the promised results realistic, sustainable and predictable?

Through such an evaluation you may find that some technologies will require
extensive structural changes at a large expense. However, that same technology may require little maintenance and offer real and predictable improvement.

On the other hand, some technologies targeted at the same problem may require fewer resources upfront but become a maintenance nightmare and offer little improvement. 

This evaluation process is important to your operation’s long-term profitability. I’m often asked how different products work and to provide the best manure and odor-control solution.

But as I’ve said, no single answer solves all equations. The solution starts with management followed by
appropriate design and treatment strategies. What works for one facility may not work for another.

Let’s get the evaluation process started by identifying some of the odor-control and manure-management technologies available.

The public is playing a big role in the development of these technologies. They require you to:

- Control or, better yet, get rid of all manure odors.

- Improve the quality of manure nutrients.

- Properly apply and utilize manure.

- Treat manure as a value-added product instead of a waste product.

Most of today’s technologies fall under one or more of these headings:

- Making changes in hog diets or adding products to manure storage units.

- Adding new or changing existing manure storage structures and application equipment.

- Modifying current, or adopting new, manure management methods.

Here are some technologies that alleviate odors and enhance manure  value. Variables that contribute to the technologies’ effectiveness are also addressed.

Manure storage additives
- Ration composition and ingredients: Additives may react very differently in hog rations t°at are comprised of high levels of milk or fat. High-fiber diets and undigested protein will also cause unpredictable results.

- Retention time in the containment unit: Sometimes an additives’ effectiveness is dependent upon when it is contained. Adding these products to a nearly full containment and then hauling the manure soon after won’t produce the desired results. Some additives need more time to work. Ask the dealer for details.

- Climatic interaction: Pay attention to where the product was developed and tested. Its effectiveness can be quite  different in warm climates vs. a region with
extended periods of cold weather.

- Manure pH: Most additives are sensitive to pH. If the manure mass is outside a range of 6.5 to 8, you may not achieve your desired results. Regularly check the pH to see if it’s within this range.

Exhaust-air filtering
- Maintainable air flow: When you’re choosing an exhaust-air filtering material, be sure the building’s air flow isn’t restricted.

Structural and bio-covers
Manure containment size and climatic exposure: Size can be a limiting factor in choosing whether or not to cover a manure storage unit. For example, plastic covers may not be economical for large surface areas ù like on a lagoon. Climatic conditions, such as excessive rainfall or snow, greatly increase the management required for containment covers. Windy conditions also make it difficult to keep bio-covers in place.

- Initial capital costs: This alone can be a deciding factor of whether or not to cover a containment.

- Maintenance requirements of bio-filters: Some bio-filter materials will require extensive maintenance. Plan to commit extra labor and time to maximize their effectiveness.

- Handling and disposing of used bio-filter material: Bio-filters can accumulate large amounts of dust and odor. Be sure to establish a safe and responsible disposal plan.

- Maintenance frequency and resources: In some areas, covers may require more maintenance than you can afford. Some bio-cover materials may not be easily accessible in some areas or may be expensive to bring in. Corn stalks, for example, are more readily available in the Midwest than on the East Coast.

Aeration devices
Power costs: Aerating manure storage units can require lots of electricity. In some cases, power costs are so high that aeration isn’t a viable option.

- Containment size and climatic exposure: In order to maximize performance, aerators must be designed with the containment’s size, manure load and geographic location in mind.

- Maintenance of resources: Most aeration systems need to run continuously. This increases the need for regular maintenance and replacement of parts.

Separation systems
Three types of manure separation processes are readily available. The first are mechanical separators, which include screens, presses and extruders.

Another is chemical separation, such as batch or continuous-flow units. In those processes, chemical or organic agents are added to the manure to separate solids and nutrients from the liquid.

Passive separation is achieved by letting the manure rest in a chamber or tank while solids settle to the bottom. The liquid is then slowly drained from the top leaving the solids behind.

- Effective percentage of separation: Before choosing a system, be sure the  proper amount of solids will be removed. The manure’s consistency and how it’s handled prior to entering the separator can determine which, if any, process is most useful.

- Maintenance of resources: Separation systems demand additional management and can require frequent maintenance.

- Proper sizing and flow rate: Systems that aren’t properly sized or are required to operate at rates outside of their design, will provide ineffective results.

Digestion or composting systems
- Energy resources required: These systems may require large energy inputs in some parts of the country. Evaluate the construction and energy demands to maximize the results.

- Ease of product harvesting: Time and labor required to harvest the final product can be burdensome to operations where labor is limited.

- Initial cost and structure requirements: Evaluate the marketability of the end product against the initial costs. Some of these systems require extensive, and sometimes expensive, structures.

Many more technologies are available to assist you manage manure. Those listed above and the variables affecting their success should offer insight into selecting a solution for your operation.

Leonard Meador is a manure management consultant from Rossville, Ind.

Livestock Facilities In Hands Of Illinois Governor

A bill to amend the Illinois Livestock Management Facilities Act is now in the hands of Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar. Both the Illinois House of Representatives and Senate passed HB-1547 in early November.

The original livestock facilities act, had been signed into law in early 1996. But in the months to follow, the Illinois Pollution Control Board issued a set of Emergency Rules and conducted public hearings on the act that ran through June 1996.

Following those hearings, and the PCB’s final set of rules, the act didn’t become law until May 20, 1997.

The original act regulates construction and operation of livestock facilities in Illinois. HB-1547 takes the act further and establishes the following:

- Setback distances for dead animal disposal sites

- Odor-control procedures for above-ground manure storage structures.

- Mandatory reporting of manure spills.

- The closing of a livestock operation after three violations.

- Informational meetings, which can be requested by a county board, for facilities exceeding 1,000 animal units that have a lagoon.

These amendments add additional environmental assurance and public input to siting and operation of facilities in Illinois.

“HB-1547 is an example of proactive legislation that enhances the LMFA, yet allows livestock industry expansion in Illinois,” says Jill Appell, Illinois Pork
Producers Association president. “The amendments further strengthen the act by allowing for local input yet enhance its environmental preventative measures.”

IPPA, the Illinois Beef Association and the Illinois Farm Bureau support HB-1547.

Submitted by Chris Boyster, Illinois Pork Producers Association public affairs director.