Pork producers know all too well the potential hassles that can surface for an operation when it comes to real or perceived odor issues. Whether you have experienced the topic first hand or simply observed actiivities within the idustry, it's a sobbering issue.

A lot of research has and continues to look for environmental and odor-related solutions on your behalf.

One such project– a two-year research study funded by the National Pork Checkoff– shows that use of a geotextile cover reduced odors from manure storage on average by 45 percent.

The National Pork Board's Environment committee selected the geotextile cover BioCapÒ for the research project. The cover is marketed for lagoons and manure storages by Baumgartner Environics, Olivia, Minn.

John Kellogg, a Yorkville, Ill., pork producer and chairman of the committee that funded the BioCap research, said one of the checkoff priorities is to find ways to manage odors in manure storage. This research follows previous studies that looked at pit-additives and other manure management products.

Geotextile is a non-woven permeable material made of chemical compounds, such as polypropylene. The geotextile cover provides a physical barrier to odorous compounds in manure, minimizing emissions of those compounds into the atmosphere.

"The geotextile cover reduced odor emissions by nearly half this study," Kellogg said. "The results may be different in other conditions. Whether or not the odor reduction is enough depends on each individual operation."

Researchers studied the cover on six farms. The farms were divided into three pairs that had similiar production capacity, nutrition and manure storage surface area so that one farm served as control, while the other tested the geotextile cover.

Here's what the participating pork producers had to say about the their experiences with the covers:

  • "Neighbors say the smell is better after I put the cover on."
  • "The cover is effective in controlling odor, but we had a hard time making it float after the first season."
  • "I would probably install a cover again if they could find a better way to: (1) access manure for agitation and pumping, and (2) make the cover float after pumping."

A cover-lift system was developed for this project, however, researchers concluded that because of the cover's weight and worker safety issues, other agitation solutions need investigation.

Odor reduction due to the geotextile cover averaged 45 percent during the two-year period. The largest reductions of hydrogen sulfide occurred during first year. Hydrogen sulfide concentrations surrounding the basins were nearly always lower around the geotextile-covered basin compared with those around the control facilities. Ammonia reductions were minimal.

"The cost of a geotextile cover for manure storage can be several thousand dollars, with additional fees for disposal," Kellogg said. "Over time, this method could be as cost-effective as other methods to control orders. These covers are expected to last three to five years."

One of the three covers was removed following the study's conclusion. The disposal cost to a landfill was approximately $1,800 for a cover that measured 165 feet by 160 feet. Cost to purchase the cover ranges from $0.14 to $0.22 per square foot, based upon the area of the manure surface plus additional material needed to anchor it.

A pork production operation that markets 5,200 market hogs annually and stores manure in an earthen basin with a geotextile cover, could expect a cost of $0.49 per hog marketed over a three-year life of the cover or $0.29 over a five-year life, which includes disposal.