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Feature Article

Livestock Producers Utilize Technology to be Environmental Stewards

Posted on December 16, 2014

Topics: Industry Insight

Manure is a natural resource that must be managed effectively to obtain maximum value. It can be utilized as compost, a source of fuel and fertilizer. Through anaerobic digesters, manure can be turned into a biogas that can be used as a source of energy. As a fertilizer, manure provides a source of valuable nutrients for crops, yet gaining the full potential is often a difficult task.

On top of the normal challenges of dealing with manure, livestock producers face increasing pressure to be environmentally sustainable. Jeff Thompson, Iowa regional manager for SFP®, a Verdesian Life Sciences company, says producers are aware of the current and potential regulations affecting the industry.

“Producers realize the importance of being environmental stewards,” Thompson says. “Their livelihood is dependent upon keeping their operations running. Sustainable practices not only benefit their animals and the environment, but also their bottom line.”

A stewardship tool

As part of nutrient management plans, producers are now incorporating products such as More Than Manure® (MTM®) Nutrient Manager to help gain an extra edge in maximizing the nutrient value in manure. MTM is a proven manure manager that protects phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N) from loss and reduces ammonia levels in confinement areas. Environmental benefits provided by MTM include:

·         Reduction in ammonia levels in livestock confinement areas and in fields where manure is applied.

·         Improved worker and herd health due to reduced levels of ammonia in confinement areas.

·         Improved community relations due to reduction in noxious gases.

·         Improved plant uptake of P and N, which leaves less of these nutrients in the soil subject to runoff into waterways and groundwater.

“More producers are turning to products like MTM to get more efficiency from their manure,” Thompson says. “What’s unique about MTM is that it not only increases availability of important nutrients, it reduces ammonia levels in confinement areas.” 

Proven in the field

Jake Rechkemmer is the agronomy manager of Dunkerton Co-op, based a few miles northeast of Waterloo, Iowa. He also farms corn and soybeans and has a 2,400-head hog operation. When searching for products to incorporate into his operation or for his customers at the co-op, Rechkemmer wants to gain multiple benefits. Rechkemmer switched to MTM when use of competing products failed to offer the added benefits of MTM.

“I’m always looking for products that will solve problems, and I won’t recommend anything I wouldn’t use on my own operation,” Rechkemmer says. “MTM reduces phosphorus and nitrogen loss, is easy to use and makes manure handling easier.”

Rechkemmer sees MTM as a useful tool for producers wanting to take that extra step in protecting the environment.

“MTM is a proven product that helps protect the environment, and I believe it even helps our employees’ and pigs’ health in the buildings,” Rechkemmer says. “There is less crusting and less ammonia smell because it keeps the nitrogen from volatilizing in our building.”

One of Rechkemmer’s customers, Bob Sienknecht, uses MTM on his 1,200-acre farm and 1,200-head finishing operation. Sienknecht uses custom applicators to spread manure from his in-ground pit and notes that after adding MTM, the manure was more evenly mixed, contained less solids and allowed for more even application on his fields.

“More Than Manure makes the phosphorus and nitrogen more available, and we’ve seen a great response to it,” Sienknecht says. “You pour it into the pit and it reduces the solids, creating a more even spread when applying it.”

Reducing ammonia levels

A research study comprised of 50 plus hog barns studied ammonia levels after MTM was applied to pits. Certain criteria narrowed the candidates down to 22 barns that fit the objectives of the study. The criteria were 1) a minimum of four measurements for each sampling period and 2) the second reading must have been made within 24 hours of treatment and repeated like the previous readings with the same Drager meter. The ammonia reduction chart shows the pit fan readings before and after treatment within 24 hours.

MTM is formulated for use with all manures, liquid and dry. The results of another study focused on the reduction of ammonia (NH3) levels was published in the scientific paper, Effect of a Polymer on Mitigating Ammonia Emission from Liquid Dairy Manure by Dr. Lide Chen at the University of Idaho. This study focused on MTM as an ammonia suppressor in dairy manure to see if the product had any effects on reducing NH3 emissions from the manure. The researchers evaluated More Than Manure over a 24-hour period employing Ogawa NH3 passive samplers to collect the NH3 emitted from the manure. Each rate was statistically significant after 24 hours. The study found that there were statistically significant differences of the ammonium (NH4N) concentration and manure pH detected between the treatments and controls. See the charts below for results from the study.

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