Farm Horizons, October 2014

Agricultural innovation includes manure management

By Lori Brinkman
Assistant Carver County Feedlot Administrator

There isn’t much about agriculture that is the way it was 20 years ago. Farmers have long been known as innovators, and much like the technologies we use for communication, agricultural changes seem to happen daily, either for convenience or to improve economic outcomes.

Animal waste management technology is no exception when it comes to agricultural innovations.

For example, on a grand scale, work is being done at a poultry farm in Maryland to utilize anaerobic digesters to provide electricity, while nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are separated from the waste to be used on the farm in variable quantities or offered for sale to others.

While both technologies have been demonstrated separately, they’ve never been paired.

Bi-products can be re-used, for example, as farm bedding.

The project not only has the potential to increase economic gain at the farm, but also help in management of excess nutrients to help in the restoration of water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

While it is not a technology that will fit all farm sizes, it certainly demonstrates the possibilities the use of innovation in manure management can offer.

Closer to home, manure management innovation continues to remain a difficult topic. While some farms have embraced the use of technologies to maximize the fertilizer credit manure offers, others have not.

The reasons are varied and not the point of discussion. The question is not what aren’t you doing; but rather, what are you doing, or what can you do to improve manure management at your farm?

If it’s simply targeting sensitive areas for manure application in the fall so that it can be immediately incorporated, and avoiding those sensitive areas in the winter and spring, it’s a start.

Protecting water quality is the simplest outcome to achieve.

Weighing your options to maximize economic gain through improved manure management may require a little more time, and, potentially, some economic investment, but it might also be worth it.

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