Estimating Routine Beef and Dairy Mortality Masses Based on Systems Operation

Purpose

The day-to-day loss of animals is a fact of life all cattle producers must face and prepare for. Unfortunately, most published data of animal mortalities are for one-time, catastrophic die offs – where all the cattle on a farm must be exterminated because of disease outbreaks or natural disasters. Routine mortalities on cattle farms do not happen all at once, and mortality rates vary greatly between different life stages of animals and types of production systems.

An expert panel was convened by the Agricultural Working Group of the Chesapeake Bay Program to determine annual mortality, nitrogen and phosphorus masses produced by cow-calf, dairy and cattle on feed (feedlot) operations in the watershed. This paper concentrates on the annual mortality masses estimations determined by the panel. Cattle and Dairymen can use these values to plan for disposal of routine losses.

What Did We Do?

The panel looked, at depth, into existing production systems, and combined morality rates at different life stages, the size of animals at time of death, and the carcass composition varying with age to determine mortality and nutrient masses produced by typical cattle farms in the watershed.

The panel chose a 50-cow cow-calf operation as a model system, where cattle are on pasture 95% of the time. Under ideal conditions, each cow will yield one calf per year to be sold by year’s end. Some female calves will be retained to replace culled cows from the herd, maintaining the same general herd size. It was assumed there was no death loss of mother cows in the herd. We used USDA-APHIS (2010) data of average annual death loss of immature cattle combined with the average weight of cattle at different life-stages to determine weight of mortalities produced each year.

A total confinement beef feedlot was used to model mortalities for cattle on feed. Cattle were assumed to grow linearly with cattle placed in the feedlot at 400 to 600 pounds, and leaving at 1,000 to 1,200 pounds with an average time on lot of 120 days. Midwestern data (Vogel et al, 2015) was used to estimate annual deathrates per feedlot space at 30-day increments since placement in the feedlot.

A 100-cow milking herd was used as a reference for dairy systems. The reference farm contained 50 female calves and 50 heifers in development. Heifers are bred at 15 months and give birth around 24 months (2 years) of age. Male calves are exported from the farm as soon as possible for development as lower grade beef cattle. The reference dairy had heifers and dry cows on pasture, with the active milking herd in free-stall barns or alternative confinement for a 300-day lactation. USDA-APHIS (2016) data of average annual death loss of all types of dairy cattle was combined with the average weight of cattle at different life-stages to determine weight of mortalities produced each year.

What Have We Learned?

Figure 1 shows the estimated total weight of mortalities produced by a 50 cow, cow-calf herd each year broken down by age of animal dying.  As can be seen in Figure 1, the greatest weight of mortalities occurred before calves were weaned – assuming no death of mother cows. The values in Figure 1 represent 1.52 calves born dead, 1.92 calves dying before weaning, and 0.87 head dying after weaning. This means a farmer should prepare for the loss of 2 newborn calves, 2 un-weaned calves, and one weaned steer/heifer per 50 mother cows each year.  Dividing the total weight of mortalities by 50 head gives an average per cow annual mortality of 32 pounds per year.

Figure 1. Estimated Total Annual Weight of Mortalities Produced by a 50 Cow, Cow-Calf Herd.

Figure 2 shows the estimated total weight of mortalities produced by a 100-head-space feedlot. The greatest source of mortalities is steers and heifers weighing close to 700 pounds (31 to 60 days after arrival on the feedlot. Dividing the total weight of mortalities by 100 gives an average annual mortality weight of 18 pounds per head-space per year. The feedlot owner should prepare for approximately 3 animals dying each year per 100 head-space.

Figure 2. Estimated Total Annual Weight of Mortalities Produced by a 100 head-space feedlot.

Figure 3 shows the estimated total weight of mortalities produced by a 100-cow dairy.  Dividing the total weight of mortalities by 100 head gives an average annual mortality weight of 90 pounds per milking cow. The greatest source of mortalities is mature cows. Dairies should prepare for as much as 6 mature cows, 3 pre-weaned calves and heifers, and 1 weaned heifer dying each year per 100 mature cows.

Figure 3. Estimated Total Annual Weight of Mortalities Produced by a 100 milking head dairy.

Future Plans

Cattle producers can use the values estimated by this project to determine resources needed to prepare for mortalities. If burial is the preferred option, the space required to bury mortalities for the expected life of the operation; for composting, the area, and weight of carbon source required to compost; and for incineration, an incinerator capable of handling the largest animal housed on the farm.

Authors

Douglas W. Hamilton, Ph.D. P.E., Extension Waste Management Specialist, Oklahoma State University

Corresponding author email address

dhamilt@okstate.edu

Additional authors

Thomas M. Bass, Livestock Environment Associate Specialist, Montana State University; Amanda Gumbert, PhD., Water Quality Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky; Ernest Hovingh, DVM, PhD., Research Professor Extension Veterinarian, Pennsylvania State University; Mark Hutchinson, Extension Educator, University of Maine; Teng Teeh Lim, PhD, P.E., Extension Professor, University of Missouri;  Sandra Means, P.E., USDA NRCS, Environmental Engineer, East National Technology Support Center (Retired); George “Bud” Malone, Malone Poultry Consulting; Jeremy Hanson, WQGIT Coordinator – STAC Research Associate, Chesapeake Research Consortium – Chesapeake Bay Program

Additional Information

Hamilton, D., Bass, T.M., Gumbert, A., Hovingh, E., Hutchinson, M., Lim, T.-T., Means, S., and G. Malone. (2021). Estimates of nutrient loads from animal mortalities and reductions associated with mortality disposal methods and Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (DRAFT). Edited by J. Hanson, A. Gumbert & D. Hamilton.  Annapolis, MD: USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program.

USDA-APHIS (2010). Mortality of Calves and Cattle on U.S. Beef Cow-calf Operations: Info Sheet, 2010. Fort Collins, CO: USDA-APHIS.

USDA-APHIS. (2016). Dairy 2014: Health and Management Practices on US Dairy Operations, 2014. Report, 3, 62-77. Fort Collins, CO: USDA-APHIS,.

Vogel, G. J., Bokenkroger, C. D., Rutten-Ramos, S. C., & Bargen, J. L. (2015). A retrospective evaluation of animal mortality in US feedlots: rate, timing, and cause of death. Bov. Pract, 49(2), 113-123.

Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provided by the US-EPA Chesapeake Bay Program through Virginia Polytechnic and State University EPA Grant No. CB96326201

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Estimating Routine Swine Mortality Mass based on Systems Operation

Purpose

Swine producers must dispose of the day-to-day losses of hogs and pigs on the farm. Unfortunately, most published data of swine mortalities are for one-time catastrophic events – where all the animals on a farm must be exterminated for disease outbreaks or natural disaster.  Routine mortalities on hog farms do not happen all at once, and mortality rates vary greatly between different life stages of swine.

This presentation is the work of an expert panel commissioned by the US-EPA Chesapeake Bay Program to determine annual nitrogen and phosphorus masses produced on swine farms.  In this presentation we will show results for annual mortality weights produced on farrow-to-finish, farrow-to-wean, nurseries, and finisher farms.

What Did We Do?

The panel looked, at depth, into existing swine production systems, and combined morality rates at different life stages, size of animals, and the age of varying carcass composition to determine mortality and nutrient masses produced during the production-flow of 25,000 market hogs.  All phases of production – gestation, farrowing, nursery, and finishing – rarely occur on the same farm in modern hog production.  The panel broke a single farrow-to-finish operation down into its component parts to estimate production of annual mortalities on all types of farms found in the watershed.

What Have We Learned?

Table 1 shows the expected mortality mass produced by a farrow-to-finish swine farm in Southeastern Pennsylvania with a production-flow of 25,000 market hogs per year.  Annual Death Rate for all breeding stock (Sows, Gilts, Boars) was assumed to be 7.8% (USDA-APHIS, 2012).  Weights at time of death are from Etienne et al. (2016).  Weight of Pigs born dead were calculated using values from USDA-APHIS (2012) and Etienne et al. (2016).  Mortality masses for growing stock (Weaned Pigs, Feeder Pigs, Finishers) was determined by combining an estimated growth curve for swine (Hamilton et al., 2021) and industry death rate data (Pork Checkoff, 2018).  It should be noted that the Pork Checkoff data for mortalities was collected after the PEDv outbreak of the 2010s.  Figure 1 shows the cumulative weekly weight of mortalities collected for a population of 1,000 pigs or hogs placed in confinement.  It should also be noted that the number of pigs placed in confinement is equal to the number of pigs leaving the previous phase of production in Table 1; i.e., 27,500 weaned pigs entered the nursery each year, 9,600 died in the nursery, and 25,000 left the nursery.

Table 1. Expected annual mass of mortalities and nutrients contained in carcasses produced by a farrow-to-finish operation with a running average of 1,150 sows.
Inventory Number Leaving Phase Each Year Animals Dying (Head yr-1) Animal Weight at Death (Lbs.) Mortality Mass (lbs. yr-1)
Sows 1,150 90 450 40,000
Gilts 115 19 300 2,700
Boars 12 1 700 700
Pigs Born Dead 0 3,200 2.95 9,450
Weaned Pigs 2,000 27,500 9,500 30,000
Feeder Pigs 3,900 26,000 1,500 64,000
Finishers 9,700 25,000 1,400 260,000
Total 16,877 406,900
Per Sow 350
Per Sow Animal Unit 790
Per Finisher Sold 16
Per Finisher Animal Unit 61
Per Inventory Unit 24
Figure 1. Cumulative mass of mortalities measured at the end of each week during the three growth phases of production for groups of 1,000 animals.

Breaking the numbers shown in Table 1 into smaller production units gives the estimated annual production of mortalities for all types of farms (Table 2).  It should be noted that the values in Table 2 for Farrow-to-Finish and Farrow-to-Wean farms do not include afterbirth, which can be a major component of biowaste created on farms with farrowing.

Table 2.Estimated Annual Weight of Mortalities Produced by Common Types of Swine Farms.
Annual Weight of Mortalities Produced (lbs. yr-1) Farrow to Finish Farrow to Wean Off-Site Nursery Finisher Farm
Per sow
350
73
Per Sow (1,000 lb. Animal Units)
7901
160
Per Pig or Hog Leaving
16
3.0
2.5
10
Per Pig or Hog Leaving (1,000 lb. Animal Unit)
612
2003
454
392
Per Feed-Space (Inventory)
24
26
25
27
1450 lb. sow
2270 lb. Market Hog
315 lb. Weaned Pig
455 lb. Feeder Pig

Swine producers can use the values estimated by this project to determine resources needed to prepare for mortalities.

Future Plans

Farms raising swine growing stock should size disposal methods based on the highest expected contribution of all additional life stages found on the farm (Figure 1); i.e., ~ 143 pounds per 1,000 hogs per day for finishers, 72 pounds per day per 1,000 nursery pigs. Swine breeding farms should size disposal practices based on the largest breeding head found on the farm, plus the highest expected contribution of all additional life stages found on the farm (Figure 1) plus afterbirth expected on a daily basis.  These values are based on conditions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, but can be adapted to any locale.  For instance, mortalities in the Midwest may be slightly higher because midwestern market weights are slightly higher than those in the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Authors

Douglas W. Hamilton, Ph.D., P.E., Extension Waste Management Specialist, Oklahoma State University

Corresponding author email address

Dhamilt@okstate.edu

Additional authors

Thomas M. Bass, Livestock Environment Associate Specialist, Montana State University; Amanda Gumbert, PhD., Water Quality Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky; Ernest Hovingh, DVM, PhD., Research Professor Extension Veterinarian, Pennsylvania State University; Mark Hutchinson, Extension Educator, University of Maine; Teng Teeh Lim, PhD, P.E., Extension Professor, University of Missouri; Sandra Means, P.E., USDA NRCS, Environmental Engineer, East National Technology Support Center (Retired); George “Bud” Malone, Malone Poultry Consulting; Jeremy Hanson, WQGIT Coordinator – STAC Research Associate, Chesapeake Research Consortium – Chesapeake Bay Program

Additional Information

Etienne, M., Meinen, R., Kristoff, J., Sexton, T., Long, B., & Dubin, M. (2016). Recommendations to Estimate Swine Nutrient Generation in the Phase 6 Chesapeake Bay Program Watershed Model. Annapolis, MD: Chesapeake Bay Program.

Hamilton, D., Bass, T.M., Gumbert, A., Hovingh, E., Hutchinson, M., Lim, T.-T., Means, S., and G. Malone. (2021). Estimates of nutrient loads from animal mortalities and reductions associated with mortality disposal methods and Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed (DRAFT). Edited by J. Hanson, A. Gumbert & D. Hamilton.  Annapolis, MD: USEPA Chesapeake Bay Program.

Pork Checkoff. (2018). Checkoff’s Pork Industry Productivity Analysis. Des Moines, IA: National Pork Board. https://www.pork.org/facts/stats/industry-benchmarks/#AverageConventionalFinisherProductivity. Accessed October 1, 2019.

USDA-APHIS. (2012a). Swine 2012 Part I: Baseline Reference of Swine Health and Management in the United States, 2012. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/nahms/swine/downloads/swine2012/Swine2012_dr_PartI.pdf. Accessed June 25, 2019.

Acknowledgements

This project was funded by the US EPA Chesapeake Bay Program through Virginia Polytechnical and State University.  EPA Grant No. CB96326201

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Estimating Routine Poultry Mortality Masses based on Systems Operation

Purpose

Current design standards and operation guidelines for poultry mortality disposal methods do not adequately account for the non-steady production of carcasses on poultry farms.  A common method is to assume poultry die at a constant annual death rate at the mean weight for a placement of birds.  While this method may be an accurate estimation for relatively steady-state operations such as egg laying, it grossly overestimates mortality production at the beginning of a grow-out cycle and underestimates mortality production towards the end of a grow-out cycle for meat production operations such as broilers and turkeys.

An expert panel was convened by the Agricultural Working Group of the Chesapeake Bay Program to determine annual mortality, nitrogen and phosphorus masses produced by broiler, turkey, and laying operations in the watershed.  This paper concentrates on the mortality masses estimations determined by the panel on a weekly and grow-out basis, using broilers as an example.

What Did We Do?

The weight of mortalities produced each week was determined by combining the expected weekly death rate with growth pattern for broilers.  In other words, weight of mortalities collected each week in a grow-out period is equal to number of birds dying during the week times the weight of birds at the time of death.  Mortalities collected for an entire grow-out period are then calculated by summing the weekly values.  This method can be used to determine mortalities produced for any market weight of bird because market weight is determined by the length of grow-out – all modern commercial broilers having the same basic growth pattern.

What Have We Learned?

Figure 1 illustrates the average growth pattern of broilers using company-provided data for genetic lines commonly used in the Delmarva region.  Figure 2 shows weekly mortalities for broilers based on a data set used by the USDA-NRCS in Delaware to design capacity of mortality freezers and industry data provided confidentially to the retired Delaware Extension Poultry Specialist. This death rate data is for antibiotic-free birds. Combining figures 1 and 2 gives the expected weight of mortalities collected by a farmer each week during grow-out per 1,000 broilers placed in a building (Figure 3).  Figure 3 shows that weight of mortalities increases each week at an exponential rate with a high degree of correlation (R2 = 0.975).

Adding the weight of mortalities collected in one week to those collected in previous weeks gives the total weight collected up to date, or the cumulative weight of mortalities.  Since the time required to raise a bird to a certain market weight is known (Figure 1), we can plot the cumulative weight of mortalities during a grow-out period versus market weight of broilers (Figure 4).

The estimated weight of mortalities collected each week and the cumulative weight of mortalities collected over a grow out period can be used to better design and operate mortality disposal methods.

Figure 1. Growth Pattern of Modern Commercial Broilers
Figure 2. Weekly Death Rate of Modern Commercial Broilers
Figure 3. Weight of Mortalities Removed Each Week per 1,000 Broiler Placements
Figure 4. Weight of Mortalities Collected per 1,000 Broiler Placements over One Grow-Out Period for Various Market Weights.

Future Plans

A poultry farmer can use the maximum mass collected each week to accurately size a mortality incinerator or estimate the number of dead birds she will have to cover every day in a mortality composter. Multi-bin composters are usually designed to hold the entire mass of mortalities expected in a grow-out period – plus additional high-carbon and cover material.  Designing for this capacity is now possible with an accurate estimate of mortality weight collected per grow-out period.

Authors

Douglas W. Hamilton, Ph.D., P.E., Extension Waste Management Specialist, Oklahoma State University

Corresponding author email address

dhamilt@okstate.edu

Additional authors

Thomas M. Bass, Livestock Environment Associate Specialist, Montana State University; Amanda Gumbert, PhD., Water Quality Extension Specialist, University of Kentucky; Ernest Hovingh, DVM, PhD., Research Professor Extension Veterinarian, Pennsylvania State University; Mark Hutchinson, Extension Educator, University of Maine; Teng Teeh Lim, PhD, P.E., Extension Professor, University of Missouri; Sandra Means, P.E., USDA NRCS, Environmental Engineer, East National Technology Support Center (Retired); George “Bud” Malone, Malone Poultry Consulting; Jeremy Hanson, WQGIT Coordinator – STAC Research Associate, Chesapeake Research Consortium – Chesapeake Bay Program

Additional Information

Hamilton, D., Bass, T.M., Gumbert, A., Hovingh, E., Hutchinson, M., Lim, T.-T., Means, S., and G. Malone. (2021). Estimates of nutrient loads from animal mortalities and reductions associated with mortality disposal methods and Best Management Practices (BMPs) in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Edited by J. Hanson, A. Gumbert & D. Hamilton.  Annapolis MD: USEPA, Chesapeake Bay Program (DRAFT).

Acknowledgements

Funding for this project was provided by the US-EPA Chesapeake Bay Program through Virginia Polytechnic and State University   EPA Grant No. CB96326201

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Thermal Dehydration for the Disposition of Poultry Mortalities

Purpose

In the past 50 years, the poultry industry has made tremendous advancements in production performance, resource utilization and environmental sustainability. However, mortality disposal remains a major challenge as traditional methods of carcass disposal such as burial, incineration, composting, and rendering pose significant risk (biosecurity, environmental pollution, odor, cost, etc.) to the future of the poultry industry.

In North America, approximately 1,500,000,000 pounds of broiler and 187,500,000 pounds of layer hen mortalities must be disposed of in a socially and environmentally sustainable manner without jeopardizing the biosecurity of the production facility nor the financial success of the producer.

What Did We Do

In response to growing concerns and regulatory requirements, an advanced thermal dehydration system has been developed for the disposition of poultry mortalities. This process utilizes simultaneous mixing and heating of the carcass materials in an enclosed drum to 194 F, which results in a 60% reduction in volume over a 12-hour cycle time.

Thermal Dehydration Process

This program was designed to understand the effectiveness, impacts, and opportunities of utilizing Agritech Thermal Disposal Systems thermal dehydration technology for the disposition of poultry mortalities in commercial poultry production facilities in the western United States.

TDS1300 Installation TX, USA
TDS1300 Installation TX, USA

What Have We Learned

Thermal dehydration technology has proven an effective, efficient, and easy method to manage poultry mortalities in commercial poultry production systems. Agritech Thermal Disposal Systems currently offers two models, a smaller single phase unit with a maximum capacity of 1300 pounds and a larger 3 phase unit with a maximum capacity of 2000 pounds per cycle.

The units are simple to operate, as all that is required is to load the mortalities and initiate the thermal dehydration process. There is no requirement for additional materials (carbon), mixing the materials nor manual cleanout, etc.. On average the unit requires 1 kilowatt of electricity per 9 pounds of mortalities processed. An economic analysis comparing thermal dehydration technology with currently used poultry mortality methods is presented below.

 

Mortality Disposal Comparison
20 Year Analysis
Based on processing 1000 lbs mortality per day
Rendering Traditional Incinerator High Efficiency Dual Burner Incinerator Rotary Composter TDS 1300
Fuel Source LPG LPG Wood shavings Electrical
Amount 2.5 gph 2.5 gph 3:1 ratio 1kW/9 lbs
Fuel per cycle 30 gallons 11.24 gallons 3000lbs 111kW
Cost per cycle $75 $75 $28 $42.5 $12.5
Cost per week $526 $525 $197 $298 $88
Cost per year $27,300 $27,300 $10,238 $15,470 $4,565
Cost per 20 year $546,000 $546,000 $204,750 $309,400 $91,291
Annual service cost $1,200 $835 $200 $200
Lifetime Service $20,400 $15,675 $3,800 $3,800
Replacement time (yr) 5 6.67 20 20 20
Purchase cost $1,000 $12,000 $32,972 $65,000 $55,000
20 year equipment cost $5,000 $36,000 $2,972 $65,000 $55,000
500G propane tank $2,000 $2,000
Building $75,000 $75,000
Installation cost $2,500 $2,500 $2,500 $6,000 $3,000
Total investment $553,500 $606,900 $257,897 $459,200 $148,591
Per lb/cost $0.076 $0.083 $0.035 $0.063 $0.020
Assumptions
Handling Carcass handling cost equal
Fuel Cost 2.50$/gallon; 11.30 cents per KWh
Rendering Cost $0.75 per pound rendering pickup
Woodshavings: Average 37 lbs/cubic foot
Utilize 3 cubic yards per day
1500$/100 yard load delivered ($15/yd)
Recycle 50% from produced compost
Plus 30 minutes additional handling per day-20$

Based on industry performance statistics, a 100,000 head broiler facility would produce approximately 3 supersacks/totes of “meat powder” per flock. The resultant “meat powder” is a stable, odor free, sterile byproduct which can be field applied, integrated into commercial fertilizer or utilized in further processing. Compositional analysis has consistently demonstrated a moisture content of approximately 20%, a nitrogen level of 10%, phosphorus of 0.5% and potassium of 0.6%.

“Meat Powder” Produced from Thermal Dehydration Technology

The range in particle size of the resultant “meat powder” was determined through sieve testing in accordance with ANSI/ASAES319, with an average particle size of 560 microns with a standard deviation of 5.06.

Environmental impact analysis of the thermal dehydration process of poultry mortalities has demonstrated that there are no visible emissions from the thermal dehydration unit, other than water vapor.

Further emissions testing has shown total particulate emission rate averaged 0.0066 lb./operating hour, semi-volatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs) were all below the minimum detectable limit and the total combined speciated Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emission rate averaged 0.0067 lb./operating hour, with all individual compounds below regulatory thresholds.

Future Plans

The long-term evaluation program of thermal dehydration technology for the disposition of poultry mortalities continues, with special emphasis on understanding the opportunities to utilize the “meat powder”. These efforts include conducting amino acid profiling, understanding the impacts on quality from long-term storage and determining the optimal handling system.

Thermal dehydration technology has gained international approval for the disposition of animal mortalities, has recently been permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and is currently undergoing regulatory review in numerous jurisdictions throughout the United States.

Authors

Jeff Hill, President, Livestock Welfare Strategies
Jeff@LivestockWelfareStrategies.com

Additional Authors

Danny Katz, Agritech Thermal Disposal Systems, Anissa Purswell, Eviro-Ag Engineering, Inc.

Additional Information

www.thermaldisposal.com

Acknowledgements

H and R Agricultural Solutions LLC 1592 Southview Circle Center, Texas 75935

Videos, Slideshows, and Other Media

AgriTech Thermal Disposal Systems – YouTube

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Closing the Loop: Evaluating Carcass Compost for Corn Production in Northern Climates

Purpose

Composting is one way that livestock operations can effectively dispose of animal carcasses on their farm site during many times of the year, even in cold climates. Various carbon sources such as wood chips or chopped corn stalks can be used and tend to be coarsely chopped so that airflow is improved through the pile to increase degradation. This makes finished carcass compost different from typical manure or garden compost. Land application is recommended for the final product, but there is little information on nutrient availability of carcass compost for crop production. Since state regulations often require this information to determine appropriate agronomic land application rates, livestock producers are left unable to utilize this material efficiently in a way that meets the law. The goal of this project is to evaluate the fertilizer equivalent value of carcass compost that uses different carbon sources (wood chips versus corn stalks) for corn production.

What Did We Do

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture conducted winter swine carcass composting trials at the University of Minnesota Southwestern Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN during the winter of 2020. In these trials, swine carcasses were ground with the carbon source prior to initiating the compost process. Carbon sources included wood chips or corn stalks. The compost went through the active composting cycles (thermophilic phase) and curing (mesophilic) phase over approximately one year. Samples were collected from each pile in the spring of 2021 and sent to Penn State Analytical Laboratory for standard compost tests.

In 2021, a field experiment was carried out at the University of Minnesota Southwestern Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN to test the different carcass composts as a nutrient source. The field trial was set up as a randomized complete block design with four replications as the blocks. The 10 treatments included:

  • 0 N (full P, K, S) fertilizer (control)
  • 3 urea fertilizer N rates (50%, 100%, 150% of corn nitrogen [N] needs)
  • 3 woodchip compost and 3 corn stalk compost rates (50%, 100%, 150% of corn N needs)

The compost rates were determined assuming 50% of the total N from lab analysis is plant available. The overall N rates were determined using the University of Minnesota fertilizer guidelines for non-irrigated corn. Fertilizers and compost were applied by hand in spring at their appropriate rates and incorporated within 12 hours of application. Approximately 7, 14, and 21 tons per acre of compost were applied to achieve 50%, 100%, and 150% of corn N needs (this corresponds to 80, 160, and 240 pounds of N per acre). Corn was planted and managed for pests according to typical production practices in the region. The middle two rows of each plot were harvested in the fall with a plot combine and yield and grain moisture were recorded.

What Have We Learned

The lab analysis results of each compost are in Table 1. Total N content was similar between sources and primarily made up of organically bound N. The carbon:N ratio of the wood chip compost was higher at 20.8:1 than the corn stalk compost at 14.2:1, though both were below 20:1 and should not theoretically tie up N from the soil after land application. Respirometry tests suggested that the corn stalk compost was not yet mature (respiration was greater than 11 mg CO2-C/g organic matter/day) while the wood chip compost was considered in the “curing” phase (2-5 mg CO2-C/g organic matter/day). The bioassay results suggested that neither compost had any phytotoxins (both had emergence greater than 90%).

Table 1. Swine carcass compost test results from Penn State Analytical Laboratory. Samples were collected and sent to the lab in spring 2021 prior to land application.

Carcass Compost Carbon Source
Tests Wood Chips Corn Stalks
pH 7.3 8.0
Soluble salts (1:5 w:w), mmhos/cm 1.2 2.5
Moisture content, % 29.1 41.2
Organic matter, % 49.1 33.4
Total nitrogen (N), lb ton-1 22.0 24.0
Organic N, lb ton-1 22.0 22.0
Ammonium-N, lb ton-1 0.32 0.66
Nitrate-N, lb ton-1 0.04 0.00
Carbon: N ratio 20.8 14.2
Phosphorus (as P205) lb ton-1 5.4 4.6
Potassium (as K20) lb ton-1 6.6 9.4
Particle Size (<9.5 mm), % 82.6 68.1
Respirometry, mg CO2C/g organic matter/day 4.8 17.4
Bioassay (cucumber seedling emergence), % 100.0 96.0
Bioassay (cucumber seedling vigor), % 100.0 100.0

As for the field trial, the 2021 growing season endured a sustained drought and yield was lower than expected (ranging from 64 – 117 bushels per acre; Figure 1). Yield increased with each incremental increase in fertilizer N with the highest yield at 240 pounds of N per acre. The carcass composts differed in their effect on yield. Corn yield responded to the corn stalk compost and fertilizer up to 150 pounds of available N per acre (or about 14 tons per acre), but the carcass compost reduced yield at 240 pounds of N per acre. Yield only responded to the wood chip compost at the lowest rate (80 pounds of N per acre, or about 7 tons per acre) but at higher rates yield was similar to the control. This is likely due to the high carbon content of both composts. As more carbon was applied, the soil microbes needed a higher amount of N to degrade the carbon, thus taking it from the soil. Overall, we suggest that less than 15 tons per acre of carcass compost should be used for land application. If wood chips were used as the carbon source, do not expect a significant nitrogen credit.

Figure 1. Corn yield with fertilizer versus swine carcass compost (with either corn stalks or wood chips as the carbon source). Each nutrient source was applied at different rates to supply 80, 160, or 240 pounds of first year available nitrogen. There was also a no-nitrogen control.

Future Plans

We will repeat this study in 2022 at the same site but with compost generated during the winter of 2021. Besides wood chips and corn stalks, a new carbon source will be introduced to the project, wheat straw. Along with yield, we are also evaluating soil and plant samples for nitrogen and phosphorus changes.

Authors

Melissa L. Wilson, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, University of Minnesota
mlw@umn.edu

Additional Authors

-Erin L. Cortus, Associate Professor and Extension Engineer, University of Minnesota;
-Paulo H. Pagliari, Associate Professor, University of Minnesota

Acknowledgements

This project is funded by USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service through the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. Thanks to our partners at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for supplying the carcass compost.

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2022. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Oregon, OH. April 18-22, 2022. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Transforming Manure from ‘Waste’ to ‘Worth’ to Support Responsible Livestock Production in Nebraska

The University of Nebraska – Lincoln (UNL) Animal Manure Management (AMM) Team has supported the environmental stewardship goals of Nebraska’s livestock and crop producers for many years using multiple traditional delivery methods, but recently recognized the need to more actively engage with clientele through content marketing activities. A current programming effort by the AMM Team to increase efficient manure utilization on cropland in the vicinity of intensive livestock production is the foundation for an innovative social media campaign.

What did we do?

content marketing plan
Figure 1. Content marketing plan to direct traffic to the AMM Team website.

While traditional extension outputs remain valuable for supporting the needs of clientele who actively seek out information on a topic, “content marketing” is a strategic tactic by which information is shared to not only attract and retain an audience, but to drive impactful action. Social media platforms are popular tools for delivery of current, research-based information to clientele; a key barrier to effectively using social media for content marketing by the project directors has been time. For instance, using Twitter efficiently requires regular attention to deliver messages frequently enough to remain relevant and to do so at times when user activity characteristics demonstrate the greatest opportunity for posts to be viewed and disseminated. Because this proved to be a challenge, a content marketing plan (Figure 1) was initiated using “waste to worth” as the topic of focus.

Three major components were identified as being critical to the success of the project (Figure 2): design of high-quality graphics that are tied to online content and resources and are suitable for use on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media platforms; development of a content library containing packaged content (graphic + suggested text for social media posts) that is easy to navigate and available for partners to access and utilize; and development  of a communication network capable of reaching a broad audience.

Graphics

circles containing graphics, content library and communication network
Figure 2. Components identified for successful content marketing effort.

An undergraduate Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) student was recruited to support graphical content development using three basic guidelines: 1) Eye-catching but simple designs; 2) Associated with existing content hosted online; and 3) Accurate information illustrated Canva.com was utilized by team members  to design, review and edit social media content (Figure 3).

Content Library

Completed graphics are downloaded from Canva as portable network graphics (*.png) and saved to Box folders, by topic, using a descriptive title. When posting to social media, hashtags, mentions and links to other content help (a) reach users who are following a specific topic (e.g. #manure), (b) recognize someone related to the post (e.g. @TheManureLady) and (c) direct users to more content related to the graphic (e.g. URL to online article). For our content library, each graphic is accompanied by a file containing recommended text (Figure 4) that can be copied and pasted into Twitter or Facebook.

content example graphics
Figure 3. Graphical content examples for the “waste to worth” project
content example with sample text
Figure 4. Sample text to accompany a related image when posting on social media

Communication Network

content distribution network diagram
Figure 5. Content distribution network diagram.

Disseminating our messages through outlets outside the University was identified as a critical aspect of achieving the widespread message delivery that was desired. As such, agricultural partners throughout Nebraska were asked to help “spread the word about spreading manure” by utilizing our content in their social media outputs, electronic newsletters, printed publications, etc. Partners in this project include nearly 30 livestock and crop commodity organizations, media outlets, agricultural business organizations, and state agencies in Nebraska (Figure 5).

The effort to distribute content through the established communication network was launched in September 2018. Each month, three to four graphics with accompanying text are placed in a Box file to which all partners in the distribution network have access. Partners are notified via e-mail when new content is released. Folders containing prior months’ releases remain available to allow partners to re-distribute previous content if they wish.

What we have learned?

Since launching, 34 partnering organizations (Figure 6) have helped disseminate content to 50,000+ producers, advisors, allied industry members, and related professionals each month. Invited media appearances (radio and television) by team members have increased substantially in the past six months. For instance, the Nebraska Pork Producers Association hosts a weekly “Pork Industry Update” on a radio station that is part of the Rural Radio Network. Team members have recorded numerous interviews for broadcast during this weekly programming spot.

parter organizations
Figure 6. Partner organizations contributing to content distribution.

Page views within the AMM Team’s website (manure.unl.edu) increased by 139% from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018. Additional analytics are being collected to better define routes by which traffic is reaching the AMM Team’s website.

Future Plans

A survey is being prepared for distribution to audiences targeted through this project to assess impacts of this effort on changes in knowledge and behavior related to responsible use of manure in cropping systems, recognition of the AMM Team as a trusted source for manure and nutrient management information in Nebraska, and quality of AMM Team outputs.

Author

Amy Millmier Schmidt, Associate Professor, Biological Systems Engineering and Animal Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), aschmidt@unl.edu

Co-authors

Rick Koelsch, Professor, Biological Systems Engineering and Animal Science, UNL

Abby Steffen, UG Student, Ag Leadership, Education and Communication, UNL

Additional Information

Sign up for monthly notifications about new content from the UNL Animal Manure Management team at https://water.unl.edu/newsletter. Follow team members and the AMM Team.

Animal Manure Management Team    Amy Schmidt

Twitter: @UNLamm    Twitter: @TheManureLady

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UNLamm/    Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/TheManureLady/

 

Rick Koelsch

Twitter: @NebraskaRick

Acknowledgements

Funding sources supporting this effort include We Support Ag, the Nebraska Environmental Trust, and the North Central Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education (NC-SARE) program.

 

 

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2019. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth. Minneapolis, MN. April 22-26, 2019. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

USDA-NRCS and the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) for Livestock and Poultry Operations

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Purpose

The National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool (NAQSAT) was developed as a first-of-its-kind tool to help producers and their advisors assess the impact of management on air emissions from livestock and poultry operations and identify areas for potential improvement related to those air emissions.

What did we do?

In 2007, several land-grant universities, with leadership from Michigan State University, began developing NAQSAT under a USDA-NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). The initial tool included beef, dairy, swine, and poultry operations. A subsequent CIG project, with leadership from Colorado State University, made several enhancements to the tool, including adding horses to the species list. In 2015, USDA-NRCS officially adopted NAQSAT as an approved tool for evaluating air quality resource concerns at livestock and poultry operations. USDA-NRCS also contracted with Florida A&M University in 2015 to provide several regional training workshops on NAQSAT to NRCS employees. Six training workshops have been completed to date (Raleigh, NC; Modesto, CA; Elizabethtown, PA; Lincoln, NE; Richmond, VA; and Yakima, WA) with assistance from multiple NAQSAT development partners. Additionally, USDA-NRCS revised its comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) policy in October 2015 to make the evaluation of air quality resource concerns mandatory as part of CNMP development.

Snippet from website of the National Air Quality Site Assessment Tool

Group photo of team in field

Zwicke in class lecturing

Zwicke and group in animal housing facility

What have we learned?

NAQSAT has proven to be a useful tool for bench-marking the air emissions impacts of current management on confinement-based livestock and poultry operations. In the training sessions, students have been able to complete NAQSAT runs on-site with the producer or producer representative via tablet or smartphone technologies. Further classroom discussion has helped to better understand the questions and answers and how the NAQSAT results can feed into the USDA-NRCS conservation planning process. Several needed enhancements and upgrades to the tool have been identified in order to more closely align the output of the tool to USDA-NRCS conservation planning needs. NAQSAT has also proven to be useful for evaluating the air quality resource concern status of an operation in relation to the CNMP development process.

Future Plans

It is anticipated that the identified needed enhancements and upgrades will be completed as funding for further NAQSAT development becomes available. Additionally, as use of NAQSAT by USDA-NRCS and our conservation planning and CNMP development partners expands, additional training and experience-building opportunities will be needed. The NAQSAT development team has great geographic coverage to assist in these additional opportunities.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Greg Zwicke, Air Quality Engineer – Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team, USDA-NRCS

Corresponding author email

greg.zwicke@ftc.usda.gov

Other authors

Greg Johnson, Air Quality and Atmospheric Change Team Leader, USDA-NRCS; Jeff Porter, Animal Nutrient and Manure Management Team Leader, USDA-NRCS; Sandy Means, Agricultural Engineer – Animal Nutrient and Manure Management Team, USDA-NRCS

Additional information

naqsat.tamu.edu

https://lpelc.org/naqsat-for-swine-and-poultry

https://lpelc.org/naqsat-for-beef-and-dairy/

Acknowledgements

C.E. Meadows Endowment, Michigan State University

Colorado Livestock Association

Colorado State University

Florida A&M University

Iowa Turkey Federation

Iowa Pork Producers

Iowa Pork Industry Center

Iowa State University

Iowa State University Experiment Station

Kansas State University

Michigan Milk Producers Association

Michigan Pork Producers Association

Michigan State University

Michigan State University Extension

National Pork Board

Nebraska Environmental Trust

Oregon State University

Penn State University

Purdue University

Texas A&M University

University of California, Davis

University of Georgia

University of Georgia Department of Poultry Science

University of Idaho

University of Maryland

University of Maryland Department of Animal and Avian Sciences

University of Minnesota

University of Missouri

University of Nebraska

USDA-ARS

Virginia Tech University

Washington State University

Western United Dairymen

Whatcom County (WA) Conservation District

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Manure Management Technology Selection Guidance

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Purpose

Manure is an inevitable by-product of livestock production. Traditionally, manure has been land applied for the nutrient value in crop production and improved soil quality.With livestock operations getting larger and, in many cases, concentrating in certain areas of the country, it is becoming more difficult to balance manure applications to plant uptake needs. In many places, this imbalance has led to over-application of nutrients with increased potential for surface water, ground water and air quality impairments. No two livestock operations are identical and manure management technologies are generally quite expensive, so it is important to choose the right technology for a specific livestock operation. Information is provided to assist planners and landowners in selecting the right technology to appropriately address the associated manure management concerns.

What did we do?

As with developing a good conservation plan, knowledge of manure management technologies can help landowners and operators best address resource concerns related to animal manure management. There are so many things to consider when looking at selecting various manure treatment technologies to make sure that it will function properly within an operation. From a technology standpoint, users must understand the different applications related to physical, chemical, and biological unit processes which can greatly assist an operator in choosing the most appropriate technology. By having a good understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies, better decisions can be made to address the manure-related resource concerns and help landowners:

• Install conservation practices to address and avoid soil erosion, water and air quality issues.

• In the use of innovative technologies that will reduce excess manure volume and nutrients and provide value-added products.

• In the use of cover crops and rotational cropping systems to uptake nutrients at a rate more closely related to those from applied animal manures.

• In the use of local manure to provide nutrients for locally grown crops and, when possible, discourage the importation of externally produced feed products.

• When excess manure can no longer be applied to local land, to select options that make feasible the transport of manure nutrients to regions where nutrients are needed.

• Better understand the benefits and limitations of the various manure management technologies.

Picture of holding tank

Complete-Mix Anaerobic Digester – option to reduce odors and pathogens; potential energy production

Picture of mechanical equipment

Gasification (pyrolysis) system – for reduced odors; pathogen destruction; volume reduction; potential energy production.

Picture of field

Windrow composting – reduce pathogens; volume reduction

Picture of Flottweg separation technology

Centrifuge separation system – multiple material streams; potential nutrient
partitioning.

What have we learned?

• There are several options for addressing manure distribution and application management issues. There is no silver bullet.

• Each livestock operation will need to be evaluated separately, because there is no single alternative which will address all manure management issues and concerns.

• Option selections are dependent on a number of factors such as: landowner objectives, manure consistency, land availability, nutrient loads, and available markets.

• Several alternatives may need to be combined to meet the desired outcome.

• Soil erosion, water and air quality concerns also need to be addressed when dealing with manure management issues.

• Most options require significant financial investment.

Future Plans

Work with technology providers and others to further evaluate technologies and update information as necessary. Incorporate findings into NRCS handbooks and fact sheets for use by staff and landowners in selecting the best technology for particular livestock operations.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

Jeffrey P. Porter, P.E.; National Animal Manure and Nutrient Management Team Leader USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service

Corresponding author email

jeffrey.porter@gnb.usda.gov

Other authors

Darren Hickman, P.E., National Geospatial Center of Excellence Director USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service; John Davis, National Nutrient Management Specialist USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, retired

Additional information

References

USDA-NRCS Handbooks – Title 210, Part 651 – Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook

USDA-NRCS Handbooks – Title 210, Part 637 – Environmental Engineering, Chapter 4 – Solid-liquid Separation Alternatives for Manure Handling and Treatment (soon to be published)

Webinars

Evaluation of Manure Management Systems – http://www.conservationwebinars.net/webinars/evaluation-of-manure-management-systems/?searchterm=animal waste

Use of Solid-Liquid Separation Alternatives for Manure Handling and Treatment – http://www.conservationwebinars.net/webinars/use-of-solid-liquid-separation-alternatives-for-manure-handling-and-treatment/?searchterm=animal waste

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

Poultry Mortality Freezer Units: Better BMP, Better Biosecurity, Better Bottom Line.

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Purpose

Why Tackle Mortality Management?  It’s Ripe for Revolution.

The poultry industry has enjoyed a long run of technological and scientific advancements that have led to improvements in quality and efficiency.  To ensure its hard-won prosperity continues into the future, the industry has rightly shifted its focus to sustainability.  For example, much money and effort has been expended on developing better management methods and alternative uses/destinations for poultry litter.

In contrast, little effort or money has been expended to improve routine mortality management – arguably one of the most critical aspects of every poultry operation.  In many poultry producing areas of the country, mortality management methods have not changed in decades – not since the industry was forced to shift from the longstanding practice of pit burial.  Often that shift was to composting (with mixed results at best).  For several reasons – improved biosecurity being the most important/immediate – it’s time that the industry shift again.

The shift, however, doesn’t require reinventing the wheel, i.e., mortality management can be revolutionized without developing anything revolutionary.  In fact, the mortality management practice of the future owes its existence in part to a technology that was patented exactly 20 years ago by Tyson Foods – large freezer containers designed for storing routine/daily mortality on each individual farm until the containers are later emptied and the material is hauled off the farm for disposal.

Despite having been around for two decades, the practice of using on-farm freezer units has received almost no attention.  Little has been done to promote the practice or to study or improve on the original concept, which is a shame given the increasing focus on two of its biggest advantages – biosecurity and nutrient management.

Dusting off this old BMP for a closer look has been the focus of our work – and with promising results.  The benefits of hitting the reset button on this practice couldn’t be more clear:

  1. Greatly improved biosecurity for the individual grower when compared to traditional composting;
  2. Improved biosecurity for the entire industry as more individual farms switch from composting to freezing, reducing the likelihood of wider outbreaks;
  3. Reduced operational costs for the individual poultry farm as compared to more labor-intensive practices, such as composting;
  4. Greatly reduced environmental impact as compared to other BMPs that require land application as a second step, including composting, bio-digestion and incineration; and
  5. Improved quality of life for the grower, the grower’s family and the grower’s neighbors when compared to other BMPs, such as composting and incineration.

What Did We Do?

We basically took a fresh look at all aspects of this “old” BMP, and shared our findings with various audiences.

That work included:

  1. Direct testing with our own equipment on our own poultry farm regarding
    1. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors,
    2. Freezer unit capacity,
    3. Power consumption, and
    4. Operational/maintenance aspects;
  2. Field trials on two pilot project farms over two years regarding
    1. Freezer unit capacity
    2. Quality of life issues for growers and neighbors,
    3. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors,
    4. Operational and collection/hauling aspects;
  3. Performing literature reviews and interviews regarding
    1. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors
    2. Pathogen/disease transmission,
    3. Biosecurity measures
    4. Nutrient management comparisons
    5. Quality of life issues for growers and neighbors
  4. Ensuring the results of the above topics/tests were communicated to
    1. Growers
    2. Integrators
    3. Legislators
    4. Environmental groups
    5. Funding agencies (state and federal)
    6. Veterinary agencies (state and federal)

What Have We Learned?

The breadth of the work at times limited the depth of any one topic’s exploration, but here is an overview of our findings:

  1. Direct testing with our own equipment on our own poultry farm regarding
    1. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors
      1. Farm visitation by scavenger animals, including buzzards/vultures, raccoons, foxes and feral cats, that previously dined in the composting shed daily slowly decreased and then stopped entirely about three weeks after the farm converted to freezer units.
      2. The fly population was dramatically reduced after the farm converted from composting to freezer units.  [Reduction was estimated at 80%-90%.]
    2. Freezer unit capacity
      1. The test units were carefully filled on a daily basis to replicate the size and amount of deadstock generated over the course of a full farm’s grow-out cycle.
      2. The capacity tests were repeated over several flocks to ensure we had accurate numbers for creating a capacity calculator/matrix, which has since been adopted by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to determine the correct number of units per farm based on flock size and finish bird weight (or number of grow-out days) in connection with the agency’s cost-share program.
    3. Power consumption
      1. Power consumption was recorded daily over several flocks and under several conditions, e.g., during all four seasons and under cover versus outside and unprotected from the elements.
      2. Energy costs were higher for uncovered units and obviously varied depending on the season, but the average cost to power one unit is only 90 cents a day.  The total cost of power for the average farm (all four units) is only $92 per flock.  (See additional information for supporting documentation and charts.)
    4. Operational/maintenance aspects;
      1. It was determined that the benefits of installing the units under cover (e.g., inside a small shed or retrofitted bin composter) with a winch system to assist with emptying the units greatly outweighed the additional infrastructure costs.
      2. This greatly reduced wear and tear on the freezer component of the system during emptying, eliminated clogging of the removable filter component, as well as provided enhanced access to the unit for periodic cleaning/maintenance by a refrigeration professional.
  2. Field trials on two pilot project farms over two years regarding
    1. Freezer unit capacity
      1. After tracking two years of full farm collection/hauling data, we were able to increase the per unit capacity number in the calculator/matrix from 1,500 lbs. to 1,800 lbs., thereby reducing the number of units required per farm to satisfy that farm’s capacity needs.
    2. Quality of life issues for growers and neighbors
      1. Both farms reported improved quality of life, largely thanks to the elimination or reduction of animals, insects and smells associated with composting.
    3. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors
      1. Both farms reported elimination or reduction of the scavenging animals and disease-carrying insects commonly associated with composting.
    4. Operational and collection/hauling aspects
      1. With the benefit of two years of actual use in the field, we entirely re-designed the sheds used for housing the freezer units.
      2. The biggest improvements were created by turning the units so they faced each other rather than all lined up side-by-side facing outward.  (See additional information for supporting documentation and diagrams.)  This change then meant that the grower went inside the shed (and out of the elements) to load the units.  This change also provided direct access to the fork pockets, allowing for quicker emptying and replacement with a forklift.
  3. Performing literature reviews and interviews regarding
    1. Farm visitation by animals and other disease vectors
      1. More research confirming the connection between farm visitation by scavenger animals and the use of composting was recently published by the USDA National Wildlife Research Center:
        1. “Certain wildlife species may become habituated to anthropogenically modified habitats, especially those associated with abundant food resources.  Such behavior, at least in the context of multiple farms, could facilitate the movement of IAV from farm to farm if a mammal were to become infected at one farm and then travel to a second location.  …  As such, the potential intrusion of select peridomestic mammals into poultry facilities should be accounted for in biosecurity plans.”
        2. Root, J. J. et al. When fur and feather occur together: interclass transmission of avian influenza A virus from mammals to birds through common resources. Sci. Rep. 5, 14354; doi:10.1038/ srep14354 (2015) at page 6 (internal citations omitted; emphasis added).
    2. Pathogen/disease transmission,
      1. Animals and insects have long been known to be carriers of dozens of pathogens harmful to poultry – and to people.  Recently, however, the USDA National Wildlife Research Center demonstrated conclusively that mammals are not only carriers – they also can transmit avian influenza virus to birds.
        1. The study’s conclusion is particularly troubling given the number and variety of mammals and other animals that routinely visit composting sheds as demonstrated by our research using a game camera.  These same animals also routinely visit nearby waterways and other poultry farms increasing the likelihood of cross-contamination, as explained in this the video titled Farm Freezer Biosecurity Benefits.
        2. “When wildlife and poultry interact and both can carry and spread a potentially damaging agricultural pathogen, it’s cause for concern,” said research wildlife biologist Dr. Jeff Root, one of several researchers from the National Wildlife Research Center, part of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services program, studying the role wild mammals may play in the spread of avian influenza viruses.
    3. Biosecurity measures
      1. Every day the grower collects routine mortality and stores it inside large freezer units. After the broiler flock is caught and processed, but before the next flock is started – i.e. when no live birds are present,  a customized truck and forklift empty the freezer units and hauls away the deadstock.  During this 10- to 20- day window between flocks biosecurity is relaxed and dozens of visitors (feed trucks, litter brokers, mortality collection) are on site in preparation for the next flock.
        1. “Access will change after a production cycle,” according to a biosecurity best practices document (enclosed) from Iowa State University. “Empty buildings are temporarily considered outside of the [protected area and even] the Line of Separation is temporarily removed because there are no birds in the barn.”
    4. Nutrient management comparisons
      1. Research provided by retired extension agent Bud Malone (enclosed) provided us with the opportunity to calculate nitrogen and phosphorous numbers for on-farm mortality, and therefore, the amount of those nutrients that can be diverted from land application through the use of freezer units instead of composting.
      2. The research (contained in an enclosed presentation) also provided a comparison of the cost-effectiveness of various nutrient management BMPs – and a finding that freezing and recycling is about 90% more efficient than the average of all other ag BMPs in reducing phosphorous.
    5. Quality of life issues for growers and neighbors
      1. Local and county governments in several states have been compiling a lot of research on the various approaches for ensuring farmers and their residential neighbors can coexist peacefully.
      2. Many of the complaints have focused on the unwanted scavenger animals, including buzzards/vultures, raccoons, foxes and feral cats, as well as the smells associated with composting.
      3. The concept of utilizing sealed freezer collection units to eliminate the smells and animals associated with composting is being considered by some government agencies as an alternative to instituting deeper and deeper setbacks from property lines, which make farming operations more difficult and costly.

Future Plans

We see more work on three fronts:

  • First, we’ll continue to do monitoring and testing locally so that we may add another year or two of data to the time frames utilized initially.
  • Second, we are actively working to develop new more profitable uses for the deadstock (alternatives to rendering) that could one day further reduce the cost of mortality management for the grower.
  • Lastly, as two of the biggest advantages of this practice – biosecurity and nutrient management – garner more attention nationwide, our hope would be to see more thorough university-level research into each of the otherwise disparate topics that we were forced to cobble together to develop a broad, initial understanding of this BMP.

Corresponding author (name, title, affiliation)

Victor Clark, Co-Founder & Vice President, Legal and Government Affairs, Farm Freezers LLC and Greener Solutions LLC

Corresponding author email address

victor@farmfreezers.com

Other Authors

Terry Baker, Co-Founder & President, Farm Freezers LLC and Greener Solutions LLC

Additional Information

https://rendermagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Render_Oct16.pdf

Farm Freezer Biosecurity Benefits

One Night in a Composting Shed

www.farmfreezers.com

Transmission Pathways

Avian flu conditions still evolving (editorial)

USDA NRCS Conservation fact sheet Poultry Freezers

Nature.com When fur and feather occur together: interclass transmission of avian influenza A virus from mammals to birds through common resources

How Does It Work? (on-farm freezing)

Influenza infections in wild raccoons (CDC)

Collection Shed Unit specifications

Collection Unit specifications

Freezing vs Composting for Biosecurity (Render magazine)

Manure and spent litter management: HPAI biosecurity (Iowa State University)

Acknowledgements

Bud Malone, retired University of Delaware Extension poultry specialist and owner of Malone Poultry Consulting

Bill Brown, University of Delaware Extension poultry specialist, poultry grower and Delmarva Poultry Industry board member

Delaware Department of Agriculture

Delaware Nutrient Management Commission

Delaware Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Maryland Office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.

PA Finishing Swine Barn Experience: Changing from Mortality Burial to a Michigan Style Composting Barn

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Purpose

In the spring of 2014, the farmer with a 2020 finishing pig barn, wanted to change from burial of mortality to composting the mortality. We will document the change and the use of the composting barn from July 2014 to Dec 2016.

What did we do?

This 2020 finish pig barn space has about 3% mortality and expects about 250 deaths per year to compost. We discussed building a PA Michigan single wall compost barn design. The farmer built a 24×40 compost barn, with a 3 feet center dividing wall. The barn was completed in the summer of 2014 and we will track the pig barn turns and compost barn mortality loadings from July 2014 to December 2016. The barn has used about 56 cubic yards of woodchips/ bark mulch the first year and then replaced with about 40 cubic yards of sawdust for the second year.

The compost temperatures have reached 130 Degrees F and the farmer is very pleased with how the barn works and how he can mix and turn the compost. The presentation will cover barn costs, barn design and sawdust mortality loading and turning.

Field with windmills and barn
PA Michigan compost barn built at the end of the hog barn

Compost heap under shelter
Excellent example of free flowing air into the compost piles while
having a center push up wall to help turn the piles

What have we learned?

We have documented the farmers use of the barn, the mortality rates, compost sawdust and woodchip use, and mixing schedules. We have also documented the mortality cost rates for this farm.

Future Plans

We will highlight this PA Michigan compost barn type to other pig barns and document the use of them in Pennsylvania.

Corresponding author, title, and affiliation

J Craig Williams

Corresponding author email

Jcw17@psu.edu

Additional information

http://extension.psu.edu/animals/health/composting

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/managing_animal_mortalities

The authors are solely responsible for the content of these proceedings. The technical information does not necessarily reflect the official position of the sponsoring agencies or institutions represented by planning committee members, and inclusion and distribution herein does not constitute an endorsement of views expressed by the same. Printed materials included herein are not refereed publications. Citations should appear as follows. EXAMPLE: Authors. 2017. Title of presentation. Waste to Worth: Spreading Science and Solutions. Cary, NC. April 18-21, 2017. URL of this page. Accessed on: today’s date.