Manure Handling Innovations

Published on Thu, 07/07/2022 - 1:00pm

Manure Handling Innovations.

 By Maura Keller.

 Cows, with their four-chambered stomachs have always been models of digestive proficiency. These grazing bovines and other livestock produce thousands of pounds of manure daily. In fact, it’s estimated that a single dairy cow produces approximately 120 pounds or 14 gallons of wet manure per day.

According to Brendan Barnier, sales and marketing director at JBS Equipment, the process of manure handling has evolved greatly over the past 10 to 15 years as the agriculture community has grown to recognize and accept the value of the nutrients contained in manure and the value that this type of organic matter brings to fields and crops.

“Manure was previously considered a waste product by many, and many producers would spend thousands of dollars to dispose of manure and purchase fertilizer for their fields,” Barnier says. “Now many producers have begun recycling manure products for usage in their fields, as manure is readily available on many farms and the value of the nutrients contained in it has become widely recognized as an asset to most operations.”

Dave Gearhart, spreader product line manager and spreader sales representative at Pik Rite, agrees that at one time, manure was regarded as a nuisance byproduct of livestock farming. With its recognition as a valuable high-nutrient fertilizer, manure management has become a critical part of successful farm operations.

“In this day and age, crop yields can be optimized with advanced nutrient management,” Gearhart says. “In light of the skyrocketing costs of chemical fertilizers, strategic manure management can make or break a farm.”

Barnier adds that in order to take full advantage of manure that is available on farms, it is extremely important that producers pay close attention to proper manure handling techniques in order to safely store it to preserve its nutritional value and ensure that it is properly utilized through usage of appropriate application rates. 

Barnier adds, “In the past many people used to just spread it on fields as a way to get it out of the way or off their feed yard,” Barnier says. “Oftentimes this meant that manure was heavily spread without a lot of thought or planning and spreaders often had horizontal beaters. As producers have begun to recognize the value of manure, they have started to look to more precise methods of spreading manure.”

Just as the manure handling process has evolved, so too has the equipment used in the process. For instance, Ben Posthumus from APM Manufacturing points out, “When it comes to moving large amounts of manure, side dump trailers are a great option for stockpiling or windrows. With our side dump, windrows are quick work. Dumping while driving is easy. When designed right a side dump is safe, simple, and durable. Long end dumps are top heavy and too often end in disaster”. Ben goes on to elaborate, “Manure vacuuming is an option with many different approaches and because everyone’s manure situation is different, APM builds your vacuum custom for your needs. Manure vacuums can suck out of a lagoon, pit, or directly from the lanes with the alley sweeper. It can even be pumped into the tank through a top fill gate. That is why we offer all of these options and even all of these options in one unit. If you are vacuuming lanes, cow comfort is important. Our design is very quiet so the cow disturbance is at a minimum. Spreading directly after vacuuming the lanes is a good way to stay ahead of your lagoons or to effectively transport the liquid manure to your drying lot”.

Gearhart explains, years ago, a standard manure spreader utilized horizontally spinning beaters that would spread material in a 10-12 foot wide pattern. Today, Pik Rite is manufacturing spreaders that utilize vertical beaters to distribute material in up to a 60-foot-wide pattern.

“Manure handling equipment also is much more precise. Spreaders need to apply material evenly to achieve desired nutrient distribution,” Gearhart says. “Spreader options, including metering gates and weigh scale systems, allow for even greater control over distribution.”

Pik Rite’s Hydra-Ram and Hydra-Pull lines of manure spreaders are built to deliver on efficiency and precision. With 13 models matched with various options and accessories, Pik Rite spreaders meet the needs of everyone from small hobby farmer to large commercial operator.  

“Pik Rite spreaders handle a broad range of materials, including pen pack, litter, biosolids, and sand-bedded manure,” Gearhart says. “Our quick-detach beater system allows operators to use the spreaders for manure stockpiling and other material management applications, providing versatility that extends ROI for producers.”

As Barnier notes, in recent years many producers have begun to utilize ISOBUS rate controllers, so they may prescribe specific amounts of manure to fields based on the needs of that particular field and the crop they plan to grow.

“Many producers have also made a shift toward manure spreaders with vertical beaters as they work well for all types of manure, are great for breaking up the bedding pack and offer the ability to spread manure more evenly with a wider spread pattern,” Barnier says.

JBS Equipment mainly deals with solid manure products, offering many solutions and attachments to meet producers’ needs. The company’s spreaders all come standard with Vertimax Vertical Beaters, to offer a wide even spread pattern no matter what type of manure a producer needs to spread.

Many of our spreaders are equipped with Quick-Attach Vertical Beaters that can easily be removed when not needed or to change attachments.

“Our product lines range from some of the small spreaders for hobby or family farms up to the largest commercial spreaders available,” Barnier says. “We offer a variety of options and upgrades on spreaders, including track machines to reduce compaction, hurricane beaters for lightweight material, the ability to convert your manure spreader into a silage trailer and a variety of options of scale and rate controllers that can be installed during manufacturing or added after the fact.

According to Jason Steinley, vice president of sales and marketing at Dutch Industries the importance of keeping corrals clean directly impacts the health, safety and comfort of the animal. “The evolution of how the manure is handled has improved as technology has evolved,” Steinley says. 

As Steinley explains, manure spreading has gone from smaller spreaders that were slow to operate and prone to failures due to their basic and light design.

“Now spreaders are much larger, able to travel faster to the field and spread the manure quicker, evenly and consistently while covering larger areas of the field. Like in any farming operation, time is money,” Steinley says. “Our customers expect their spreader to be trouble free and allow them to get the job done well and as quickly as possible.”

The Dutch Agriculture BioSpreader is built out of heavy duty everything. From hardened steel that is used throughout the beaters to the robust floatation tires that offer low field compaction. The BioSpreader spreads the manure over widths of 40 feet evenly and quickly, in fact it has the ability to unload 14 tons of manure in as quick as 90 seconds. Dutch Industries offers two BioSpreaders that have the ability to go from 12- to 21-ton capacity depending on the configuration you choose.

The proper treatment of manure is as important as the equipment used to spread it. Doug Goodale, vice president of business development at EasyFix, says producers (and processors) are looking for ways to manage ammonia and methane. They are also faced with the challenge of increasing fertilizer and fuel costs.

EasyFix currently offers EasyFix Slurry Technology which is used to treat manure in deep pits, lagoons, and other tanks. The system reduces ammonia and methane by over 50%, increases the nitrogen available in the manure and eliminates the need for agitating the manure at pump time which saves fuel and labor time. Also, harmful gasses are reduced which makes is safe for animals and humans during the pump out.

Here’s how it works: The EasyFix Slurry Technology injects compressed air into slurry at specific points via non-return valves. The oxygen that flows through the valve creates a bubble and as it rises through the slurry it helps to break it down and ensure that it remains in a liquid state.

“Keeping slurry in this state eliminates the need for extensive, more rigorous agitating techniques which can prove costly in both monetary and labor terms,” Goodale says.

In addition, oxygenated slurry greatly reduces unpleasant odors which emit from slurry while, crucially, it reduces greenhouse gases such as methane and ammonia too.

“With increased focus being placed on reducing emissions from gases such as these, our technology can help meet reduction targets,” Goodale says. “The EasyFix technology has been in Europe for years, however, it’s fairly new to North America with only a couple of handfuls of systems installed. I’ve witnessed exponential interest in this by producers, processors, and universities.”

Mistakes To Avoid
When it comes to manure handling, the most frequent mistake the team at JBS Equipment sees producers make is not utilizing their manure to its full benefit. Whether that be by not applying manure in a uniform spread pattern or manure being treated like a waste product still and not being properly stored or handled. The quality of spread pattern has a lot to do with the type of equipment and/or attachments being used.

‘Usage of poor-quality equipment or the wrong attachment for the type of manure being spread often results in manure not being broken up properly and an inconsistent spread pattern,” Barnier says. “Inconsistent spread patterns will cause some areas of the field not receiving enough organic material and some receive too much. Some other very common mistakes we see is producers failing to adhere to prescribed spreading rates, and not taking due care or consideration when hauling manure handling equipment in the field.”

So what innovations are coming down the road that producers should watch for? Pik Rite, for instance, is bringing to market a new cross-application spreader that is designed to spread manure and lime efficiently.

“The insights our dealers and customers bring to identifying unmet needs and new opportunities are very valuable,” Gearhart says. “If we see a way to build a better mousetrap, we will.”

One common mistake Steinley sees producers make that can be hard to avoid is putting large objects such as rock, fence posts, concrete slabs and the like through the spreader, damaging its spreading components.  

“We can see the future bringing more functionality to the manure spreader. It has the potential to be used for other jobs on the farm such as a silage wagon, grain cart, spreading bedding, adding variable rate capabilities, and spreading Spreading different types of fertilizers such as lime, and wood ash.