Manure Handling Systems - Many Options
Published on Wed, 07/15/2020 - 10:43am
Manure Handling Systems - Many Options.
By Heather Smith Thomas.
Large dairies, feedlots and other confinement livestock operations must have a way to dispose of or make use of wastes from the livestock, old bedding, etc. There are a number of manure disposal/recycling systems available today.
Dave Gearhart (Spreader Sales Product Manager) says his company has several types and sizes of manure spreaders for various needs. “We started in 2000 with our Hydra-Ram line which is similar to John Deere’s Hydra-Push spreaders. Ours was a smaller horizontal beater and a mid-size horizontal beater-spreader, and parts were interchangeable with John Deere models,” he says.
“In 2007 we came out with vertical beater models. Europeans had already been running that kind of equipment. This type of spreader gives wider distribution; rather than just spreading a strip 10 to 12 feet wide, the vertical model can spread the material 25 feet. This means fewer trips over the field and less soil compaction. Many of our customers use these models for top-dressing manure on hayfields,” says Gearhart.
“We started building bigger models for larger farms, and now have a tri-axle unit that hauls 30 tons of manure. We also have customers who have chickens and pigs as well as cattle. Many farmers are starting to use chain spreaders because they work better for cattle manure/litter,” he explains. These spreaders can be loaded with any type of loader from a pile of manure or compost.
Technology has advanced, and today there are scale systems, especially for the litters because of their high nitrogen levels. “There are many different scale systems available today—from simple methods that weigh the load to systems that meter the load so you can apply the proper amount of tons per acre on the field. The farmer doesn’t have to do the math to figure out how many tons he is applying per acre,” says Gearhart.
“We do a lot of customization depending on what a farmer wants to spread. There are many types of beater systems, for instance, and farmers in different regions have different preferences on the way the beaters are set up. Some customers want a straight knife on the entire beater, sliding up through every paddle. Others want a combination of a knife and a claw. We try to provide options, depending on the material they are spreading,” he says.
The chain spreaders work nicely, and a person can also buy a compost attachment that can spread litter farther. “We can do litter and a pen pack with a vertical beater. In some instances, however, a customer may need both beater sets. The compost unit will throw litter over a much wider area--with a much higher speed and a bigger spinner,” he explains.
With the chain spreaders a person can also spread lime as well as manure. “Some farmers are trying to diversify their equipment to do everything so they don’t need so much equipment. Even our bigger models can be used by customers to haul manure in a pen pack and they can switch the beaters to do litter, and can also use it for a haylage cart. We made a side extension that makes it two feet higher so they can haul silage or haylage with the same machine,” he says.
Pik Rite is one of the only companies that offers a 250-bushel vertical beater spreader for the small farmer. In northern Pennsylvania there are also some older generation dairies with barn cleaners and low clearance. “For those we took our smaller spreaders and made a lower vertical beater just for those customers so they can continue to function in their operation and still have nice spread width,” he says.
This liquid manure injection equipment manufacturer (based in Iowa) has a product lineup that helps farmers utilize manure as fertilizer. The company produces dragline and tank application equipment that meet the needs of farmers and custom applicators.
Marcus Davis is an equipment specialist at Bazooka Farmstar, and also has a commercial custom application business of his own. For 17 years, Davis and his crew has helped farmers who want to put the nutrients from their livestock facilities (hog barns or cattle operations with a deep pit) into their crop fields to help maximize yields. “I come to their farm and do that service for them,” says Davis.
“We lay out mile-long sections of soft hose from the manure source to the field, to transfer the liquid and inject manure. This dragline method of manure injection helps eliminate compaction throughout the field and doesn’t damage roadways. Application rates are based on what we can apply to that field, according to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) regulations--which are determined by the amount of nutrients found in a specific manure type,” he says.
“Hog manure and cow manure have different consistency and nutrient content, but we maintain a constant flow and inject this material 4-6” below ground, into the ideal root-zone. The spacing of injections units across the width of a toolbar dictate the nutrient distribution throughout the field,” he explains. It’s adjusted for each individual situation.
The material can be distributed from a lagoon or pit—whatever the dairy, feedlot or hog operation utilizes for manure collection. Many feedlots today have deep pits underneath them. “This is becoming more common in our region, and this type of set-up is similar to a hog barn with a deep pit,” says Davis.
The equipment specialist or sales representative evaluates each operation. “If a farmer wants to begin applying their own manure, our specialists can tailor whatever equipment would be best for the specific needs of that operation—whether it’s dairy or hogs. We want to be sure the system works well for their operation’s goals.”
The company has a dealer network throughout the US and Canada with concentrated areas in the Midwest and eastern regions to provide a local level of support, service and parts. “The dealer often brings us along on their farm calls because we add another layer of expertise. We know our own equipment and what might work best for that particular farmer or custom applicator,” says Kendra Ellis, Marketing Manager.
Liquid livestock is a great natural source of fertilizer for crops, but government regulations determine application rates and methods. “Regulations will vary depending on region, which also dictate the application method utilized. Studies are showing that injecting manure, compared to top-spreading, is safer, more efficient, and better for the environment. States with more lenient rules and regulations (eastern and western regions), tend to utilize top-spread application (quick, easy, and more affordable) even though it doesn’t maximize the benefit of nutrients found in the manure.
For farmers who want to invest in a manure management solution, but don’t want to invest as much up front, Bazooka Farmstar offers a tank injection alternative. The liquid waste is transported to the field with a big portable tank, applied with an injection toolbar affixed to the back. The tank must make a number of trips to and from the field, as opposed to a constant flow of the dragline method.
Ethan Curry says his company’s goal is to efficiently and cost-effectively manage manure while protecting the farmer’s investment as well as the environment. Whether recycling liquid slurry or recovery of reusable solid content, Doda USA offers a wide selection of specialized, high-performance equipment to facilitate each farm’s agricultural waste management plan. “The first product the company built was a trapper pump that works well for manure that contains straw. Other versions plug up and can’t handle the thick solids,” he explains.
“After that, we added other items to complement the pumps; custom-built mixers and propeller mixers for the dairy reception pits or underground manure storage pits. We also manufacture all the piping and hose for the complete system,” says Curry. “Most of our products are built with stainless steel so they last a long time and don’t rust. They can withstand the corrosive nature of the manure,” he explains.
Every farm is a little different on how these need to be set up, and his company makes whatever products are needed. “We have a manure separator that we’ve been producing for about 10 years that separates solids from the liquids, and the dry product coming out of the machine can be put back into the stalls for bedding,” he says. This material is clean and dry and eliminates the need for any other bedding. It just keeps being recycled, along with the fresh manure/bedding coming into the process, so there is always plenty of bedding.
“We’ve sold these manure separators to farms all across the U.S. The liquid part can be put into a pit and ultimately used as fertilizer, and much easier to manage without the solids; you don’t have to stir it up to haul or spread it. The farmer can run the leftover water through an irrigation gun, to spread over the field that way,” he says.
“We service some small dairies that split the cost with a neighboring farm. When separating dairy manure they end up with more bedding material than they need, and they share the bedding produced. There are also other uses for this material—for composting, potting plants, etc.—and it is marketable for many purposes. One farm here in Minnesota bags and sells their leftover material,” says Curry.
“We are a small family-owned business. If customers need something unique, our owners and engineers can work with them and create something to fit their needs. Most of our equipment is sold to dairies but we have a line of high-pressure chopper pumps for beef feedlots. Some states have new regulations for feedlot runoff, and they have to capture all the water or anything liquid so it can’t contaminate surrounding areas. We have another line of pumps that works well for that because it has a built-in chopping system,” he says.
Jason Rinne (Advertising & Marketing Coordinator) says one of Daritech’s online ads states that their services range from milk to manure. “We can handle everything and anything a farmer might need within a dairy operation.”
Manure management solutions are tailor-made for certain farms, depending on herd size, manure output, and methods for recovering, holding and distributing that manure. “We have all kinds of options for separation, whether the farm is using green bedding or sand, etc. and creative process flow solutions for all scenarios,” says Rinne.
“Having been in business for 30 years, we’ve seen it all, and our systems have evolved because these processes are constantly changing. The more we learn, the more we understand the impact of the entire dairy process on everything—from the farmland to local streams, and everything around the farm. For farmers, this is a moving target. They are always trying to find balance,” he says.
“At Daritech, it’s always about efficiency and figuring out a way to automate systems that make sense to give the dairy farmer flexibility in utilizing the equipment—and not having to add more labor. We provide the tools to meet any challenge and accomplish their goals,” he explains.
“An example is our industrial scale in-vessel composting drum. When bedding cows on sawdust or shavings, this is a way to recover and compost that material for re-use with no pathogens.” This composter, the BeddingMaster, is designed and built in Lynden, Washington. Scraped manure or dewatered flush manure is fed directly into an EYS Separator to provide ideal feedstock for the BeddingMaster (manure solids at 35% dry matter). The material is composted (which heats and dries it) and it can then be re-used as bedding. This finished material is light and fine and looks like peat moss, but is dry and sterile.
By composting manure solids, the microbes that consume the organic matter are already in the solids, courtesy of the cows. Once inside the BeddingMaster, these microbes proliferate as they finish the job begun in the cows’ rumens. A blower pulls air through the drum, which mixes with the solids tumbling from rotation of the drum. Within a few hours, activity of the bacteria brings the temperature to over 150°F where it stays as the material moves through the drum.
Another technology separates manure from sand if cattle are bedded on sand. “We have a system for sand recovery; the sand can be removed from the effluent and reused. If the farm has to keep purchasing and bringing in new bedding material, that’s revenue lost, so we figured out a way to recover that,” says Rinne.
“We continue to develop new technology. We are introducing a new evaporation system that will give farmers more flexibility to handle all their manure in an innovative way that gives them an end product they can market while substantially decreasing their liquid manure hauling costs,” he says.
“Our goal is to help with efficiency and streamlining, and not have to rely on so many outside sources and extra costs. We have complete flush systems designed to recover and re-use separated effluent and have also introduced a new robotic milker flush system. Robotic milking units are being installed all over the country, so we designed a flush system that helps keep all those lanes clean. It is tailor made for each operation,” he explains.
“We engineer, design and develop all these systems in-house, so if a farmer tells us what their current system is, or what they are thinking of doing, we can tailor-make a system for them” says Rinne.
Daritech also has numerous pumping solutions, with various pump applications to fit a farmer’s needs. “We have an auto-prime pump unit that is vacuum operated, so it never loses pressure. We try to come up with solutions to enable a farmer to automate various systems with more efficiency and less energy use with less overhead.”
“Our founder, Dave DeWaard has always been focused on this. His operative term is ‘process flow’. We have creative process flow solutions for any farm size. Not very many companies understand this concept and take the overall look at the process on a specific farm, and how the farmer is managing all of it. Rather than just providing one tool that we think will improve one aspect of the system, we take an overview of the whole system to see where we can increase efficiency,” he says.
“With a diverse range of systems; we can provide just a solid-separation unit that is cost-effective for a farm, if that’s all they need. Or we can go all the way up to centrifuge technology, sand separation systems, or total dairy flush systems.”
Craig Murphy (Vice President of Originations) says his company partners with dairy and swine operations around the country to augment their existing manure-handling practices—with a specific focus on removing all the methane emission from standard practices.
The current standard practices in most regions is to take all the manure and put it into long-term storage lagoons. “In those lagoons it goes through an anaerobic process that creates methane, so we partner with the farmers to come in and deal with that. If they are scraping or back-trucking the manure, we build an anaerobic digester into their process,” he says.
This is like a super composting system. “Our free-standing anaerobic digester takes only 21 days to complete the process. All the effluent is removed and given back to the farmer who can either put it in his long-term storage lagoons or apply it directly to his fields. If it’s put in a lagoon, all the methane has already been taken out,” says Murphy.
“The biogas from the digester is about 60% pure methane and about 40% carbon dioxide. We put it through a filter to take out all the CO2 and are left with just methane. We put the methane into the nearest natural gas pipeline--recycled for beneficial use.”
Many transportation vehicles such as buses are now fueled by natural gas, which emits 6% to 11% lower levels of greenhouse gases than does gasoline. “The natural gas we put into pipelines can be used to offset the transportation industry,” he explains.
“It’s an environmental concern to have farms emitting large amounts of methane every year, so we help solve that problem and create offsets for natural gas that would be used elsewhere because we can put it right into the pipeline,” says Murphy.
Some farmers use the manure products on their fields as fertilizer. “When all the manure is put into a digester, it doesn’t change the NPK content very much so it still has the nutrients needed by soil. Many farmers just put it in collection ponds and then apply it to their fields at proper time to fertilize crops. But when you use a digester you have all that manure coming at a constant flow at a constant temperature, so if there’s anything else you want to do with it—like take out all the phosphorus or have higher concentration of nitrogen—it gives you the ability to do that,” he explains.
“We can put a centrifuge at the back end of the digester and help the farm do exactly what they want with their NPK and provide what their soil needs. It’s helpful for people who may not have all their fields contiguous and next to their dairy. They might have to truck fertilizer to different locations, so if we can condense the NPK content into smaller volume it can be transported a lot easier,” he says.
“We spend a lot of time with our engineering and operations crew looking at ideas. At Brightmark we don’t have any particular vendors or equipment providers that we are tied to and we are free to create whatever is the best fit at each farm. We try all the new technologies and find the ones that work best—for the specific conditions on a certain farm,” Murphy says.
“For our digesters in Florida, Arizona and California where it’s warmer, we often use a covered lagoon. In the north we may use plug-flow digesters or fleet mix digesters that are insulated for winter conditions. Each region has its own climate challenges, and different water uses, and CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) permitting. Different regions are more concerned about different things. We have a project in Wisconsin that is on a watershed so they are very concerned about phosphorus. We do some additional treatment of that manure to pull more of the phosphorus out, which makes the county very happy,” he says.
Brightmark partners with the farms long-term. “When we develop these projects we own and operate them. We pay all the installation costs and try to fit it into what the farmers are currently doing, as much as possible, and they hardly even know we are there. We are simply renting their manure for 3 weeks (in the digester) and hopefully giving it back to them in a better form. Most of the farmers we work with seem to like this approach; they don’t have to learn all the new things about running a digester; they can leave it to the professionals. I don’t want to milk their cows and they don’t want to learn to run this equipment. They do what they do best and we try to do what we do best and it works out well for everyone. In the end, the farmers we work with have a revenue stream from the RNG (renewable natural gas) produced and together we are creating a positive effect on the environment. It’s a real win-win.”