Small drips become big dollars

In another 6-8 weeks, many of the readers of this blog will be thinking about issues associated with the pumping of manure pits. In southern Minnesota, many custom applicators will begin applying manure for some clients in the next few weeks following sweet corn harvest. For many production facilities, fall harvest can come none too soon as their pits are approaching being full.


All of the land grant universities in states with swine production have faculty involved in research and extension activities dealing with the fertilizer value of swine manure. This is a hot topic as many cash grain farmers are now seeking linkages to swine production units (especially wean-finish or grow-finish barns) in order to access the manure.


One of the big issues in deciding on the manure application rate as a fertilizer resource is the concentration of N-P-K in the manure. Waste water, most often from leaking drinkers, is a major item affecting the final concentration of these nutrients in the manure.


This week in a meeting with 2 production groups, we got into a discussion of how much water do leaking drinkers really produce. This morning I decided to test how fast leaking drinkers contribute to manure volume. I set my kitchen faucet to drip at 15 drips per 10 seconds. This is a rate where you can easily count the drips. When I collected the drips, I had 20 ml of water in a syringe after 1 minute. This doesn’t sound like much water. However, over 24 hours this 20 ml/minute rate adds up to 7.6 gal.


Seven to eight gallons per day doesn’t sound like much until you consider that this fall many producers will be paying commercial manure applicators $0.01 to $0.0125 per gallon for the removal and land application of their manure. This means every leaking drinker dripping at the rate I set my kitchen faucet adds $0.08-0.10 to the manure application bill.


When I walk client’s facilities, it is not uncommon to identify several leaking drinkers, either cups or nipple drinkers. Even wet/dry and tube feeders leak and overflow. At the time, a small drip doesn’t seem like a big deal. However, at $0.10/day/drinker, it soon adds up to a major expense to a production unit. Those small drips can become big expenses.

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