Manure pumping and land application thoughts

Fall is in the air and for northern Iowa and southern Minnesota the ‘air’ includes the familiar smell of land application of stored manure. While I live in the community of North Mankato, this weekend I was constantly reminded that pigs and pork production are a large part of our ag community.

It’s time to once again think about safety when pit pumping. I’ve had one call already about dead pigs due to gases released during agitation. The vast majority of the deaths occur during initial agitation when large ‘spikes’ of hydrogen sulfide gas are released at points where the manure surface is broken. This breaking of the surface includes disturbances where under the surface pit agitation hits a pit wall or slat support column.

The ventilation rule to minimize the risk of pig death – fresh air to all pigs at all times! This often means doing things different, including risking chilled pigs.

If you are relying on negative pressure fans to move air in the animal space, it means reducing the amount of air entering the facility via the open pump port. An increasing number of commercial pit pumpers are either ‘tarping’ their pit pumps or devising other means to reduce the amount of air that can be drawn into the animal space at the open port.

With soil temperatures still well above 50F, have you considered a nitrification inhibitor to reduce soil bacterial conversion of ammonia to nitrates? The 4” soil temperature in at the research station at Waseca, MN has only dipped to 57F for a few hours so far this fall. This means locations further south have even warmer temperatures.

I know it can add to the things to do right when you’re busy loading and applying manure but keeping the applied nitrogen in the root zone for next years crop is not only making better use of the nitrogen but it is also keeping it out of the water table and tile lines.

The lawsuit filed by the Des Moines Municipal Water Works against 3 conservation districts in NW Iowa is a reminder to all of us in animal ag of the importance of doing everything right every time. We don’t know the outcome (other than huge legal bills for both sides of the dispute), but the risk of being identified as a point source for nitrates in the water seems to be growing and inhibitor use until soil temperatures drop is one way to prevent being a point source.

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