Although we may be biased, we feel it is hard to find a career more noble than being stewards of this earth’s beautiful land and caretakers for thousands of precious animals’ lives. Because we take this responsibility so seriously, we are continually evaluating and changing our farming and livestock practices in an effort to improve our world. We would like to share with you a few of our practices that separate us from agricultural norms and aid us in being better stewards and caretakers.
The recent addition of our anaerobic digester has allowed us to manage hog and cattle manure in a whole new way: a more responsible and environmentally friendly way. We feed hog manure and cattle manure to our digester every day of the year, which allows us to continually remove the manures from our hog pits and cattle barns. Standard operations are limited to land applying manures in the spring before planting and in the fall after harvest. These limited application windows can cause hog pits and cattle barns to fill up.
A full hog pit has undeniable adverse effects on air quality for the animals inside the barn and for the environment outside of the barn. Full pits reduce the amount of air space between the liquid level and the hog slats that the hogs live on. A reduction in air space means the ammonia and methane levels are more concentrated toward the area the hogs are living in. This lack of air space also reduces the ability of the pit exhaust fans to remove the contaminated air from the barn. Although the concept of pit exhaust fans can help increase the quality of life for the animals inside the barn, they are simply exhausting the contaminated air to the atmosphere and reducing the quality of the air that we breathe each day.
Our ability to continually remove manure from the pits throughout the year has a positive effect on the air quality for both the animals and the environment. Reducing the total gallons of manure in the pit reduces the amount of ammonia and methane present in the animals’ living environment. Instead of the manure being stored in an open pit where the gases are exhausted to the atmosphere, we transport the manure to our digester facility where it is processed in an anaerobic (the absence of oxygen) digester, thus minimizing emissions to our atmosphere.
A similar process is implemented for the management of cattle manure. We entirely remove cattle manure from our site three times a week, with the exception of the bed pack that the animals lay on. We “bed” the cattle barns with straw, which creates a dry and comfortable location for the animals to lay. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday our livestock crew scrapes the cattle lots of all loose manure and haul the manure to our digester facility to be processed in our anaerobic digester. Without the digester, we would still scrape the lots regularly, but the manure would be stored outside in a bunker where gases would freely escape to the atmosphere until we could land-apply the manure. While the air quality in the barn may not improve as much for the cattle as it does for the hogs, the air quality outside of the barns and in our environment improves significantly.