Nothing Goes to Waste: Storing Your Manure
Farming certainly has its ups and downs, but perhaps the most unappealing job of all is cleaning up manure. This job is certainly far from glamorous, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. Animal waste is naturally high in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other trace elements, so collecting and spreading manure on crop fields is extremely beneficial for plant growth. Whether you are looking to use this manure on your own crops, or looking to sell to other farmers, collecting and storing manure is an economical way to recycle waste and provide crops with highly valuable nutrition.
Forms of Storage
When storing manure, there are three states to be considered: solid state, semi-solid or slurry state and liquid state. Of these, storing manure in a solid state is the simplest and most convenient manner for most farmers, however others may find that a semi-solid or liquid storage state offers greater convenience to them in-particular. Deciding what state to store your manure in depends on your facilities and what you plan on using it for.
Solid State: To store manure in a solid state, keep it within a building that has sturdy walls and a roof. Solid manure can also be stockpiled, which is best done by piling manure on a base layer of crushed gravel or wood chips and then covering the mass with a tarp. The tarp keeps the pile dry and helps to reduce odor while the crushed gravel or wood chip base allows for drainage.
Semi-Solid/Slurry State: This style of storing manure requires the use of pumps, which move the manure from a loading area into the storage area. During this transportation process, solids will be partially separated from the liquid, which creates the semi-solid state. With semi-solid storage, the system must be regularly maintained to ensure that there is no leakage during transport or while in storage.
Liquid: Storing manure in a liquid state requires a large amount of space. Liquid manure can be stored in tanks, pits, earthen lagoons evaporation ponds or bermed areas. These storage facilities should be installed using great care and with a high attention to detail, as one small error could lead to leakage. A leak can cause the surrounding area to become contaminated and also creates a loss of valuable nutrients contained in the manure. Liquid manure is most commonly used in large dairy or swine farms as this type of storage system is complex and generally expensive.
No matter what way you are considering storing your manure, the location of your storage facility is always the most important factor. Rules and regulations, as well as recommended separation distances vary from state to state, so be sure to check with your local USDA Extension Service to find out what your exact regulations are. For general placement however, it is most important to ensure that your storage location is not near streams, wetlands or floodplains as this could lead to runoff which can contaminate offsite lakes or streams. Storage facilities should also be placed in a well-drained area, as this will prevent stagnant water build-up which can create problems with bacteria and insects. Manure storage facilities should also be located away from livestock housing or pasture areas, as a location near livestock can lead to a spread of parasites.
Managing Your Manure
If stored improperly, manure is subject to losing a majority of the highly valuable nutrients that many seek. This means a serious decrease in profit if you are selling or a reduction in nutritional value if you are planning to use it on your fields. To properly store your manure, consider the following list of rules:
- Keep manure dry. This preserves the greatest amount of nutrition and will provide the most value for your crops.
- Do not use insecticides or larvacides as this can lead to unwanted chemicals being passed onto your crops. Many suggest introducing non-stinging wasps, because they live in the manure and will kill any unwanted flies before they hatch.
- Do not remove all manure at once. Instead, leave at least a few inches of dry manure that will keep a constant population of fly parasites and predators. Removing all manure at once will cause any current fly repellants to die off, meaning fly protection will need to be re-instituted and re-populated in the next manure pile.
- Locate your storage area in a place where trucks, loaders and tractors have easy access. This makes working with the manure much less time consuming.
- Consider placing your storage area where there are a number of surrounding trees. This can help reduce odor and prevent the manure pile from becoming an eyesore.
- Be sure that all clean water does not come in contact with the manure pile. Rainwater and other runoff should be redirected away from the manure pile so that the need to treat contaminated water is kept at a minimum.
- Treat any and all “dirty” water. Divert drainage and all water that comes in contact with the stored manure to a highly vegetated area for treatment. Grasses absorb many of the toxins and pollutants that are contained in the runoff, so directing this dirty water to a contained field is best.
- Do not set your storage location on a steep slope or incline. The lower the slope, the easier it is to contain runoff.
- Plan ahead. Anticipate how much manure you will need to store based on the type and number of livestock you own. This can be done by looking up a manure content sheet, which lists various livestock and gives an approximation of their manure produced daily.
Storing manure is a great way to utilize a common farm byproduct. Your livestock’s waste can be used as a valuable tool for producing crops, and with proper preparation and maintenance of your manure storage area, capitalizing on this option is surprisingly easy.