WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- As livestock operations continue to grow in average size, one problem many of them share is what to do with all of the waste they generate.
It's not just manure, although goodness knows there's plenty of that. There's also spoiled feed, moldy hay, office paper, damaged crops, even animal carcasses.
Dairy farms scrape the stalls daily and spread the manure on farm fields, but hog farms, beef feedlots and poultry operations all have problems with what to do with all of the manure they produce.
Purdue University researchers have found that composting waste from livestock operations can be an efficient way to manage the waste with less cost. Composting also virtually eliminates smells and runoff problems.
Researchers Larry Wood and Mark Hamilton of the Department of Animals Sciences and Stephen Hawkins, assistant director of the Purdue Agricultural Centers, have been conducting a pilot project at the Purdue Animal Science Research Center, which has 400 head of livestock. They have found that composting offers many advantages to livestock producers.
"Before this we had to do a daily scrape and haul," Hawkins says. "In all weather, 365 days of the year, we had to spread the manure on the fields. It was hard to find good people to do it, it was hard on the equipment, and the constant driving across the fields was causing soil compaction.
"We've gone from spreading manure on a daily basis to spreading compost five or six days a year."
Composting is also safer for the environment than stockpiling manure, according to
Hawkins. "Stockpiled manure is not environmentally stable, which poses some safety
concerns," he says. "There is the possibility of leachate moving off-site and into
nearby streams. If the manure is spread on fields during the winter, it may not decompose,
and then it can run off the fields into streams when it rains. Composting allows
the manure to stay in a managed holding pattern until the ti
Contact: Steve Tally