Three well-known dairy farms in east central Wisconsin were mentioned during a recent webinar as users of a new product, which is touted to produce several benefits when applied to manure that is stored in lagoons.
Titled "Fresh Perspective on Manure Management," the webinar was sponsored by Dairy Herd Management magazine in conjunction with SFP, a Kansas company that makes a water soluble polymer called "More Than Manure."
The Webinar speakers were SFP's research coordinator Matt Werner and its regional account manager for Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota Dave Kaltenberg, who is also a partner in Kaltenberg Farms at Waunakee.
Werner said most manure handling systems are inefficient in terms of preserving nutrients for crop growth because of the loss of ammonia (nitrogen). If there's a smell from a manure storage site, that means a loss is occurring, he stated.
University research shows that nitrogen losses can reach 60 percent before liquid manure is applied to cropland and that additional losses occur following the application, Werner reported. How much is lost after application depends on how quickly the manure is incorporated, whether it is injected, and on the timing, especially with how soon rainfall follows a surface application, he indicated.
SFP's polymer product reduces the nitrogen loss and makes phosphorus available more quickly to field crops, Werner said. It attaches itself to those fertilizer ingredients and has a longevity of 10 to 12 months, he noted.
With nitrogen, "More Than Manure" limits the losses that otherwise occur through volatization and leaching and it slows denitrification while with phosphorus it prevents the interlocking with soil particles, Werner explained.
Werner cited the results obtained by a researcher at the University of Idaho and described the technical details of how the product works. To be most effective, he said the product should be placed in manure lagoons 2 to 3 months before the manure is agitated and removed.
While noting that "the retailer sets the price," Kaltenberg indicated that the approximate cost of "More Than Manure" is $1 per ounce. That converts to a cost of about $18 per acre when used at the recommended rate and at liquid manure application rates appropriate for crop needs and natural resource conservation and protection.
Kaltenberg mentioned a product volume of 25 gallons for treating a 1.75 million gallon lagoon. He noted that it could also be mixed in as manure is pumped to a truck or tanker and that it is appropriate for pivot distribution.
"More Than Manure" is non-toxic, is non-corrosive, and does not restrict any crop rotation choices, Kaltenberg stated. It has a pH of 3.4, is biodegradable, and does not kill soil microbes, he said.
In addition to reducing the release of ammonia, "More Than Manure" breaks up the crusts that typically form on manure lagoons, converts the manure solids to liquid, and reduces the foam that sometimes forms during loading and then spills from a truck or tanker, Kaltenberg observed.
What Kaltenberg described as "a secondary benefit" includes corn yield increases of 10-18 bushels per acre in side by side trials in Wisconsin and Minnesota after liquid manure treated with the product was applied to those fields. At a corn price of $4 per bushel, there would a net return on product invested with any yield increase of at least 4.5 bushels per acre, he indicated.
The saving and availability of nutrients credited to the product has been shown in more root growth and larger stems, leaves, and ears on corn plants, Kaltenberg reported. He said the fall application of liquid manure treated with "More Than Manure" has worked well in Iowa.
Kaltenberg suggests allowing 10 weeks for the product to work in manure lagoons before field application. That means placing it in the lagoon during January for a spring application or in May for a fall application, he observed.
Majestic Meadows Dairy in Sheboygan County began using the SFP product at its 15 million and 6 million gallon manure lagoons at separate farm sites in 2012, Kaltenberg reported. He showed pictures of how the former crusts had virtually disappeared by 5 weeks after the treatment and stated that only minimal smell was being noticed when the lagoon was agitated.
Near Van Dyne in northern Fond du Lac, John Ruedinger began using the product in April of 2013 in a 6 million gallon manure lagoon, Kaltenberg continued. He said the results have included a reduction of solids, more homogeneous manure, and better clean-out of the lagoon.
At Lake Breeze Dairy near Pipe in northeast Fond du Lac County, a two-year study launched in 2013 has been showing dramatic differences in lagoons with 23 and 26 million gallon capacities, Kaltenberg remarked. He mentioned the application of 240 gallons of product to the 26 million gallon unit.
The results at Lake Breeze have included elimination of the previous weed growth on the crusted lagoon surface, a better mixing of liquids and solids, much easier agitation and pumping, and time and labor saving during liquid manure removal, Kaltenberg stated.
At Beyer Hog Farm near Minnesota Lakes, MN., "More Than Manure" has been very effective in reducing a foam problem and comparative readings on ammonia have been reduced from 26 parts per million to 8 parts, Kaltenberg reported. He has also worked with dairy operations in Texas, Oregon, and Idaho.
Werner and Kaltenberg said a lagoon should be at least 25 percent filled before the product is added. They noted that because it disperses on its own no agitation is needed at that time, that it needs to placed in the liquid manure and not on the crust, and that replenishing after partial manure removal need only match the volume of manure that will be added.
Bedding type makes a difference in how well or quickly the solids will be converted to liquid in the treated lagoons, Kaltenberg pointed out. He said soybean straw is the most difficult but that the product is effective in removing the bulk of sawdust and in not allowing fibers to embed in sand that reaches a lagoon.
Responding to a question, Kaltenberg said that "More Than Manure" has not been registered for organic production but noted that one certifying agency plans to review that possibility.
Regarding manure nitrogen credits, Werner said the product "protects what's there for the first year." For a 2nd or 3rd year, he said the product is not a factor in the breakdown of organic matter that provides crop nutrients.
In addition to the economic and environmental benefits, Werner said both scientific and anecdotal evidence show that the cutbacks in gas releases is welcomed by both animals and humans in the vicinity of manure lagoons. "It holds ammonia at bay," he stated.
"It makes some people happy," Kaltenberg said in referring to one situation where the use of the product has reduced the odor that was irritating to nearby residents.
More information about "More Than Manure" can be obtained on the www.SFP.com website.