Memorial funds from fallen farmer aim to keep others safe from deadly manure gases

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Cheryl Skjolaas, University of Wisconsin Extension, discusses safe manure handling with emergency responders on July 23 during a workshop hosted by the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund at the Biadasz farm, Amherst.

AMHERST, Wis. - Standing in front of a memorial placed near the edge of a large outdoor manure pit, Cheryl Skjolaas shared the risks of deadly manure gases with emergency responders at a workshop hosted by the Mike Biadasz family at their farm near Amherst.

The memorial honors the life of Mike Biadasz, who died on Aug. 15, 2016, after being overcome by deadly fumes emanating from the manure pit.

The 29-year-old had arrived on the farm before 6:30 a.m. and began agitating the large outdoor pit in preparation for a day of manure hauling. That day, the hydrogen sulfide gas fumes released from the manure from the pit became trapped beneath warm air high in the sky that foggy morning.

A farm employee found Biadasz lying still on the edge of the pit. The family not only lost a son and brother, but 16 head of cattle standing near the pit as well.

Since his untimely death, his family has been raising funds and awareness in their quest to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to others. The July 23 and 24 workshops are just an example of the many events hosted by Biadasz' family and funded by the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund.

“We are so happy to have you all here,” Diane Biadasz, Mike’s mother, told the assembled responders. “This means a lot to us. This is what Mike would have wanted us to do, to share this information with others.”

Even from a young age, Michael loved farming and would never dream of pursuing any other profession. At 29, his love took his life when he was overcome by manure fumes outside their home, and died nearly instantly.

The training workshops for emergency response personnel were conducted by University of Wisconsin Extension staff from several counties. The educational event covered safety aspects of manure storage/handling, grain handling, animal handling and machinery hazards.

Invisible danger

While most associate these deadly situations involving dangerous fumes with confined spaces, Skjolaas, agricultural safety specialist for University of Wisconsin-Extension, says gases pose a risk and are difficult to detect wherever they’re released.

“You’re not going to smell them. You’re not going to see them,” she said. “If you’re working around it, it’s hard to know where that gas is.”

A four-gas monitor stands near the manure pit where Mike Biadasz was overcome by manure gas on the family's farm in Amherst.

In order to detect this invisible danger, the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Memorial Fund is offering rebates of $75 per gas monitor to Wisconsin farmers and manure haulers who rent the portable devices to detect highly toxic hydrogen sulfide and other gases typically generated during agitation of manure storage units.

Farmers and haulers are encouraged to rent a four-gas monitor from any recognized gas monitor rental company, then mail in the receipt and completed rebate form. Program participants can rent up to five monitors per operation. The monitors are part of an ongoing safety campaign honoring Mike Biadasz.

Information and forms are available at For more information, email

Those who mention the Mike Biadasz Manure-Gas Monitor Rebate Program will receive special pricing from Premier Safety, Inc. by calling (586) 840-3204.  Orders placed by 2 p.m. Central Time, will be shopped that day and arrive the next day.

The rebate program is in collaboration with the Marshfield Clinic Health System Center for Community Health Advancement, and the National Farm Medicine Center.

The Stevens Point Journal contributed to this story.