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Manure

See what farms are using for nutrient management, from anaerobic digesters and storage to field application and emissions.

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Ammonia used to be considered only as a nuisance odor emitted by dairies and other livestock operations. Now, ammonia is known to react with atmospheric nitric and sulfuric acids to form fine particulate matter (known as PM2.5), which is a major contributor to smog production.

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Dairy farms are thought to emit large amounts of ammonia, therefore contributing to nitrogen (N) fertilization of natural ecosystems and providing precursors for particulates that adversely affect air quality and human health. The 2003 National Research Council report Air Emissions from Animal Agriculture made an urgent call for processed-based research to assist livestock producers and regulatory agencies in developing strategies that reduce the emissions of ammonia and other gasses that impair air quality.

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Designing a new manure-handling facility is sometimes easier than improving an existing nutrient management facility, but there are some basic components that need to be included in any good manure-handling system. The operation and maintenance of the system needs to be considered at the time of design.

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Editor’s note: The following is the first installment of a four-part series summarizing fact sheets written by Wendy Powers entitled “The Power of Smell.”

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There are a wide variety of farms. They vary in their resources and their environmental concerns. Some farms have access to more capital, skilled labor, management ability, land resources, water resources and markets than other farms. Different manure treatment and handling methods are needed to match the resources and needs of different farms. Recent studies have shown manure-handling costs on farms can be significant. Figure 1* shows costs collected from western New York dairies in 1996. These do not include storage costs and they do not include additional costs that increased management from the implementation of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) would require.

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Complaints about the smell of farms in Ottawa County, Michigan, have wafted away on the wind, thanks in part to a tri-fold brochure. Nearly three years ago, the county first produced the brochure, titled “If you are thinking about moving to the country,” which included a small panel where people could scratch and sniff an accurate whiff of cattle manure.

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