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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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Methane digesters have recently come under fire in California. Once seen as a viable option for helping producers deal with problems associated with manure management, the engines used to convert biogas into electricity have come under fire as an unwelcome source of emissions many air boards are clamping down on. Without the ability to generate additional income or offset energy use at the dairy, many had considered digesters a dying part of manure management.

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Can dairy farmers capture energy contained in manure produced by their cows and improve their operation’s sustainability, profitability and public image?

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Making electricity is more than flipping a switch or trapping gas. Indeed, the process takes much longer than many hope for, and with all the responsibilities on the farm to take care of, it’s a process that demands more time than a producer has. What are the steps to getting your digester hooked up to the grid? And who should you work with to get your methane making money?

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Carbon credits – their creation, how they will impact the struggling economy – are not only generating buzz and discussion online, but action on several fronts. Washington State’s governor has proposed a statewide, cap-and-trade; California and other states have either enacted or are currently evaluating similar legislation; and, for the first time, a proposed federal budget includes a revenue line item generated from a national cap-and-trade system seeking to limit and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

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The addition of anaerobic digestion with biogas utilization or sale (hereafter a biogas system) to a dairy or other livestock operation can significantly reduce odor problems and possibly increase net farm income. In addition, it can substantially reduce the emission of methane.

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Manure can contain significant amounts of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and other essential plant nutrients. Concentration of these nutrients in livestock manure can also be highly variable and depends mainly upon the animal species, age, diet and how the manure has been stored and handled. Therefore, laboratory analysis is the best way to determine the level of nutrients in the material to be applied.

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