New fertilizer restrictions in Netherlands strain shippers

Can Canadian livestock producers learn any lessons from their European cousins when it comes to transporting waste?

Half the phosphorus pentoxide generated by livestock manure in the Netherlands must be exported out of the country beginning in January.

The country’s small, low-lying land base cannot accept more phosphorus pentoxide-laden manure.

The Netherlands has more than 500 specialty manure transport semi-trucks that are designed to move raw and processed manure.

They serve a law which, since last year, required that 10 percent of the livestock-generated phosphorus pentoxide be removed from the country.

There’s little doubt that the number of manure transports will soar in 2015.

Canada, on the other hand, has millions of unused acres where manure could go, so it’s hard to imagine a similarity between the two countries in terms of manure disposal.

However, Canada has scattered pockets of land-locked, highly productive, intensively managed livestock enterprises where manure disposal has long been a problem.

Manure trucking has already become an issue in these areas in terms of degradation of the road system, public safety and the economic radius of how far from the farm a trucker can afford to haul.

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The Netherlands’ export requirements are seen as that country’s answer to the problem.

This puts the onus on the transportation industry because trucks are the only practical way to move that much manure.

Pipelines and rail lines have definite start and stop spots, while trucks are flexible when it comes to picking up and dropping off.

The manure transport business developed because of a logistical gap between livestock producers who wanted manure gone from their farm and custom applicators who wanted the manure delivered on time to precise locations.

The applicators seized the business opportunity and became manure brokers, who contracted with livestock producers to haul manure away at a certain price. The applicators then contracted with cash crop farmers who wanted manure spread on their land on a specific date.

The government’s manure export legislation also mandated that all trucks carrying manure as part of the compliance program must be sampled and their travel routes charted using a GPS-equipped tamper-proof manure auto-sampler.

The device takes samples, tracks the trailer to the drop-off point and records all fills and dumps. Documentation from the auto-sampler is one part of a rigorous paper trail that follows truck shipments leaving the country.

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The manure is shipped to Germany because it is close, is the only nearby nation with a large land base and is a world leader in ecologically friendly power production. More than 5,000 anaerobic digesters need manure to keep the lights on.

The European Union passed a regulation in 2009 that requires all manure products crossing EU borders to be heated for one hour at a temperature of 70 C to reduce the number of viable pathogens. The procedure must be documented to Germany’s satisfaction and is now a standard that is recommended internationally.

Agra-Gold Consulting of Manitoba said there is a significant difference in water efficiency be-tween Manitoba and the Netherlands.

A feeder operation in the Netherlands manages 220 gallons per feeder space of manure per year, while a feeder operation in Manitoba with an earthen manure storage facility manages 550 gallons per feeder space of manure per year.

Dutch barns had the same inefficiency in the 1970s as Manitoba feeder barns do today.

Agro-Gold said the economics of handling and transporting man-ure encouraged Dutch producers to improve barn design, water management and manure storage and handling.

Contact ron.lyseng@producer.com

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