A pile of reasons to value manure

They said it was a crappy idea. Some even used a less benign adjective.

It stinks, they said. Reeks, even.

But other factions said the idea would hold water. They insisted that, properly handled, it could be spread among interested parties. It could be broken down and provide nutrition to fertile brains.

OK, enough with the manure-related word play.

You have in your hands an entire issue dedicated to manure — what it contains, what it does, where it goes and how.

Manure is a fact of life in agriculture. For some, it presents a problem and for others an opportunity. In either case, it must be dealt with, and as you will find in coming pages, there are beneficial, creative and productive ways to do it.

Incorporating manure into adjacent fields was no problem when hogs, dairy, poultry, beef, sheep and other livestock were raised on small farms scattered around the country.

However, an economic ring was formed around each farm as the livestock sector intensified and animal numbers became concentrated. Hauling manure beyond a certain radius became economically prohibitive, regardless of animal source or manure form.

Solutions to that issue required creativity, and farmers met the challenge. Manure is composted. It is stored in piles and lagoons. It is dried, fermented, squashed, hauled, spread, filtered, shaken and stirred.

There is something about manure that also invites humour. It is often the butt of jokes and euphemisms. Culture would have it that manure and its euphemistic counterparts can be spoken, spewn and shot — and that’s just for starters.

Further to the upside, manure is a great fertilizer, a diagnostic tool and feedstock for biofuel production.

Further to the downside, it can be overly plentiful, odiferous and even deadly in its contents.

Inside, you will find a pile of manure stories ripe for reading. They won’t be the Producer’s last words on the subject because, as we all know, manure happens. It happens a lot. And that isn’t all bad.

Special thanks go to Scott Dick and Cliff Loewen of Agra-Gold Consulting, whose European travels on behalf of the Manitoba livestock manure management initiative yielded additional material on technology across the pond.

Idaho cowboy poet Mark Seeley holds manure in high regard, as explained in his poem at right. It is particularly apt considering our cover photo, taken in exactly the type of landscape he describes.

Though many producers may not share his ethereal view of this earthly and earthy compound, they will likely appreciate a man who can write poetry about it.

We at The Western Producer hope you find this issue informative and useful. Spread it around.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

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