Turn thick lumpy gumbo into nice runny slurry

GUELPH, Ont. — Agitating and pumping slurry is a large ongoing expense for hog and dairy farmers because slurry typically has the consistency of lumpy gumbo.

However, it’s not as much of a problem for the 500 Canadian livestock producers who regularly introduce a biological additive called BactZyme into their slurry pits, says Andrew Flokstra, a representative of Star Gro Products in Chilliwack, B.C., which distributes the product.

“It doesn’t exactly turn slurry to the consistency of water, of course, but it does make it flow better,” said Flokstra.

The slurry will then flow more uniformly and reduce plugs when injected into the soil.

He said the difference between raw slurry and BactZyme-treated slurry is like the difference between oatmeal and cream of wheat. Farmers who irrigate with treated slurry find they have more even distribution with fewer hassles.

As an added bonus, the slurry soaks into the soil quicker, which prevents manure caking on the surface and reduces runoff.

There’s one more subtle benefit.

“In barns where the pits are below the animals, you’ll notice better air quality,” Flokstra said.

“The BactZyme reduces ammonium nitrates, giving you a healthier environment in the barn. BactZyme is simply a refined version of biological agents found in nature called Bacilleus subtilis and Bacilleus magaterium. These bacteria are already present in manure, but not at a high level.

“What we’re trying to do with BactZyme is re-introduce those bacteria, that already exist in the manure, at a higher level. BactZyme helps to naturally break down the manure.”

The product was originally developed in California to help dairy farmers comply with strict legislation governing nitrates and phosphorus leeching into the water table or volatizing into the atmosphere and soil.

The chemists who developed BactZyme figured out how to make nitrates and phosphorus bond to soil particles instead of immediately releasing into the environment. The nutrients become available later when plant roots are ready to use them. In a sense, the product works like a slow release fertilizer.

And that has implications for crop performance. Star Gro has not conducted field trials in Canada, but California research shows a 30 percent yield benefit on fields treated with the product.

“The enzymes keep the nitrates and phosphorus attached to soil particles. They’re held in place until roots of a plant have a chance to access them.”

Flokstra said the formula that is tested and sold in California is not quite the same as the one sold in Canada because of federal regulations.

As a result, he would not say what, if any, crop benefit a Canadian farmer might experience.

However, he did say the slow re-lease should prevent crop damage.

Flokstra said regular users say pit pumping is far easier once BactZyme has been in the system for a while. Over time, the bottom of a slurry pit grows a hard layer that the agitator and pump can’t handle. This solid layer grows thicker each year, thus reducing the available volume in the pit. The return on capital investment diminishes as more liquid volume disappears into this growing hard layer.

Producers who use BactZyme find that they can eventually pump right down to the lagoon’s concrete floor, thus recovering the entire volume they originally bought.

BactZyme was available only in a powder form when it first came to market in Canada two years ago. It has since been re-formulated into solid blocks about the size and shape of hockey pucks.

Instead of dumping powder into the open pit, producers now drop the pucks between the floor slats in the barn and directly into the pit below.

The larger four ounce pucks are intended for dairy barns, while the smaller two ounce pucks are intended for hog operations.

The cost for a dairy operation is one cent per day per cow, and the cost for a hog operation is a half cent per day per sow.

For more information, contact Flokstra at 604-799-3848 or visit www.star-gro-products.ca.

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