It’s time we had a little chat
I think we know each other well enough at this point that we can have a conversation about poo. Cow poo that is.
Cows poo. A lot. They also pee, and, while we are on the topic of bodily fluids, they also have massive boogers and can produce deluges of snot.
But, on the subject of poo and pee, a cow produces 68 liters per day. And they do it all the time. While they eat, milk, sleep, and walk. Multiply 68 times 50 cows – that’s over 3000 liters of the stuff.
Because of their indiscriminate application of their fecal matter, barns are constructed to manage their manure. This is called: “Manure Management.” In the old days it was done with a pitch fork and a wheel barrow. Today, most farms have a scraper tractor, or, as in our case, an automatic scraping system. Some farms even have poop pushing robots that keep the floors clean!
We run our scrapers rather excessively according to the industry standard. Our scrapers run every half hour, which keeps our cows’ feet as clean as possible. We also manage our stalls so any manure that lands on the stall edge gets raked out before it causes a larger mess.
But where does it all go? Manure is potent stuff, and the other side of manure management is environmental. This is really important, especially in the fall and winter months since we can’t put it out on the fields for fertilizer.
Most farms have a massive manure storage pit or tank which has enough room to store the manure for several months at a time.
We do too, but our manure (well, the cows’, not mine) goes through our anaerobic digester first. This is a machine that heats up the manure in a pressurized tube. This allows for a particular type of bacteria to break down the manure further and increase the production of methane. We siphon off this methane, and burn it in a generator which produces some of the electricity for our farm.
Once it goes through the digester, we separate the liquid from the solids through a screw press, and then it goes on to the storage pit.
In a future blog post, I’ll give a better description of the process, with glossy pictures, but I hope this gives a bit of a picture of what we do with it.
Once the fields are ready to support a crop, we apply the manure onto the grass, providing essential fertilizer for the corn and grass.
And that’s that. I’m glad we got this awkward conversation out of the way. Phew.