Automation in Dairy – Manure Management & Nutrient Recovery

By , On , In Agriculture
Cows at a milking station relating to manure management and nutrient recovery on dairy farms.

The dairy industry has grown to a 15 billion-dollar industry in the past 400 years. Proper manure management on the farm has become a top priority as the environmental, sustainable and regulatory side of farming has become more important. Nutrient recovery out of the herd’s manure not only has environmental benefits, it can also create revenue through selling the bi-product and save on water management expenditures.  Dairy farmers are now able to turn to automation for solutions to many of the challenges of manure management.

Challenges dairy farmers face

Dairy farmers need to abide by government regulations to ensure the phosphorus levels in the soil do not become a danger to surrounding land and streams. Having an effective nutrient recovery plan is important to meet these regulations. Dairy farmers will need to invest in specialized equipment to remove nutrients from the manure stream, thereby reducing the application of nutrients to the farm land.  Sustainable growth is another huge concern for today’s dairy industry. To be able to increase their herd size farmers must have a plan on how to handle the increased manure load.

Non-centrifuge manure management

The traditional way of spreading raw manure onto crop fields has proven to be ineffective for manure management on larger dairy farms. Manure spreading in highly populated regions is prohibited from Oct to March, leaving only 6 months of the year to dispose of buildup, this creates additional land and storage concerns.

The article “Dairy and swine manure management – Challenges and perspectives for sustainable treatment technology” highlights how essential it is for farmers to invest in technological advancements for manure managements systems. Local constraints such as government regulations, environmental concerns, and equipment costs can be significant challenges but can also help farmers select the appropriate manure management system.

How automation solves these challenges

Gloved hands holding soil after processed manure dry matter has been added to meet fertilizer regulations in Canada.
Manure dry matter is added to soil to help balance phosphorus levels.

Nutrient recovery systems remove nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium from manure by mechanical separation leaving a dry, stackable product that is easily transported. This greatly reduces waste removal, storage and transportation costs as well as the dry matter can be sold to help balance phosphorus levels on other farms. With the ability to track and balance nutrient levels in the soil farmers can stop excess nutrients from washing into waterways. Maintaining manure management will allow dairy farmers to achieve growth without the having to acquire additional land by giving them alternative options for what to do with their slurry.

The B.C. government tested the suitability and effectiveness of a centrifuge on dairy farms. Seven farms that all had sawdust bedding were given a centrifuge. Each farm ran the centrifuges at different spin speeds and feed rates to see what process would extract the NPK most effectively. The study was able to identify the most efficient way to manage manure.

What makes Valid Nutrient Recovery System different?

The average dairy farm ranges from 80 – 200 cattle. Most nutrient recovery machinery is designed for much larger herd sizes ranging from 500 – 1000 cattle. The Valid Nutrient Recovery System is built for smaller farm/herds and can be optimized specifically for each farm’s differences. It has been engineered to reduce processing steps by eliminating the need for pre-separation thus saving time and reducing equipment and footprint requirements. With Valid’s Nutrient Recovery System farmers are able to reduce solids content going into long term storage to as low as 3 percent by volume, this dramatically reduces long term storage requirements as well as lagoon maintenance. Valid’s Nutrient Recovery System is proven to be 50-60 percent more efficient at removing nutrients from manure than conventional separation systems. Valid also offers online remote monitoring and remote firmware updates to ensure real time data for the user. Farmers will immediately know if anything has interrupted the systems operations in real time.

For more information on Valid Manufacturing, Valid’s Nutrient Recovery System and how it can improve manure management and processing on your farm, contact us today.

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