The caller identified himself as a reporter with the Canton Repository. He was doing a story on two dairy farms that are taking part in a pilot program for onfarm manure treatment, kind of like a municipal sewage treatment plant.
I wasn’t sure why he was calling me, so I asked him if I was on the record, or was he just calling me for “background” (the word we journalists use when we’re talking to someone, quite literally, just to get background on an issue or person so we can better understand what we’re writing about).
“Oh, I was just trying to figure out if this was even a story,” the guy answered.
In other words, “is manure a big deal”?
To the farm media, manure has always been a big deal. Now it’s on the radar of the general media.
That shouldn’t surprise you, the signs have been posted for 15 years.
If you have livestock, you have manure. Period.
I don’t care if you have 50 dairy cows or 500, two goats or 20, llamas or horses, those animals are going to create manure. And you have to manage it. Period.
Unfortunately, when manure hits the headlines, it’s usually because of a controversy. Sometimes warranted, sometimes not.
Sometimes, as in the case of the Canton reporter, the headline is about science and how new technology is being used down on the farm. And that’s news all of us on the farm need to read. With alternative energy the hottest thing in town right now, even unsexy manure plays a supporting role, as biogas is produced through anaerobic methane digesters.
I know I’ve harped on this topic before, and I’m sure I’ll bring it up again. Regardless of size or location, you need a manure management plan. You need to detail how you’re going to use this nutrient. You need to keep records. You need to make the investment of your time and labor, and to seek programs that might offer financial assistance for equipment.
It’s tough when you don’t have enough storage, or you don’t have the equipment to incorporate your manure, or you can’t get to all your fields because of weather, or when more trips on a field cause compaction headaches. But there may be low-tech, low-cost solutions to your particular farm problems. Ask your local extension office or your local conservation district office for help.
Here’s why: Manure that isn’t well managed pollutes our natural resources.
Livestock and milk production is something we do well here in Ohio and Pennsylvania. We have to be sure that manure management is something we do even better.
I’d like to read that story.
(Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell can be reached at 800-837-3419 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)