Options in manure management highlighted at the 2015 North American Manure Expo in Chambersburg, PA

“Manure than You Can Handle” was certainly a fitting theme for this year’s Manure Expo between the farm tours, equipment demonstrations and educational sessions.

The 2015 North American Manure Expo was held in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania located in Franklin County. Franklin County ranks fourth in the state for overall agricultural cash receipts (more than $304 million) and ranks second in the state for milk production; it also resides within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Manure Expo provided a hands-on opportunity for livestock producers, manure applicators, nutrient management specialists, Extension educators and agency personal to see the newest technology in manure application equipment as well as attend a variety of educational sessions.

Tour Day         

The first day of the Manure Expo was filled with farm tours of either 1) Dairy Farms & Agitation Equipment or 2) Equine & Beef Small Farms. The dairy farm tours consisted of visiting three dairy farms each unique in their manure handling and management systems. The first stop was to Mercer Vu Farms, which currently milks around 1,600 cows and farms on about 3,000 acres of land. The first stop of that tour was the sand separator where it removes the sand out of the waste stream. The farm is able to recycle 90-95 percent of the sand to re-bed the cows. The second stop was the primary manure separation where screens thicken the manure and a screw press dries it out. This removes course manure and nutrients from the waste stream. The dairy also utilizes a secondary separation or a decanter centrifuge. This spins out more solids and nutrients, such as phosphorus. The goal is to have nutrient poor liquid and rich solids with little water content that can be hauled further distances. Transporting solids is far easier than moving liquids. Some of the solids are stacked and others are loaded directly on to a truck. Half of the solids are reused as bedding in dry cows and young stock and the other half are composted.

secondary separation

Secondary separation system at Mercer Vu Farms

The second farm was Slate Ridge Dairy; they have a small-scale anaerobic digester as well as a grain dryer that utilizes the heat and power from the digester. The digester and engine-generator building produce electricity and heat for drying at the grain bins. Other stations at the farm focused on the cover crops used in the area and the local NRCS staff demonstrated the “Rainfall Simulator” on different fields and pastures. The last dairy farm on the tour was Burk-Lea Dairy. The Burk-Lea Dairy allowed vendor exhibitors to demonstrate agitation technologies in both concrete and earthen storages. There was also a demonstration of manure gas monitoring research being conducted by Penn State University, discussing gas safety risks associated with manure movement during agitation.

The Kiskaddon Beef Farm tour showcased a cow-calf operation consisting of a manure handling system where all runoff was directed into a catch basin. From the catch basin the manure and other grey water was then pumped from the catch basin tank and run through two irrigation sprinklers. These sprinklers spread the manure and dirty water mixture over several pastures where the nutrients could be utilized by the vegetation in the pasture.

The Wilson College Equestrian Center demonstrated a low cost manure storage pile where they allowed the manure to compost for most of the year and would then remove the pile every 6 to 8 months. They also showcased reasoning behind the types of ground cover they used for the horse paddocks to allow the horses to be healthy and prevent runoff into the nearby river.

anaerobic digester

Anaerobic digester at Slate Ridge Dairy

Expo Day

The second day on the North American Manure Expo highlighted equipment demonstration, educational sessions and of course the opportunity to visit with many of the vendors in attendance.

Educational sessions focused on a variety of topics including commercial hauler seminars, manure and corn seminars, poultry focused seminars, manure management basics seminars and dairy focused seminars. Agricultural road safety and “responsible ag” seminars were also well attended. Many different solid and liquid manure spreaders and compost turners were demonstrated in front of the crowds

One of the demonstrations showcased the impact manure handling equipment tires can have on the surface of the ground through compaction. Two types of tires very similar in size were compared, showing how one made an indent into the ground about eight inches deeper than the other. The reasoning behind this demonstration was to illustrate how compacting the ground disrupts the root mass of the vegetation and reduces the absorption of water and the nutrients being spread on crop fields.


Demonstrations highlighting the impact equipment can have on the surface of the ground through compaction.

The last demonstration of the day was a live action manure spill response demonstration led by Kevin Urb of University of Wisconsin Extension. The demonstration went through the steps of stopping an emergency spill, preventing the spread of the manure, and how to clean up the spilled manure. It is important to handle manure properly, and being prepared for an emergency spill is part of being a responsible hauler. 

The North American Manure Expo began in August of 2001 and combines three attractions into one event; manure technology demonstrations, educational sessions and an industry trade show. The event has been hosted by Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Guelph, Ontario. In 2006, Michigan State University Extension hosted the North American Manure Expo “Keep it in the Root Zone” in St. Johns, Michigan. The 14th Annual North American Manure Expo will be held on August 3-4 in London, Ohio. 

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