10/7/2008

What is composting? Composting for routine swine mortality disposal
Ben Crawford
M.S. Candidate Industrial and Agricultural Technology Iowa State University

Controlled aerobic biological decomposition of organic matter into a stable end-product
Reduces volume, breaks down organic materials

Microbial activity drives the process and produces high temperatures
Pathogen inactivation

Parameters adjusted to provide ideal conditions for microbial growth

Composting Parameters
Microbial population:
Moisture, pH, C:N ratio, oxygen, temperature

Mortality Composting
Above ground burial Pioneered for the poultry industry Quickly gaining popularity in swine production Co-composting material required
Cover or envelope material Provides carbon source Bio-filter Retains heat Provide structure
Absorb leachate, mechanical strength, carcass cover, etc.

Cover material characteristics:
Bulk density Air-filled porosity Mechanical strength

Control factors:
Moisture, C:N ratio, cover material characteristics

1

60% considered ideal Too much causes: Anaerobic conditions Reduced mechanical strength Higher bulk density Reduced free air space “Squeeze” test Use “squeeze” test to check cover material moisture content Material should feel moist to touch No water or only a few drops should be squeezed from a sample (not saturated) Leachate production 2 .10/7/2008 Oxygen Speeds up the decay process Aerobic bacteria are more efficient than anaerobic Carbon:Nitrogen Ratio 20:1 to 40:1 considered ideal Low – 10:1 High – 50:1 Reduces odor production Minimum 5% O2 recommended Ambient levels are 21% Improper balance reduces decay rate Difficult to measure Monitor internal temperatures Check for ammonia production Hard to measure Monitor temperatures Moisture Perhaps the most crucial component 40 .

10/7/2008 Carbon sources common to Iowa Cornstalks Silage Oat straw Carbon sources common to Iowa Alfalfa Soybean stubble Wood shavings Types of cover materials Wood shavings are difficult to obtain and have increased dramatically in price Silage and alfalfa have value as feedstocks Crop residues commonly available Cornstalks Soybean stubble Cornstalks and soybean stubble High mechanical strength High C:N ratio Cornstalks – 65:1 Soybean – 55:1 High water holding capacity Acceptable biodegradability Good permeability Large particle size 3 .

10/7/2008 Grinding cover materials Grinding long fibrous cover materials such as cornstalks and soybean stubble is recommended Increases surface area for better microbial interaction Better heat retention Better coverage More absorptive Decreased odor release Equipment Loader Manure spreader Hammer discharge may be useful Composting Procedure Long-stem thermometer 4 .

3. Divide yearly death loss by 365 days/yr.Depth should be 1 – 2x bin width Compost is moved from primary to secondary bin for 2 – 3 month curing phase Mixes and aerates the material 6. 5. depending on carcass size Space carcasses 9 – 12” apart Keep carcasses 9 – 12” from side walls Cover carcasses with 6 – 12” of material between layers Continue stacking to 4 – 5’ Cap with 1 – 2’ of material May need to add more after settling 7-8 cu yd. This is how many primary bins should be built. Divide required surface area by proposed bin size (square feet) to get number of required bins. Divide by bin height (4-5 ft) to get required surface area. Bin Composting 1 – 2’ base layer.10/7/2008 Bin Composting Sizing: 1. / 1000 lbs of carcass 5 . Multiply daily death loss by 20 to get total cubic feet of bin volume required. Bin Composting Primary and secondary bins 2 – 3 months needed for each phase 1-2 months for pigs <100 lbs 2-3 months for pigs >100 lbs Estimate yearly death loss (lbs). 2. Round bin number up. 4. -Width should be 2x loader bucket width . The same number of secondary bins should also be built.

Porous materials may require a roofed structure or tarp Generally. turning once is all that is needed 6 .10/7/2008 Performance indicators Odor and gas production should be minimal Should not have leachate production Monitor temperatures regularly and keep a log Should be in the 110 – 150o F range Too low will substantially increase composting times Too high will kill off thermophilic bacteria May require extra turning to reduce heat IDNR Regulations No permit required if only on-farm mortalities are composted Mortalities need to be incorporated within 24 hours of death and covered sufficiently Composting should be done in a manner which prevents runoff and leachate production Dead animals are not to be removed until all soft tissue is decomposed Look for exposed carcasses IDNR Regulations Finished compost not to be stored more than 18 months and shall be land applied on crop or pastureland at rates consistent with nitrogen use levels All-weather surface required Compacted soil or granular aggregates. 200 feet from public wells. 100 feet from private wells. 50 feet from property lines. asphalt. and 100 feet from flowing or intermittent streams. 500 feet from inhabited residences. and ponds. lakes. more may be required Monitor temperatures to check performance Carcasses should not be allowed to freeze before adding to the pile Larger piles retain heat better Must be outside wetlands or 100-year flood plain. concrete or other impermeable material Other recommendations Practice makes perfect If course materials are not ground.

Leachate Excessive precipitation Shelter compost from the elements Roofed system or use tarps Incorporate finished compost when starting a new pile Helps fill voids in porous materials More ideal C:N ratio Jumpstarts composting process Add extra cover material Bin systems are recommended for routine disposal but windrows can also be used Remember.may be beneficial Material will start to compost on its own Troubleshooting .10/7/2008 Other recommendations Storing cover materials outside exposes them to precipitation .Leachate Overloading of carcasses Carcasses are 65% moisture Adequately space carcasses Larger carcasses need more space Add extra cover material Do not stack carcasses too high No more than 5 feet May not be able to stack larger carcasses 7 .Leachate Insufficient absorptive capacity of cover material Add extra material to base layer and between carcasses Consider grinding materials Extra material needed for larger animals Troubleshooting . all-weather surface is required Troubleshooting .

consider grinding materials Troubleshooting .Leachate Envelope material is too wet Use “squeeze” test to check initial moisture content May need to cover envelope material if stockpiled outside Mix with dry cover materials Troubleshooting .Odors Compost pile is turned prematurely Monitor temperatures Turn when temperatures stabilize Use judgment Troubleshooting .Odors Compost is too wet Produces anaerobic conditions May produce leachate as well Incorporate dry materials Turn pile to help dry Cover or tarp to prevent rainfall exposure Turn small portions before the entire pile Cap with more material as necessary 8 .10/7/2008 Troubleshooting .Odors Cover material cap is too thin Bio-filter between carcasses and atmosphere is insufficient Add more material on top of pile More porous materials will require a thicker layer Again.

incorporate dry materials Troubleshooting – Temperatures Low temperatures and poor heat retention Make sure there is adequate moisture Increase cap thickness to help insulate Do not use frozen carcasses Consider grinding cover material Troubleshooting – Temperatures Inadequate Nitrogen Carcasses usually provide adequate nitrogen to the decay zone Least likely cause of low temperatures Check other conditions first Use proper carcass loading rates 9 .10/7/2008 Troubleshooting – Temperatures Inadequate O2 supply Characterized by ammonia production Use coarse cover material Do not overload carcasses or wet excessively Increases bulk density Reduces free air space Troubleshooting – Temperatures Too much or too little moisture Microbial activity is limited below 20% moisture content Moisture levels near saturation cause anaerobic conditions Use “squeeze” test Add moisture carefully Turn.

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