For the more than 1,500 estimated attendees who made the 2015 North American Manure Expo their destination July 14 or 15, the event held at a site provided by Lesher Farms, was without question one of the more ideal venues this event has enjoyed since its inception in the early 2000s. From the farm tours to dairy, beef and equine facilities to the solid an liquid manure spreading equipment field day demonstrations at the exhibit site, producers were able to get up close to the action as seen in the accompanying photos. More importantly, the weather cooperated with two days of ideal weather to attend this well-organized event.
Hosted by event chairs Robb Meinen, Penn State Department of Animal Science and Jennifer Bratthauar, Ag Conservation Technician for Franklin County Conservation District, events stayed on schedule with seminars and trade expo opportunities blended together to provide just about any kind of information that visitors were seeking. For farmers who were looking for new and better techniques to custom applicators who were interested in the latest in application technology, there was something for everyone.
This writer spent tour day on the scheduled dairy tours that included stops at Slate Ridge Dairy, Mercer Vu Dairy and Burk-Lea Dairy. In total, five bus loads of tour goers went on the dairy side of the tours while another three or four busloads of people went on the beef and equine tours. These three dairies offered a pleasant cross section based on herd size. With Slate Ridge milking approximately 120 cows to Mercer Vu with their 1,500 head or so in production and Burk-Lea’s 750 to 800 head operation, visitors were able to observe management styles for herds of different sizes and how each handles their manure.
Ben Peckman of Slate Ridge Dairy, welcomed the group, explaining how he acquired the farm’s anaerobic digester that is used to produce electrical power for the farm and for the electrical grid, heat used to dry grain (from the heat generated by the electrical gen-set) and manure pack material that is used as bedding. He said his original intent was to cooperate with a company installing the systems on a pilot project that offered subsidies of various kinds to help with the total cost, but after some financial difficulty on the part of the company, Slate Ridge worked out a way to acquire the unit as a way to complete the project. Currently, the system has been working for 2 1/2 years with success. He said the gen-set has 19,000 hours on it and is still working well.
At other stops on the Slate Ridge tour, we heard presentations by Ron Hoover and Doug Beagle offering tips on “Planting Green,” highlighting the benefits of planting cover crops for more effective soil and plant management. A second stop at a rainfall simulation demonstration by Tyson Myers, Justin Atkins and Lindsey Bream, presented a more dramatic display of the “Planting Green” method of crop management. With five demonstration trays placed side by side to demonstrate how water runs off and penetrates the soils of the specific planting methods, it was clear to see that the cover crop, no-till planting method provides the most effective way to nourish the soil.
Moving on to Mercer Vu farms, a dairy featured previously in Country Folks, Manure Expo visitors enjoyed seeing the latest improvements that Rod and Rick Hissong have implemented as their herd numbers continue to grow. With Mercer Vu bedding their milking herd on sand and relying upon a timed flush system to clean the alleyways, their manure management included a McLanahan sand separation system to recapture used bedding sand and an Integrity Manure Separation System augmented with an NCS manure centrifuge system. Rick explained by bedding the cattle with this method and recovering the solids for composting and field application and using the liquid in field application as well, the farm saves thousands of dollars per year.
Rod took the group on a tour of their new (2 years old) group calf raising facility that features a group feeding system that supplies the calves with a continuous supply of acidified milk in their early stages of development. As the calves continue to grow, they are eventually bred and sent to a second facility in northern Virginia, that the Hissongs own. Once the cows freshen at that farm, they are returned to the Pennsylvania home facility to join the herd that is milked three times daily.
To complete the dairy manure tour, the groups gathered at Burk-Lea Dairy, owned by Clint Burkholder and his father Stan. The two have been in the process of transitioning ownership over the past several years with Clint’s current 70-30 percent ownership placing him squarely in the overall management role. At Burk-Lea, the tour group watched a demonstration that featured three different pieces of equipment that could be used to agitate liquid manure in a storage facility. In this instance, we saw water agitated in a rainwater runoff catch basin using a Gator Pump to agitate the pond, then transfer water to a nearby in-ground concrete manure storage unit.
Following the Gator demonstration, a Jamesway Pumpeller unit took center stage, as it was put through its paces, agitating the thousands of gallons of liquid manure in the tank. Finally, attention returned to the far side of the rainwater basin where the water was being recirculated with a self-priming FL 776 Borger discharge pump.
Wednesday’s trade show and field demonstrations included solid and liquid manure spreading applications with both surface application and incorporation techniques shown. A new method of application, called “Dribble Bar Application” presented by Vogelsang of Germany, and demonstrated as an applicator on a Husky manure tank, gave farmers and applicators an alternative to the conventional methods of liquid manure application. In all there were nearly two dozen solid and liquid manure application demonstrations. Additionally, there were several demonstrations of compost turning that included equipment from Vermeer and Midwest Bio-Systems and poultry litter and dairy bedpack turners from LVI.
For those who would enjoy aerial photos taken during the field demonstrations, Four Seasons Crop Care, Inc. provided a photo drone that was busy buzzing above the action morning and afternoon. The photos are available at www.fourseasonscc.com or on their Facebook page.
Manure Expo organizers remind readers to save the date for the 2016 North American Manure Expo to be held in London, Ohio on Aug. 3 and 4, 2016. For more information, visit www.ManureExpo.org .