Farms with livestock equal farms with manure. The USDA estimated in 2005 that 335 million tons of manure dry matter (what is left after the water is removed) is produced each year on US farms. The good news is that much of this byproduct can be reused to support crop production, providing a natural fertilizer dense with nutrient and organic matter as compared to commercially produced matter. The bad news is for those farms that don’t grow crops or have too little land to put all the fertilizer to use are left with excess waste that can lead to risks to the water supply and environment.
Such is the case currently in Wisconsin. In December 2013, the Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center revealed that a rise in farms, specifically Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), is causing increased pollution in the states’ lakes and waterways. According to the Wisconsin-focused report: “As of 2010, pollution from livestock operations of all sizes has left more than 4,000 acres of lakes and 377 miles of rivers and creeks too polluted to sustain their designated uses of swimming, fishing, or providing a healthy habitat for aquatic plants and animals in Wisconsin.”
Waterways aren’t the only victim of CAFO pollution. The air quality suffers as a result of the harmful release of gases, including hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. Breathing these toxic fumes is dangerous to both humans and livestock.
Toxins that form in the soil from manure storage can also cause problems for our drinking water. When these nitrates are at too high of levels, the end results can be developmental deficiencies in infants, cancer, and blood oxygen depletion leading to fatalities.
Big Industry, Big Waste
While Wisconsin Environment’s goal for the water pollution issue specifically is to encourage government officials to stop permitting new factory farms, the existing waste problem must still be addressed. The underlying problem is how Americans eat. By relying on industrial farms with concentrated animals as our primary source for food, the production of massive amounts of manure in generally small locations is inevitable.
Since the waste problem isn’t going away anytime soon, the only other solution is to use strategies to manage the waste in an environmentally sustainable way.
The New Jersey Example
The state of New Jersey requires that all livestock producers with more than eight animal units (one animal unit equals 1,000 pounds of live animal weight) must comply with state regulations as well as complete an “Animal Waste Management Plan” on their farm. The plan includes information about manure production, storage, use, and offsite disposal. It also highlights the best action items for recycling nutrients.
While not all states require an Animal Waste Management Plan, following New Jersey’s lead and using the resources the state provided as an outline can be an important step toward sustainability and environmental protection. Other methods, such as pasture grazing, can make a difference, too.
“If animal waste is creating a mess for your farm, professionals can help,” says Mark Hope, Hazardous Waste Experts, provider of industry-focused waste management solutions. “Interpreting regulations and developing strategies that work best for your business is the core of our goals. A sustainable solution is out there, and we aim to bring it to you.”
Need Help? Call Hazardous Waste Experts at (800) 936-2311 or click here to email us.