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As a general rule, ecologically-minded farmers have great respect for the resource their manure represents. As such they treat it well. The following articles looking at the benefits of having manure undercover, and one member's experience in following through.
Maitland Valley Conservation Authority
An environmentally responsible manure storage should either contain or prevent all runoff. When rain falls directly onto an open solid manure storage, runoff is created. If this polluted runoff reaches nearby watercourses or field tiles, it can harm livestock, ruin human recreation and destroy fish habitat. The traditional solutions have been a concrete runoff tank or an earthen runoff storage. The disadvantage of these options is that they require both solid and liquid manure spreading equipment to pump and spread the manure.
Roofed solid manure storages are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to runoff tanks. A roof over a solid manure storage prevents rainwater from reaching the manure. Nutrient losses are reduced because no runoff seeps away from the storage. This type of storage works best for operations using a relatively high amount of bedding. Some farmers are also successfully composting manure in their roofed storages.
In some watersheds, farmers may be eligible for a CURB grant to build a roofed manure storage. The CURB program offers grants to help farmers clean up on-farm sources of water pollution. Contact your local conservation authority to determine whether your farm is located in an eligible watershed.
From notes by Alan Willits,
R.R. #1, Wingham, N0G 2W0 (519) 335-6422
Besides the benefits mentioned above, Alan went to covered storage because of its versatility. At times of the year when there's no manure, the storage can be used to house feed or equipment. If your operation changes, it will be of greater use than a concrete tank or lagoon, and doesn't present the same dangers. Looking back on the way he's done his storage, Alan thinks it's wiser to put up two buildings (i.e. one of medium size, and one smaller), or section a large one into two areas. This gives you the option of separating the uses you're putting the storage to at the time, uses that change through out the year. In fall you may have bales in the large section, a put manure in the smaller part. By spring both will likely have manure.
For construction Alan has used a variety of methods: pole structure with pressure treated lumber; cement walls with a shed roof; and pole structure lined with 2x2x4' cement blocks. If you're having the building done for you he figures the second option to be the best. However you choose to build it, keep the following in mind: the floor should be concrete which is sloped to the back, as well as lipped on the back edge (6" min.) to prevent runoff; the roof must have a ventilated ridge cap; there should be walls on three sides to keep snow out; you must use enough straw to pack the manure well; and the smaller building should be large enough for use with a round bale feeder to provide covered feeding in spring and fall. Alan also cautions that if the storage is a lean-to alongside your main barn, you could have a gas build up in the loft of the main barn when manure is heating and composting.
Copyright © 1993 Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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