Smells Like Money?

MANURE-- Nutrient rich, and downright pungent at times.

If you have ever taken a drive through rural America, chances are that you have heard the expression, “smells like money!”  This phrase is often used when an less than pleasant odor is present in the air.  Namely, manure.  Smells from livestock farms are plentiful and mostly unpleasant, I’ll admit.

Some would like to attribute this issue to the concentration of livestock facilities, modern confinement systems, and larger size of today’s farms.  I must disagree with this.  Livestock has always stunk.  Especially if they live outside, and after a rainstorm.  In the past, when there were more farms, there were more opportunities to get a whiff of “the smell of money.”  Without getting too technical, I will share a childhood memory of the hogs my dad used to raise and the distinct odor they left in everything in the house.  These hogs were raised outside, and if it had rained recently and the wind was in the right direction, you most certainly didn’t want to open the windows.  This was a year-round issue.

On the other hand, today I live less than 1 mile from our confinement hog buildings, which contain far more pigs than my father had.  There are only a couple days per year, when we are applying the manure to our crop land, that I smell them.  I attribute this to the fact that the manure is stored under a roof with ventilation systems to keep the odor to a minimum.

Now that crops are coming out of the fields, it's time to rejuvenate them with a little cattle manure.

Which brings me to another point, how the manure is applied differently today as compared to days past.  For the liquid hog manure, we will inject it into the ground, which keeps the smell down.  It also maximizes the nutrients from the manure that are available to the plants.  We factor in the nutrient content of the all the manure (hog/cattle, liquid/dry) we apply, which ensures we don’t over-apply it and put too much in any particular area.  Again, keeping the “eau de livestock” to a minimum.

Of course, management of a livestock facility is important in many ways.  Other practices that address odor management on a farm include, scraping and hauling the manure from outdoor lots in a timely manner, maintaining fresh bedding, containing run-off, proper storage of feedstuffs, proper handling of dead animals and compost, and proper storage and containment of manure.  It is important that we do all of these things on our farm to ensure it is a pleasant and safe place for us to raise a family, as well as give the livestock the utmost in care, which in turn provides food processors a quality commodity which will ultimately nourish other families.  

Before scraping and cleaning the manure from the yard.

And after cleaning the yard with the skid loader.

I’ve listed the specific things we do on our farms to keep the smells under control, but there are other cutting edge things happening out there.  Research is being done on feed additives and feed ration formulations that are aimed at reducing odors.   I’ve also heard of products that can be applied to the manure after it has been contained.  So far, nothing has become an industry standard, but perhaps, someday.

While I cannot argue that the smell of money is a pleasant one, I will say that I have gotten used to it.  We have 150 steers that live , quite literally, in our back yard.  And my windows are open anytime the weather allows.  I do this because the smell of freshly cut hay,  the sweet aroma of corn silage, and a cool clear breeze blowing through the house outweighs the possibility of an occasional whiff of cow poo.  Which, quite honestly, I really don’t mind that either.  Which is something only a true country boy or girl can relate to.  Think, the smell of the livestock barns at the fair, or the sale barn.  It takes you back, and is a reminder of the hard work that has brought you to the point in your life where you can appreciate it.

My little manure haulin' helper.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Dawn Goodwin on October 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    Anyone who thinks hogs and cattle stink hasn’t lived downwind from chickens. Absolutely the most rotten stench. 🙂

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