Maximize manure handling systems safely
By Ken Bryan, Cargill Dairy Technical Specialist
Too often, someone receives a call that drastically changes their life. When associated with a manure pit or lagoon, that call probably transforms someone’s normal day into a nightmare. Whether it is dangerous gases, lagoons, or a simple mistake, manure safety should always be taken seriously.
It’s no secret that manure experiences an anaerobic fermentation process while in storage, which can release some rather dangerous and even deadly gases. Hydrogen sulfide is often identified with a “rotten egg” smell, which can cause sickness at lower concentrations and even death at higher amounts. If a pit has extremely high amounts of methane, the area can become explosive or cause death via suffocation. Additionally, carbon dioxide remains near the bottom of the pit causing breathing issues while ammonia can irritate many of our senses as well.
For manure lagoons, it’s important to construct fencing around the perimeter in order to prevent someone from falling in. Because lagoons usually have a “crust” on the top, it can be quite deceiving to an onlooker.
Like most safety features on a dairy farm, signage (on the previously mentioned fencing) is especially important when it comes to manure storage and safety. For example, someone may be visiting a farm and not realize exactly what they’re walking into. That’s exactly why it’s crucial to have signs posted that are legible and even in a second language such as Spanish to ensure everyone’s safety.
Let’s say that someone does not have the proper signage posted on their farm near the manure pits. Do they have the proper safety gear to rescue someone? Having lifejackets, buoys, safety harnesses, and other life-saving devices nearby are necessary for “what if” situations such as this.
Farms can have access to all of the manure safety information they need, but you don’t have a plan until you write it down and communicate it to your team and visitors. Not everyone is at the farm every day, so creating a plan for those “just in case” moments just might save a life.
Of course, there are a vast array of other systems and technologies available and specifically designed for incidents related to manure handling systems. Analyzing and implementing what works best for your own farm is what will prevent the next devastating phone call.