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What to do with a Manure Lagoon  RSS feed

 
ben capozzi
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Hello!

Question: Does anyone have resources on how to remediate/recover/restore/purify a manure lagoon from a small dairy operation?

Background: I have an opportunity to work with my wife and her parents to develop a small part of their farm. I have big plans if I can convince her folks to let us use permaculture to put the farm back into production—it is a small, former dairy operation though they have about 300 acres of woods and fields, total. The plot we may be able to start with has a “pond” very near the top of the south-facing hillside we may start with BUT it is a former manure lagoon. And still full. The dairy operation ceased production around 2007, I think.

I'm not sure where to begin, what questions to ask, and what is possible. My father-in-law is deeply skeptical of anything “organic” let alone use of the word permaculture, so I'd like to have some solid thinking behind whatever is proposed. Converting the lagoon into a viable water source is not critical to getting things started, but long term it should be part of the agenda to bring this farm into a new model of restorative production.

Any guidance is appreciated. Thanks!

~Ben
 
Barry Fitzgerald
Posts: 43
Location: Welland, Ontario, Canada
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ben capozzi wrote:Hello!

Question: Does anyone have resources on how to remediate/recover/restore/purify a manure lagoon from a small dairy operation?

Background: I have an opportunity to work with my wife and her parents to develop a small part of their farm. I have big plans if I can convince her folks to let us use permaculture to put the farm back into production—it is a small, former dairy operation though they have about 300 acres of woods and fields, total. The plot we may be able to start with has a “pond” very near the top of the south-facing hillside we may start with BUT it is a former manure lagoon. And still full. The dairy operation ceased production around 2007, I think.

I'm not sure where to begin, what questions to ask, and what is possible. My father-in-law is deeply skeptical of anything “organic” let alone use of the word permaculture, so I'd like to have some solid thinking behind whatever is proposed. Converting the lagoon into a viable water source is not critical to getting things started, but long term it should be part of the agenda to bring this farm into a new model of restorative production.

Any guidance is appreciated. Thanks!

~Ben

A manure lagoon that has aged for 7 years should be a resource. Try thinking of it that way.
What type of a pond do you want and what purpose would it serve?
 
Jack Edmondson
Posts: 240
Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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I agree with Barry. You have a whole pond full of compost tea.

Use the liquid to fertilize the fields. Once the pond is dry, dig out the solids and whatever soil depth may be 'contaminated' and compost that until it reaches 170 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks. You will have to add nitrogen and green organic matter. This will sterilize the soil and you can use it to further fertilize or use as top soil. If you are concerned about the bacteria level in the water, use it to fertilize a legume or clover that will not be consumed by humans. The water will promote a healthy crop of plants that will fix nitrogen into the soil that will be used by later crops. The water would also serve well to irrigate an orchard. Much more cellulose in a tree to filter the water of any bacteria.

Being at the top of the hill it would be perfect for a drip line irrigation system suited to an orchard. If irrigation was the primary use, and there is another water source; you would never have to worry about reclamation of the pond. Use it solely for irrigation.
 
ben capozzi
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Barry, Jack! Yes!

I definitely view it as a resource but am concerned about anything that may have been in the manure—thinking of pesticide and antibiotic residue in the cow feed. I know that Roundup is revered on the property right now, and my father-in-law blasts the Johnson Grass surrounding the pond with it every now and again.

If I were able to sell him on a plan, I think I could get my father-in-law to stop using it there, but the fields around the hillside will likely continue to be blasted with contemporary chemically intensive techniques. Income is earned by renting out most of the fields for corn and soybean crops.

[ =\ I can only hope to carve out a small chunk of the farm to try and make a success of it, and then earn the confidence to develop more of the property with permaculture and restoration agriculture techniques. Is that foolish/pointless?]

But using the pond water for irrigation IS the main aim I have in mind because the pond is perfectly situated to run a swale off one side to begin to irrigate the whole hillside, which I'd like to develop as Stefan Sobkowiak has done at Miracle Farms in Canada as seen in “The Permaculture Orchard” movie. But I'm just not sure it's healthy water to use, so I thought some sort of bio-remediation would be in order.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a, 800 chill hours 28 blessed inches of rain
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Ben,

If it were me, I think I would start with knowing what is still in the water. Have it tested. $206 is a small investment that may save a lot of time and trouble fighting things that may or may not be present:

http://watercheck.com/productpages/WatercheckwithPesticideOption.html

With a breakdown of pesticides and other contaminants you will have a much better idea of what needs to be done.

Where are you located? Are you trying to certify produce from the land as organic; or just looking for healthy product? "Certified Organic" can mean a lot of things to different folks. If you are looking for certification ask the regulating body what its standards are. You may be surprised by levels that are allowed. Reality dictates that there may be some level of chemical from past practices. However, watering with the 'tea' may be out of the question. However, you won't know until you test a sample.
 
ben capozzi
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Jack Edmondson wrote:Ben,

If it were me, I think I would start with knowing what is still in the water. Have it tested. $206 is a small investment that may save a lot of time and trouble fighting things that may or may not be present:

http://watercheck.com/productpages/WatercheckwithPesticideOption.html

With a breakdown of pesticides and other contaminants you will have a much better idea of what needs to be done.

Where are you located? Are you trying to certify produce from the land as organic; or just looking for healthy product? "Certified Organic" can mean a lot of things to different folks. If you are looking for certification ask the regulating body what its standards are. You may be surprised by levels that are allowed. Reality dictates that there may be some level of chemical from past practices. However, watering with the 'tea' may be out of the question. However, you won't know until you test a sample.


Jack, that's a great idea and resource! Thank you!

I'm in USA, Zone 7a, Virginia. I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in pursuing Organic certification—I've heard lots from Paul Wheaton and others about how it's not much better for the planet than chemically intensive, AND it can be quite pricey. I'm going to try for better-than-organic, probably Agritrue if anything official, but I'm hesitant because of the residues that may be present.

Your idea to get some real data on what's really there is spot on. I appreciate it!

~ben
 
Richard Grear
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Is the lagoon fed by a spring, or is it just 'run-off' which accumulates? In other words, does it dry up in summer or is the level constant, with a little stream leaving the lagoon?

If run-off only, I would fill it with old bales of hay (hay after htree years is pretty much cellulose dust anyway) to soak up the liquid, and allow it to do a bit of aerobic composting. At the end of the following summer, dump the lot into a muck spreader, and fertilise an area you want to make hay on next summer. Alternatively, just dump as many old bales of hay as it takes to soak up most of the slurry. Then leave it to overwinter, and plant squash in spring. After a couple of seasons - if it remains dryish, you'll have some excellent compost, and you could turn your lagoon into a first class vegetable patch - but make sure you control the run-off with ditch/drain and avoid it turning into a lagoon again.

If spring fed, I would try to clean out the lagoon to have a free source of clean water. Get hold of some 50mm diameter tube, and empty the lagoon into the field below, and CAREFULLY scrape out the slurry/foul mud on the bottom of the lagoon. You may need to do this a few times.

 
allen lumley
pollinator
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Ben C. : Yes get it tested!

If the fields are being rented out then the renters have certain rights mostly based on what is common practice in your area !
the wind drift of chemicals can be a problem, and a no spray zone that includes the borders of their rented fields, may seem
like Indian giving to a farmer who had use of the whole field last year !

However you may be able to find someone who merely wants to pasture young cattle on your land with proper rotation to
give individual areas to recover, and will operate pesticide free, this will provide an income, add fertility to your in-laws fields
and buy you some time!

It will probably pay you to do some research into using mushrooms to detoxify the lagoon if it can safely be drained !
Google Myco Remediation a good Author, easy to follow would be paul stamets ! after some time being worked by Fungi
you should be able to use the lagoon for compost tea as an early poster advised, for the good of he craft ! Big AL

 
Andy Reed
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I have dairy farmed for 10 years, and yes all that effluent in the lagoon is a fertiliser resource to use, I've grown many veges in that stuff. What concerns me now about them is not the manure but all the dairy shed detergents that accumulate there. I'm sure it's not a big deal, but it always bugs me. I highly doubt there a pesticides in there, or herbicides, knowing farmers they are most likely dumped on the track on the way back from the field, not in the effluent pond.

Either way get a digger in, scrape out the bottom and the sides until you hit clay, but try not to take too much clay. Use that stuff around some trees if you are unsure about it. I guarantee that is a clay lined pond, most likely dug in an area with high clay content, once you remove the top layer it will be as clean as you can get it, and good to go.
 
William James
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Check out Ben Falk, he seems to have the same thing you have.
http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/resilient-farm-homestead-book/

What he did was connected the top, manure pond with a few down-hill land features. He uses the top pond to "fertigate" lower ponds and swales.
The problem with manure lagoons is that they can be a source of pathogens, but if you're using it to fertilize other areas, then the pathogens are mitigated. Just don't plant lettuce next to the manure pond and you'll be fine.

ps: willows, mulberries, and cottonwood all make a lot of woody mass with the conditions you describe, and they do it fast. If you can captialize on the woody mass (chip, hugelkulture) then that's another way around the problem.

William
 
ben capozzi
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Andy Reed wrote:I have dairy farmed for 10 years, and yes all that effluent in the lagoon is a fertiliser resource to use, I've grown many veges in that stuff. What concerns me now about them is not the manure but all the dairy shed detergents that accumulate there. I'm sure it's not a big deal, but it always bugs me. I highly doubt there a pesticides in there, or herbicides, knowing farmers they are most likely dumped on the track on the way back from the field, not in the effluent pond.

Either way get a digger in, scrape out the bottom and the sides until you hit clay, but try not to take too much clay. Use that stuff around some trees if you are unsure about it. I guarantee that is a clay lined pond, most likely dug in an area with high clay content, once you remove the top layer it will be as clean as you can get it, and good to go.


Andy, thanks so much! That's awesome info from someone in the biz. I'm sure it's a clay lined pond—in our county the soil leans WAYYYYY toward clay. You can find it anywhere without going down too far at all. Skimming the top layer should be very doable.
 
ben capozzi
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William James wrote:Check out Ben Falk, he seems to have the same thing you have.
http://www.wholesystemsdesign.com/resilient-farm-homestead-book/

What he did was connected the top, manure pond with a few down-hill land features. He uses the top pond to "fertigate" lower ponds and swales.
The problem with manure lagoons is that they can be a source of pathogens, but if you're using it to fertilize other areas, then the pathogens are mitigated. Just don't plant lettuce next to the manure pond and you'll be fine.

ps: willows, mulberries, and cottonwood all make a lot of woody mass with the conditions you describe, and they do it fast. If you can captialize on the woody mass (chip, hugelkulture) then that's another way around the problem.

William


William, thanks! One more reason to pick up Ben Falk's book. As soon as I'm finished with Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture I'm on it!

~Ben
 
I am going down to the lab. Do NOT let anyone in. Not even this tiny ad:
paul's latest kickstarter
https://permies.com/t/65247/permaculture-design/permaculture-design-alternative-technology-live
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