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Pig Waste Lagoon Solutions  RSS feed

 
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Some background: As Hurricane Florence barrels towards us, just 24-48 hours away, I just listened to a Democracy Now interview with Naima Muhammad, a leader in the group North Carolina Environmental Justice Network. (https://www.facebook.com/ncejnetwork)
It highlighted the fragility and truly terrible design and management of the current pork production system in Eastern NC, as this environmental disaster looms with this hurricane sweeping towards us. I think that the aftermath of this storm could be a time to implement real system change.

Smithfields is a company not far from my home in NC that raises a huge number of pigs in metal sheds, with their waste falling through metal slats and being piped to unlined waste lagoons. In order to keep these lagoons from overflowing, this waste slurry is sprayed onto surrounding agricultural fields, making people sick to the point of vomiting. There are also reports of well water contamination nearby (shocker) and just generally this whole system is horrible for so many obvious reasons (that I'm not going to ramble on about). Smithfields has a monopoly over most everything and has these farmers in a similar sort of economic headlock to what GMO corn farmers experience, from what I can tell (convince them they need all sorts of expensive equipment etc., then keep them on the hamster wheel of production - just barely able to make ends meet and pay off the massive loans to get all this going).

I feel very passionately about improving the lives of these animals, these farmers, and the surrounding communities. I know I've heard about situations where farms like this were able to convert their waste into compost and make it into an additional revenue stream; I've thought for hours about this before, going in circles in my head about how to improve conditions for pigs, use the nutrients, get the contaminants out of the manure, and convert the waste into something that can benefit these oppressed people & animals instead of poisoning them.

I know in a perfect world there would be a complete system overhaul, with far fewer pigs being raised in such an area, no metal buildings cooping them up, etc... but considering the design constraints of a pretty rigid production schedule, and the need to use existing infrastructure & spend minimal money to modify it (let's be real, this is a big company that's cheap af like most greedy large companies are), I'd really, really love to brainstorm with this community about actionable system changes I can pitch to Smithfields & the farmers.

Thank you SO MUCH for taking your time to read & think about this with me, and I hope that everyone also in the path of hurricane Florence stays safe and well. <3
 
pollinator
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This whole subject moves me to tears. I do hope there are people with the power to initiate change and that they wake up and DO SOMETHING.
 
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So, if I understand you, you're looking for a 'better' industrial food system?

I'm not mocking you; I face the same sorts of questions about my in-laws' industrial fruit production. The problem is that an industrial production is a machine. If you want to make a change you have two options from what I can see: 1, make a small change to the existing machine to very minimal effect, or 2, get a different machine.
 
pollinator
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I saw one impressive system. It wasnt the raising side, but the slaughter side. All byproducts were ground and fed into a massive worm farm.
 
Jennings Ingram
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A few ideas I can think of, to start us off:

1., Planting extra voracious vines (maybe even kudzu?) next to the sheds so the pigs can eat the foliage as it grows through and some of the nutrients are being converted that way. These would need to be somewhat protected planters, maybe with willow around them to suck up extra nutrients....maybe there should be thick willow surrounding the whole building also (except access points of course) and the pigs could eat that as well as a chop & drop foliage.

2. LIVING BUFFERS around the lagoons, definitely! All the trees & shrubs, all the places. This at least could be pollarded and turned into biochar if nothing else. I do feel concerned, though, about the roots punching holes in the "dam" walls and increasing groundwater contamination that way. I'm wondering if there are potential tax breaks for this the company could be eligible for that would help sway them towards foresting this land.

3. Partnering with local tree removal companies to have consistent wood chips dumped into or at least around the lagoons and then pushed into them to start the composting process by balancing the carbon-nitrogen-etc. ratio.

4. Partnering with other local companies like breweries to get spent grains & food waste to feed to the pigs and increase diversity & nutrition in their diets.
 
master pollinator
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Jennings Ingram
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wayne fajkus wrote:I saw one impressive system. It wasnt the raising side, but the slaughter side. All byproducts were ground and fed into a massive worm farm.



Interesting! I definitely hadn't thought of this. This is definitely an idea worth bringing up. Thank you, Wayne!

And yes, I agree that the machine is broken, and a different machine is vastly better. But this is a case of working with what we've got to help a severely inhumane system get even a little bit better for everyone. Even one tiny step towards a humane existence is better than none at all. I've cried, I've raged, but the bottom line is I'm a designer with skills to offer and now it's time to go to work and make some change here.  
 
Jennings Ingram
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Here are a couple links I found which might help:

https://today.tamu.edu/2017/01/26/closed-loop-concept-could-be-the-future-of-sustainable-animal-farms/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40093-014-0050-6




I love the idea of converting the waste to biogas. I wonder if there's anyone here who is knowledgeable on biogas who would help us do the math for this facility?
We need to crunch numbers in terms of equipment for capacity needed and installation cost, and then the potential profit or savings from sale or use of the biogas.
 Especially in the aftermath of whatever havoc is wreaked on these facilities in the hurricane, if I can compare the costs of installing a biogas system with costs of coping with the next climate disaster, that could build a VERY strong case!

 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Maybe you can post in the Biogas forum to ask for help with your numbers:  https://permies.com/f/112/biogas
 
Jennings Ingram
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Here is a transcript of the original article detailing the huge problems with hog waste lagoons and the "lagoon & spray" "systems" that are mostly utilized by these large companies to manage the waste, the health effects on the surrounding communities, and the disasters that ensued in the last hurricane that hit the area (so many dead animals in waterways): https://www.democracynow.org/2018/9/13/nc_lagoons_hold_billions_of_gallons

Come on, permies! Please, NC needs your brainpower! What else you got? Anyone ever lived near one of these places? Any info at all is so helpful. Thank you in advance!!

 
pollinator
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Any farmer that buys into this "treatment" solution to the millions of gallons of pig shit that their factory farm produces should be required to draw their water down-stream from their operation.  How many more of these lagoons need to rupture and pollute everything downstream before there is legislation against them?  Make then bath in the creeks down from their toxic pig wasteland.

If an environmentally sane solution causes the cost of pork to rise by a couple of bucks a pound, so be it.  

The solution is to not overstock the land with more animals than can reasonably poop their waste on the ground to be naturally fed into the soil.  Confined feeding operations are cruel, plain and simple.  Pigs were created to wander the forest and eat acorns.  As Joel Salatin puts it, "Let the pig express his pig-ness."  There certainly are plenty of forested plots in North Carolina that could be thinned and turned into free-range paddocks.  That would provide lumber for the North Carolina furniture industry (which is quiet large), grazing habitat for the hogs, and completely eliminate the need for storage lagoons for a bazillion gallons of concentrated toxic pig shit.

This is Joel's pastured pig operation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=who0VEOPvkk    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjBtZxlkEDw

His phrase is "a light footprint" --- no concrete, no fans, no electricity, no smell, and certainly no pig shit lagoons.

 
Jennings Ingram
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Marco Banks wrote:Any farmer that buys into this "treatment" solution to the millions of gallons of pig shit that their factory farm produces should be required to draw their water down-stream from their operation.  How many more of these lagoons need to rupture and pollute everything downstream before there is legislation against them?  Make then bath in the creeks down from their toxic pig wasteland.

If an environmentally sane solution causes the cost of pork to rise by a couple of bucks a pound, so be it.  

The solution is to not overstock the land with more animals than can reasonably poop their waste on the ground to be naturally fed into the soil.  Confined feeding operations are cruel, plain and simple.  Pigs were created to wander the forest and eat acorns.  As Joel Salatin puts it, "Let the pig express his pig-ness."  There certainly are plenty of forested plots in North Carolina that could be thinned and turned into free-range paddocks.  That would provide lumber for the North Carolina furniture industry (which is quiet large), grazing habitat for the hogs, and completely eliminate the need for storage lagoons for a bazillion gallons of concentrated toxic pig shit.

This is Joel's pastured pig operation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=who0VEOPvkk    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjBtZxlkEDw

His phrase is "a light footprint" --- no concrete, no fans, no electricity, no smell, and certainly no pig shit lagoons.



Marco, I completely agree with you. This is an insane system. It's not okay by any stretch of the imagination. Joel Salatin's systems and pretty much any other system anyone could come up with would be better,
But, the reality is that this is the way over 2,000 of NC farms are set up, and I want to help them start making incremental changes towards not poisoning the surrounding communities by not aerially spraying this gick and not contaminating the nearby wells with this toxic waste seeping into the groundwater. And, hopefully, to improve the lives of those pigs who are imprisoned in this system even a tiny bit by giving them vines to nibble through the bars which would also be uptaking nutrients from the ground, or anything else we can come up with. My idealistic side HATES these solutions. These factory farming designs are so far away from anything any of us would ever put together or bring into being or support. But. change has to start somewhere, and this is why I'm asking: what can we do FROM HERE. From where they are right now, understanding the tiny budget given for any kind of change and huge greed of this company. You know?
Solutions, even tiny ones > idealistic rage
 
pollinator
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This pig waste lagoon problem is the human waste problem all over again.
Adding liquid to animal waste leads to putrefaction
Adding carbon to animal waste leads to compost.
An oversimplification if ever there was one, but potentially useful.

With this in mind, can the deep litter method be applied to pigs?
Assuming no retrofitting , they would be pooping into a pit of wood chips, but not have any opportunity to root through them.
Turning the chips would be necessary.
A second smaller population of dedicated rooting pigs could be used.
Would their lives be worse for rooting through and underworld of fallen food and feces...
I can't really continue down this line of thought, sure it might be a solution to industrial quantities of  pig waste,but it just heaps misery on top of misery.

I have to assume all the pigs are allowed to root through the wood chips- that would be at least a better outcome.
Drain way excess liquids,into more wood chips located  where the lagoons used to be.
Seed woodchip beds with composting worms, mealworms, Black Soldier Flies, oyster and king stropharia spawn.
Fine food for swine, and great decomposers.
The former lagoons could be covered in inflatable structures.
The power to keep them inflated could come from solar, the payoff is keeping rainwater out of the still cooking compost.
Ideally air would be pushed down into the lowest parts of the pile, keeping the whole thing aerobic.
Tied to temperature probes, and we might be able to cool off hot spots before they are a problem.
The edges of the dome could set just outside the edge of the lagoon, allowing the condensation to drip down the edge into surrounding landscape.
This water should be rather clean, having passed through the wood chip bed, evaporated and condensed.
Excess heat could be passed to the pig pit, when needed, or concentrated into hot water(distilled even) via a heat pump.
I imagine you could grow feed inside these same spaces.

So this looks a lot like aquaponics, because it attempts to do the same thing:stock animals densely, and recreate the natural systems that normally cycle their waste, in a compact form.
I think this is common to all animal husbandry to some degree, as the alternative is, well it's hunting free ranging animals.
As soon as you influence their movements or their food source, you are somewhere along the spectrum. You are betting that your efforts can improve upon nature, well at least for your own purposes.

Clearly shit lagoons are not an improvement,  but a pig pit might be.
You would at least be attempting to be responsible for the shit you piled up in one place.




 
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Here in the UK biogas digesters are becoming increasingly common. They are the perfect solution to this problem, converting a toxic waste stream into multiple high value products - safe compost, gas for sale, and improved local environment. Farmers are given substantial incentives to install these systems I believe, and they can be lucrative.
 
Police line, do not cross. Well, this tiny ad can go through:
3 Plant Types You Need to Know: Perennial, Biennial, and Annual
https://permies.com/t/96847/Pros-cons-perennial-biennial-annual
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