When Sam McKnight entered his 2,000-head finisher barn after applying SFP's More Than Manure, he couldn't believe the smell – there was none. The ammonia levels had dropped from around 36 parts per million to around 17. As an arrangement with SFP, McKnight received a free gallon of MTM. "I was impressed right away when he dumped it in the pit," he says. "You'd walk in a barn, and didn't know you were in a barn."
McKnight, who raises 3,000 head of pigs near Afton, Iowa, was skeptical at first. "I've seen a lot of pit additives, and nothing ever works." MTM worked within four hours. His finisher barn provided an opportunity to see its effect. "Each room has its own pit, and separate ventilation system," he says. "We dumped the product in one side." While the MTM side's ammonia dropped, the side without it rose slightly. In some cases, ammonia levels can reach 50 parts per million. Anything that can drop the level helps. "You go in there at 50 and your eyes are burning," McKnight says. "There is a pretty noticeable difference."
Across Creamery Road from Three Mile Lake, a popular recreation spot in southwest Iowa, McKnight says reducing odor is crucial. The lake's lodge and cabins are just down the road. "The lodge will be rented every weekend of the summer," he notes. He uses a frac tank with a hose to pump the manure to fields within 1.5 miles, preventing hauling. "Anything I can do so people don't know there are hogs here is all the better."
McKnight covers all his crop ground with manure and custom fertilizes for a total of 18 million gallons annually on both crops and pasture. A single building covers 100 acres. "We don't buy very much fertilizer at all." The additive helps here too. Last year, he tested it on 200 acres. Although the average yield increase is 9.7 bushels per acre, McKnight saw a 30 bushel increase last year. Since plenty of nitrogen was available after applying urea and sidedressing, he says there was more of a phosphorous benefit. "You could see the line where we quit," he says. "It looked like we changed the corn varieties."
How it works
To apply MTM, McKnight pours it in the pits at one spot, with one gallon per pit at a time. "You pour it in and it just spreads out across that manure," he explains. "Ideally, you need to start treating it as soon as you pump out your pit." It keeps ammonia down, saving nitrogen. "Whenever you smell the ammonia, that's the nitrogen volatilizing," McKnight says. "If you can keep the ammonia in the pit, you're keeping nitrogen in it."