Reports of pit foaming are by no means a new phenomenon, but fall tends to see more incidences than other times of the year. For that reason, it’s prudent for producers and others working around deep-pit manure systems to know how to keep safety as the No. 1 priority when conditions produce foaming.
“Whenever you are about to agitate or remove manure from a deep pit, you need to remove the pigs first, if at all possible, and make sure no one is in the building,” says Allan Stokes, Pork Checkoff’s director of environmental programs. “It’s best to clearly mark entryways to buildings where manure agitation or pump-out is going on by using door tags, such as the free ones offered by the Checkoff through the Pork Store.”
As Stokes makes clear, “Safety must be the first concern for people and animals.” With that goal in mind, he offers some additional key steps to help foster safety, including: Maintaining maximum ventilation rates for a period prior to and during agitation and pump-out to help to avoid gas build-up in the building; and shutting off equipment not necessary for manure removal, such as heaters and automatic feed systems, which could provide ignition sources for any gas pockets in the building.
Stokes also advises producers to be wary of products that claim to “de-foam” pits or make them safer to work around. The Pork Checkoff and others are funding ongoing research into what causes pits to foam. Until the causes are clearly known, it is difficult to determine what will actually work to eliminate pit foaming.
In 2009, the Pork Checkoff funded Iowa State University researchers to investigate the causes of pit foaming and the steps producers could take to ensure human and animal safety. Their findings are in the report titled, Deep Pit Swine Facility Flash Fires and Explosions: Sources, Occurrences, Factors, and Management.
Producers also can download the Checkoff’s fact sheet, Safe Manure Removal Policies, or order it through the Pork Store at no cost.