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. "You go in there at 50 and your eyes burn," McKnight says. "There is a pretty noticeable difference."
Just across Creamery Road from Three Mile Lake, a popular recreation area 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. Manure from a single building covers 100 acres. "We don't buy much fertilizer." 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. "You could see the line where we quit," he says. "It looked like we changed corn varieties."
After applying urea and sidedressing N last year, McKnight says there was more of a phosphorous benefit.. Now, he uses MTM regularly. "It makes the phosphorous more readily available."
How it works
To apply MTM, McKnight pours it in the pits at one spot. "You pour it in and it just spreads out across that manure," he explains. He applies one gallon per pit at a time. "Ideally, you need to start treating it as soon as you pump out your pit." It keeps ammonia down, which saves 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."
MTM started as a combination of the ideas behind the chemistries found in two other SFP products – AVAIL, a phosphorous fertilizer enhancer, and NutriSphere-N, a nitrogen stabilizer. MTM reduces nitrogen losses from leaching, volatilization and denitrification and helps reduce phosphorous lockup in soil when applied through manure. "When you dump the product in the pits, you see a reaction taking place," explains SFP regional manager in Iowa, Jeff Thompson. "It's an immediate reaction of the MTM stabilizing the nitrogen that is volatilizing off the manure."
Because it's biodegradable and polymer-based, MTM doesn't harm the environment and doesn't require specialized equipment. It helps reduce crusting and solids in manure, making it more consistent. This makes nutrient analysis more uniform. "A lot of times that is one of the complaints [of manure]," Thompson says. "Producers and custom applicators have to keep pulling manure samples all the way through the cleanout to make sure they are applying the correct amount of manure and nutrients to the soil. MTM should improve that part of the process."
Although many farmers apply MTM to their manure three or four times a year, it can be applied any time. Thompson says it's best to put it in two weeks before emptying the pits to give it plenty of time to work. It's still recommended to agitate the manure before pumping and use best practices to get the manure stirred. At $125 a gallon, it should be applied by the number of acres it will cover, 18 ounces per acre is recommended. This means about 14 gallons of MTM per 100 acres.
MTM has had a similar effect on farms across the country. SFP has yield data from 46 trials in 12 states. "That ranges across all species of livestock and many different forms of manure application," notes Thompson. "The average yield increase is 9.7 bushels on all those trials." Although it has only been marketed since February 2012, after a trial run in 2011, there has been a strong demand. "Seventy-five percent of the phone calls I receive are on that product," he says. "We've had a lot of testimonials from people all across the livestock industry who are very satisfied with More Than Manure."
Jack Wyttenbach, who farms near Sauk City, Wis., is another example. Like McKnight, he noticed a significant reduction of ammonia. "In every place we've used it, you get a noticeable reduction in detectable gases," he says. "Not only did the meters say we saw significant gas reductions, but our noses did too."
Wyttenbach says the fresher air pays off for the pigs. "It's so vital for good performance of your animal to have good quality air," he says. "I can tell you, it's impossible to get the air too good for hogs or anybody else."
It also makes a more comfortable working environment. "You can't overly take out these gases, you can't do that enough. Those gases are not healthy for anybody, so you try to minimize them." There's also an environmental benefit. "Ammonia will rise ten feet in one minute," he says. "Any release of ammonia will be in the atmosphere very quickly."
MTM reduces nitrogen loss in the pit and the field, and should pay off with future regulations. "Our state DNR is going to require liquid manure, especially fall applied, to have some sort of stabilizer in it," he says "Anything you can do to cut down on the release of those gases has a real positive effect."
It also benefits Wyttenbach's 1,000 acres of crops. "All of the manure that we apply is on land that we also crop," he says. "We came up with somewhere around an eight bushel advantage with the treated manure." He differs from McKnight in his nutrient requirements, and MTM helps him maximize nutrient usage. "We do have to apply more plant nutrients, mainly nitrogen," he notes "Our potash and phosphorous is in pretty good shape."
Similar to McKnight, Wyttenbach was skeptical at first, having heard of numerous additives before which didn't work. "This one really gave us some results." With $7 corn, $125 per gallon pays off when using 18 ounces an acre, he says. "That's over 50 dollars an acre on income," he says. For him, the most significant aspect is the benefit for the pigs. "What we saw on our cropland was all just a bonus."