As a Michigan operation expands, it implements an environmentally balanced nutrient management plan to address groundwater concerns and increase nutrient utilization by crops.

Dykhuis Farms, Inc. recently completed an expansion program to a 20,000-sow, farrow-to-finish operation in Holland, MI. Along with that accelerated growth the last few years (since 2003), came the need for intense planning to help develop the appropriate nutrient management plan.

For that job, Dykhuis Farms turned to Brandon Hill, a nutrient management consultant who recently became the farm's finishing production manager.

“An environmentally sound nutrient management plan, for now and for the future, is essential for an operation of this size,” Hill explains.

The farm's expansion and nutrient management plan was presented at an Environmental Information Center session sponsored by Engineered Storage Products Company, manufacturers of Slurrystore systems, during World Pork Expo.

Hill says the first goal was to eliminate winter spreading and promote a more environmentally sound manure application timeframe. By moving to more spring applications, nitrogen leaching and groundwater concerns could be addressed, and crop uptake of nutrients could be increased.

Hill also looked into longer manure storage time and more spreading flexibility to help reduce chances of surface water impairment. Located fairly close to several major recreational waterways, the farm was also concerned about adopting covered storage technology to control hog odors and containing manure in a structure that met Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) Management 313 specifications for greater than six months.

“We felt Slurrystore systems would be a good fit for the large volume of wastewater from the sows,” Hill says. “Plus, with a Slurrystore, we had no problems with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit requiring six months of reliable storage. We wanted more flexibility and odor control, and to apply manure when we wanted to, not when we had to.

“When you construct a lagoon, you have to meet certain requirements. Those regulations continually change. Standards and requirements for lagoons often need to be updated because of groundwater concerns. With a Slurrystore, we feel we're ahead of the game,” he points out.

Applying for EQIP Funding

In 2004, Dykhuis Farms, during the process of expanding the hog operation from 8,400 to 20,000 sows, put their nutrient management plan into action. Hill helped owner Bob Dykhuis apply for EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) federal funding to help finance the extra manure storage.

EQIP cost-share funding was received for all eight Slurrystores requested.

Hill emphasizes that the systems helped expedite the funding process. “We were able to send an engineered drawing to the NRCS engineers for approval. The same design was used for each site and it met specifications. Because we went with a Slurrystore, the process required minimal subsurface soil investigations and site selection requirements.”

The Slurrystore systems were also viewed as more environmentally acceptable by regulators, providing increased security over lagoons, he says.

Enhanced Nutrient Value

Dykhuis Farms now has timed manure applications in the spring and fall. Slurrystores are pumped once or twice a year.

“Manure now can be spread in a cost-effective, timely manner,” Hill adds. “The variable cost of application went from $0.01 down to $0.002/gal.”

Manure is applied using a dragline system. In the past, manure was trucked to the fields from the barns. By eliminating this practice, there has been reduced soil compaction and inorganic nitrogen use, and increased utilization of manure nitrogen by crops.

“Dykhuis Farms has significantly decreased the amount of commercial nitrogen purchased because we get more manure out quicker in the spring,” Hill says. “When we had to pump year 'round, we lost nitrogen value due to improper timing of manure applications. We saw more nitrogen losses through the soil via denitrification. Now with increased spring and late fall manure applications, we can take full nitrogen credits for our manure.”