Biochar and Animal Confinement

Manure pile at cattle confinement operation, Iowa

I suffer from anosmia. Meaning I can’t smell. Not sour milk. Not skunk aftermath. Not the manure in the stock yard. But I have people in my life with over active olfactory sensory neurons. They smell it very well and perhaps you, too, suffer from that in some instances.

Cattle confinement operation in Iowa

Cattle confinement operation in Iowa

Raising or finishing cattle in confinement (feed lots) not only concentrates the animals, it produces concentrated volume of manure – liquid and solid. No nose is needed to know it stinks. Same for hog sheds, and poultry buildings.

Odor reduction

Odors can be reduced downwind with proper windbreak placement. Odors nearby can be reduced with biochar.

Manure pile at cattle confinement operation, Iowa

Manure pile at cattle confinement operation, Iowa

Composting the solid manure with biochar helps with the odors, but also it becomes supercharged with the nutrients in the manure, takes methane and other volitiles and makes them benefits when the manure is spread on fields.

Studies have shown that biochar can capture 63% of the amonia in poultry doppings.  A blend of 5-10% biochar with conventional litter placed on the poultry barn floor would reduce the amonia gas in the air.  Better air for you and the birds to breathe.  And if there’s less amonia in the air, there would be less flies flitting about as well. Another win.

Since the biochar absorbs liquids it changes the properties of the floor droppings in the poultry barn drying them out, making them less sticky and lighter. Easier to handle. Adding biochar will also reduce the lime additive to your litter.

Liquid cover

Amonia and sulfates are the main source of manure odor.  Biochar will absorb these and if floating on the water will also trap gases at the lagoon’s surface.  The Journal of Environmental Quality published an article in the May 2017  Vol 46 No 3 issue “Can Biochar Covers Reduce Emissions from Manure Lagoons While Capturing Nutrients?”.

Core Ideas

  • Biochar biocovers can reduce odor and gas emissions from livestock manure lagoons.
  • Floating biochar covers can passively capture nutrients from livestock manure.
  • Biochars exhibited a range of nutrient retention and emission reduction efficacies.
Dougherty, B., M. Gray, M. G. Johnson, and M. Kleber.

The reearch was conducted with liquid dairy manure, but while dairy and beef cattle diets can be different, the use of biochar on feedlot lagoons should produce similar results.

Have odors?

Let’s talk biochar.  We’re going to transform wood waste from tree removals and sawmill residue into biochar. Sign up to get our newsletter to know when we’ve started production later in 2018, like and follow @Trees2Products on Facebook


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