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Composting hogs offers another fertilizer option

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Many farmers are looking at ways to cut back on input costs with innovative techniques. What fascinates me is how we are finding new ways to use older practices on our farms. With all the technology we possess, and it is amazing, sometimes simple can still be very effective.

During the Iowa Swine Day at Iowa State University, I had the chance to hear Keith Warren talk about hog composting. Warren is the president of Advanced Composting Technologies in Candler, North Carolina. Warren discussed the benefits of composting deceased hogs for your land.

Composting a dead animal is nothing terribly new. The practice is still the same, but the technology is changing.  Warren pointed out that efficiency and discipline are required for success. Microbes are the key to the whole thing. Warren reminded attendees that the microbes need the same essential things we do.

Twenty-five to thirty years ago, all composting was done in wooden bins. The air could get through the wood and to the microbes. The drawback was wood did not last very long. Soon, farmers went to concrete bins. However, those bins do not let the airflow into the bins. Therefore, the microbes sit dormant. Warren compared them to burial vaults. To be effective, Warren says air flow must be introduced through the flooring.

Moisture is the next key. The microbes need to have a certain amount of moisture available to begin composting.

Next is food. Microbes need a supply of carbon and nitrogen to eat. Warren says you need a good organic component. In North Carolina, they have a lot of sawdust available. In Iowa, we need to rely on cornstalks, wheat straw, and soybeans.

Warren says if you can keep those requirements (air, water, carbon, and nitrogen) properly supplied to your composting operation, you will be able to generate quality organic fertilizer which will be very beneficial to your land, and it is all generated by your own operation.