Animal Science rethinks, markets manure to public

Apr 21st, 2010 | By | Category: April 22, 2010, Campus News

East Campus employees have retooled UNL’s use of horse apples, poultry poop and small animal excrement.

For the second season, Animal Science employees are converting the three-pronged manure mix into a natural fertilizer and selling it to area gardeners for $2 per cubic foot (or in bulk for $45 per cubic yard). And, according to the employees selling the mix, the reconditioned poo is flying out faster than it can be bagged.

“We sold 90 bags on April 12 alone and 600 pounds since March,” said John Toney, a research project coordinator for Animal Science. “Demand is up because last year we sold about 200 pounds total in spring and fall. We can hardly keep with the extra demand.”

John Toney seals bags of fertilizer made from animal waste. UNL sells the natural fertilizer to the public. The Department of Animal Science purchased two digesters to make the fertilizer rather than haul it to other university farm sites. By making and selling the natural fertilizer, UNL officials estimate a 30 percent reduction in animal waste hauling costs. Photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications.

Under the direction of Sheila Scheideler and Lyle Robeson, Animal Science purchased two industrial-sized digesters to make the compost. Robeson, an ag research technician, helped minimize costs by building a motorized sifter and a conveyor belt system to move the compost piles.

“We had to find funds to purchase the digesters,” said Scheideler, a professor of Animal Science who was interim department chair when the fertilizer program started. “But, we felt that this was a good investment, primarily because of the rising cost of fuel.”

While a green product by nature, the manure from animal science studies at UNL has been a bit of a gas hog. Historically, the waste has been hauled to UNL’s Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead and to university-owned fields along 84th Street. Scheideler said UNL had averaged around 75 of the waste hauls to Mead annually. The estimated expense of each round trip is $50 in mileage and vehicle costs.

Clyde Naber, a UNL livestock operations manager, said the Animal Science compost project has reduced the trips by about 30 percent.

“We can’t handle all of the animal waste, but this is still a way we can contribute to UNL becoming more green and earth friendly,” said Toney. “It really is a good project all around.”

Robeson and Tohey have developed the mix, which is sold at a 25 to 1 ratio of carbon to nitrogen. Total nitrogen is 1 percent, available phosphoric acid is 2 percent and soluble potash is 1 percent.

A sign points to bags of the fertilizer being sold on East Campus. The product can be purchased in Poultry Research Building F from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.. Photo by Troy Fedderson, University Communications.

“All the trace minerals are there as well,” said Scheideler. “And the bedding material from the equine and small animals adds a cellulose component that really helps hold in moisture.”

No manure or bedding from animals on antibiotics or other drugs is used to make the compost.

Scheideler estimated that the compost sales would pay off the investment in the digesters within the next five years.

The natural fertilizer is available for sale 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday in Poultry Building F on the north side of the East Campus Loop.

For more information, call 472-2054.

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