It’s about that time of year when hog farmers begin the annual process of pumping a year’s worth of manure out of the pits under their barns. The nutrient-rich slurry will fertilize cropland. But there’s an ongoing problem in these pits: a mysterious foam that sometimes forms on the manure. As Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer explains, no one quite understands why gases get trapped in the pits, but the foam has been causing explosions. That’s right; this is a story about exploding manure pits.
Howard Hill pulls his red Chevy pick-up truck up to a barn near Union, Iowa, that houses 1,000 of his hogs. In the truck’s bed is a 55-pound bag of Rumensin 90, a common antibacterial ingredient in cattle feed that helps reduce bloating. Pigs don’t eat it. Hill brought it here to dump into the manure pit under the hogs.
Hill is among the many Midwestern pork producers who use deep pits under their barns to accumulate manure throughout the year. In the fall, after fields are harvested, the nutrient-rich slurry gets pumped out of the pits and injected into the cropland.
Hog producers and their veterinarians have a new tool to help with the fight against Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV).
The first cases of the fast-spreading disease in the United States were confirmed last spring, prompting researchers to leap into action. At this point, PEDV has been confirmed on nearly 600 farms in 17 states.
Americans eat millions of pounds of fish and seafood and government figures show that 80 percent of it is imported. But two cousins in Iowa are hoping to find a place in that market by investing in aquaculture in a part of the country where pork is king.
Jeff and Mark Nelson have raised corn and hogs for years, but they were looking to diversify their operation. Farm raised fish in Iowa has been tried before but with limited success. It involved outdoor ponds and mostly catfish. The Nelsons’ have moved their venture inside.
The pork business certainly has its challenges. Hog farmers continually grapple with high feed prices, environmental hiccups and criticism from animal welfare groups. But some producers are creating a path to profitability by pursuing smaller, more specialized markets. From Iowa, Harvest Public Media’s Amy Mayer has the story of Eden Farms.
And when the hog market plunged to 8 cents a pound in 1998, Iowa producer Randy Hilleman decided it was time to make a change. Hilleman raises Berkshire pigs, a breed that’s fattier than traditional pigs and costs a little more to raise. Back then, that was hurting him.