Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, July 04, 1998, Image 132
BIG IS NOT NECESSARILY BAJD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT; NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT PRACTICES OF PENNSYLVANIA SWINE FARMERS Tom Parsons, V.M.D., Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Swine Production Medicine Kimberly Klesse Summer Fellow in Nutrient Management New Bolton Center School of Veterinary Medicine University of Pennsylvania As the American swine industry enters the 21st century, the major challenge it faces is the environ ment Heightened environmental awareness by producers, neigh bors, and consumers alike de mands that pork production pro ceed in harmony with preservation of the land, water, and air. Mora toriums on the construction of new swine operations are being put in place by state governments across the country in the name of environmental concern. However, in some cases, these controversial policy decisions are fueled in part by public fears about many other aspects of large-scale swine pro duction, such as absentee owner ship and potential odor-problems. A similar moratorium on the construction of large farms or so called concentrated animal feed ing operations (CAFOs) has re sulted from recent actions by the More Than 170 Riders In Handicapped Riders Event MALVERN (Chester Co.) The 19th annual Handicapped Riders Event of the Devon Horse show took place on Saturday, May 23 here at the Thomcroft Equestri an Center. More than 170 riders altered the show, and competed in more than 60 different classes. Riders of all ages and disabili ties, mental and physical, com peted in trail, equitation, jumping, and dressage classes, and a com bined driving event (cones, dres sage, and cross country mara thon). The show, sponsored by Brushwood Stables in Malvern, is put on by the joint efforts of Thomcroft Equestrian Center and The Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital. On Sunday. May 24, the divi sion champions from the Saturday classes met at the Devon Horse Show Grounds in the Dixon Oval to compete in the grand cham pionship class. Barbara Rosoff of Phoenixville and Babsie Clark of Kirkwood, judged in the class. Riders were asked to ride as a group and perform individual tests. Grand champion was a warded MILK Where's your mustache? “ School of Veterinary Medicine UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA Pennsylvania State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). A federal mandate on water qual ity has called for revision of state CATO permitting requirements. Despite the fact that existing Pennsylvania laws are some of the country’s most progressive and stringent concerning farm nutrient management, DEP has suspended final decisions on all CAPO per mit applications until changes in the permitting process are final ized. This defacto moratorium on construction of new swine facili ties effectively halts further ex pansion of the Pennsylvania swine industry. Potential problems with water quality created by growth in the local swine industry have long been recognized. Much of our Pennsylvania swine industry is lo cated within the Susquehanna River Basin watershed, one of the major tributaries of the Chesa peake Bay. Deteriorating water quality in the Bay has changed both fish and plant life there. These changes have focused the attention of concerned commer cial fishermen, recreational users, and ecologists on agriculture’s contribution to non-point source pollution in the Bay. Thus, the en vironmental impact of the Penn sylvania swine industry has come under great scrutiny. Production of pork by the next generation of Pennsylvania swine farmers will require environment ally sound management practices. Paramount to continued swine production in this state is both the opportunity for the industry to ex- to John Greenwood of Grantville. Erica Freed, also of Grantwood, was reserve. John was presented the Hop; Montgomery Scott Per petual Trophy. Scott was a long time supporter of riding for the handicapped. She won the trophy herself at the Bryn Mawr Horse Show in 1930, and in 1993 do nated it to The Handicapped Rid ers Event of the Devon Horse Show. One of the many additional tro phies awarded was the Brushwood (for best handicapped rider), won by Bernadette McMullen of Spe cial Equestrians in Pineville and donated by Mrs. J. Maxwell Mor an of Brushwood Stables in Mal vern. Moran has been a generous supporter of the show and a tire less volunteer the day of the event Also participating at Devon were the Thomcoift Mainstream ers. The group is an eight-horse, nine-rider team consisting of handicapped and non-handicap ped riders ages 8-20. These am bassadors to Thomcroft have tra velled to New York, Virginia, and Harrisburg to present their drill. JVews xJVew Jgolton pand and the development of cost effective solutions to nutrient management problems. With re gard to the latter point, we recent ly concluded a survey of manage ment practices by Pennsylvania swine farmers'. The goal of our study was to identify opportunities for novel and innovative, yet cost effective, solutions to swine nutri ent management We have docu mented striking differences be tween swine operation in their ability to capitalize on nutrient management advances. Perhaps to the surprise of some, of the farms surveyed, we have found that the large ones can be twice as likely as the small to implement environ mentally superior nutrient man agement programs. These results suggest that the small farm, not the large farm, could be the more ■immediate threat to the environ ment in Pennsylvania These find ings are described in detail below. Nutrients flow through a farm or production system as part of a cycle. Feed becomes meat and manure, manure is applied to crops, and crops become feed. A ration poorly matched to a pig’s growth requirements will result in excess nutrients in the manure as they pass unused through the ani mal. When such manure is applied over and above the needs of a crop, excess nutrients remain in the soil. Such excess nutrients are Qeme*.., Table I - Demographics of study herds Demographic No of herds Total no of animals 10,501 12,225 56,223 Mean no of animals/herd 138 1,358 551 Median no of animals/herd 95 1,336 375 Table II - Nutrient management survey questions A - Do you test your manure for its nutrient value of nitrogen? B - Do you test your manure for its nutrient value of phosphorus 9 C - Do you keep records of manure application before planting corn or small grains 9 D - Is your manure applied with a calibrated spreader 9 E - Do you refrain from spreading manure in winter time 9 F - Is your manure application handled by a contract manure applicator 9 G - Do you practice split-sex feeding 9 H - Do you practice phase feeding (use 4 or more rations in either nursery or grow/finish) 9 Table 111 - Affirmative answers to nutrient management survey questions Questions Finish Units Floors Small Large Small Sow Finish Sow Floors Large Small Units Small 67% 24% 67% 22% 67% 27% 89% 46% 89% 46% 67% 50% 26% 25% 25% 21% 50% 47% 41% 43% 43% 14% at risk of being lost from the cycle to the environment. Leaching or runoff of these excess nutrients re sult in pollution of the environ ment Thus, we questioned swine producers about manure handling, as well as cropping and animal nu trition practices. Study farms were categorized by operation type (sow unit or fin ish floor), then stratified by size. Farms with >6OO sows or >2OOO head of grow-flnish pigs were considered large. Demographics of study herds are shown in Table I. Producer responses to the 8 questions listed in Table II are summarized in Table 111. The major finding of our survey was that large swine units are on average VA to 2 times more likely to implement environmentally sound nutrient management prac tices. Large swine ‘operations more often used progressive nutri tional practices such as split sex feeding or phase feeding that re duce or limit nutrient load in the manure. Large swine units are also more aware of their manure nutri ent content and more capable of effectively utilizing this informa tion (e.g. keep records of manure application and apply manure with a calibrated spreader). Why is a larg swine unit more likely to have implemented en vironmentally-sound management practices? The larger size unit may be able to capture benefits as sociated with economies of scale in nutrient management For in stance, large operations can afford to mix and feed a larger number of diets, or use contract manure handlers that provide better access to technologies for progressive manure management practices. The large swine unit is also more likely to exceed the two-animal unit/acre criterion. Thus, there are environmental benefits from the increased scrutiny of these large Large 30 86,540 2,882 2,300 producers by existing state nutri ent management regulations. The results of this study suggest that big is not necessarily bad for the environment when it comes to swine nutrient management. Large swine units can be more likely than small farms to utilize progressive, environmentally con scious nutrient management prac tices. In theory, the possibility of catastrophic failure of manure storage facilities on such large or concentrated animal farm opera tions provides a great potential risk to the environment However, existing regulations require that these facilities have adequate con struction, monitoring and safety systems to prevent such an un qualified environmental disaster. A corollary of our work, perhaps contrary to popular belief, is that small swine producers could rep resent a more immediate threat to the environment. In the future, smaller producers must become more pro-active with regard to en vironmental concerns and imple ment more progressive nutrient management practices. Large To facilitate the goal of increased environmental aware ness among all Pennsylvania swine farmers, we are conducting an environmental educational pro gram in collaboration with the Na tional Pork Producers Council and the Pennsylvania State Coopera tive Extension Service. If you are interested in participating in the Environmental Assurance'Pro gram which aims to promote an active understanding of issues such as manure management, odor control and neighbor relations, call either Kimberly Klesse (610-444-5800 ext 2345) or Bob Mikesell (814-865-2987) to schedule a farm visit 1-Previous nutrient manage ment fellows at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterin ary Medicine, Wayne Hassinger and Kelli Monahan, designed the survey, then collected and analyzed the data described here. This work was generously sup ported by a grant from the Penn sylvania Friends of Agriculture Foundation.