“It” Happens: Nutrient Management

By Christopher R. Raines

Tracing back from fork (the meat about which I usually blog) to the farm (the livestock that become the meat about which I usually blog), I realized there are many important components to livestock production that aren’t often talked about, one of those being nutrient management. Sounds fancy, yet nutrient management for livestock farmers is pretty much a set of best practices for “what to do with animal poo.”  (Actually, I just wanted a way to somehow incorporate the video below into my blog.)  Perhaps you have seen the recent CSI Miami episode (from 19 October), and despite the many opportunities to educate about food production systems as spurred by that episode, I am going to focus on nutrient management (due to the suggested link between foodborne illness and “feedlot” runoff).  The efforts made by farmers to control such runoff are extensive, as highlighted below.  Listen to the words of this catchy tune from the land stewards at Gilmer Dairy Farm near Sulligent, Alabama:

What does this have to do with meat? The animals we raise for food (aka: livestock) do make a #2 from time to time.  The fact that food animals make #2 is used by some individuals and groups to argue against the raising of livestock altogether.  Often overlooked management practices and uses of livestock manure include composting, generating electricity, or applying directly to fields as fertilizer.  As this video highlights, there is a lot more to manure than just “water ‘n poo.”  There are nutrients!  All sorts of neat little molecules like nitrogen and sulfur that need to be taken care of in an environmentally-responsible way.

Farming as a whole is complex web, and nutrient management is one of those vital strands seldom talked about  — unless, of course, there is some sort of manure spill (= bad – or no – nutrient management plan?), then it gets talked about — a lot.  And so, to highlight the importance of nutrient management, of what to do with that gray water, Penn State University is hosting a Manure Expo on June 15, 2010 – which might be the best crappy day I’ve ever had!  To learn more about innovations in what to do with your livestock’s poo, it’d be great for you to attend!

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