The frequency of manure removal was the biggest operational impact of using a manure belt drying system on the cost per bird for Alberta egg farmers - one of 4 key learnings published in Evaluating manure belt dryers in Alberta layer barns: final report.
A team from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) and Egg Farmers of Alberta (EFA) investigated gaps related to benefits, costs and challenges of using manure belt dyers in Alberta layer barns.
“We conducted this study in response to EFA inquiries about manure belt drying technology,” explains Lynda Miedema, nutrient management specialist with the Environmental Stewardship branch at AF and co-author of the report.
“Egg farmers can adopt new manure handling technologies to continuously improve their efforts toward sustainability.”
She says that an initial investigation provided insight into manure belt dryers and highlighted several areas - including manure management research and extension needs - that required further investigation.
The goal of the study was to evaluate manure drying belt technology by understanding manure moisture and nitrogen contents before and after drying, economics of purchasing and operating the system and the impacts the system had on in-barn ammonia and dust levels.
The team conducted telephone surveys with 31 egg farmers across Alberta, and AF staff visited 15 of those farms with manure drying systems. Of the 15 farms visited, the team selected 2 farms for further summer and winter in-barn testing.
“The overarching learning from this work is that manure belt dryers are a manure management tool, and the decision whether to invest in manure drying systems comes down to personal preference regarding in-barn conditions and management,” she says.
“What works in one barn on one farm may not work on another and the costs and benefits of the systems needs to be weighed by each farmer.”
She hopes that the results from this study will allow other egg farmers to think about their in-barn manure management and to make informed decisions about this management tool.
A highlight of this study for Miedema was getting to work and learn with the two participating farmers. “The two farmers allowed us entry into their barns to run our testing scenarios and worked with us. It was a great relationship, and we learned a great deal together.”
“Another highlight for me, with the testing and reporting completed, is to be able to share this information with egg farmers across the province. Sharing this information allows for broader conversations regarding manure management on the farm from in the layer barns, to the yard and out in the fields.”
Four factsheets that provide an overview of the study as well as key learnings are available.
For more information about this study, connect with Lynda Miedema: