Odour reduction practices at Narrogin Beef Producers

Matt and Janet Thompson managed a world class Feedlot at Narrogin Beef Producers. I asked them to list the things they did to try to keep odours to a minimum, and this list shows that they used almost every means possible

If they are permitted to run the farm at full capacity they have plans to make a few further changes, even though the odour tests show the problem is minor and had already been reduced.

Narrogin Beef Producers: Odour reduction plan

We continually improved management across all areas as our business grew and our employee base deepened.  Following are things we did or could do to minimise odour emissions from our property.

  1. The best thing we could do if there were real odour issues is to finish our project up to 14,940 head, as originally planned and approved.  Included in our original approval, in the last stage of our development, was an expensive mill system that would improve the processing of grain such that the cattle would be able to digest more, excrete less, and cause less odour.  This was always our plan, but we are unable to cash flow the investment with only 10,000 head of cattle or fewer.  We must have maximum throughput to justify this expenditure.The mill system involves wetting or steaming the grains before putting them through a roller mill, which makes the nutrients in the grain more accessible to the digestive tract of the cattle.  When operating, we were dry-rolling grains, which is much better than feeding whole grains, but not as good as the proposed mill system.
  2. We treated wet pen floors and the retention pond with a bacterial / enzyme product.  This product treats the source directly, and has been found to be extremely effective.  Please note:  this only works when moisture is present.
  3. We managed and measured manure and pen cleaning diligently.  We built up a reputation for a good product, and demand for cattle manure increased.  We have more options for taking manure directly off site all year. Having said this, it is important that we be allowed to stockpile manure during winter months, as the natural disposal of organic material onto farmland can only take place during the summer months, when farmers do not have crops in the ground.   Manure went immediately off-site, went to the storage area for later off-site use, or went into the vermi-composting facility (and then offsite in the form of completely odourless castings).
  4. We managed our drain system and entire catchment area so as to contain all runoff and minimise events that lead to odour generation.  The dry season that we have in this area makes it very effective to conduct maintenance activities during nine months of the year when moisture is minimal.  It is important to note that the integrity of the entire system would likely be damaged if intensive drain maintenance were attempted during the winter wet season.
  5. We managed the feed system with a targeted protein ration to different weights of cattle.  (Smaller cattle need more protein for growth, and bigger cattle need less and so “pass through” the unneeded nitrogen in their urine.)  This was implemented in 2007.  It cost more each day to mix a separate ration for heavier weight cattle, but we were committed to doing everything possible to aid in minimizing odour.
  6. We developed a state-of-the-art worm farm, which was generating heaps of interest from locals and outsiders alike.  If we had been allowed to go up to 14,940 head, we could have afforded more equipment for more effective pen cleaning and handling of wastes.  In fact, prior to the 2008 license being issued (which effectively made us unable to continue operating), we had two pieces of equipment ordered that would allow us to further process waste through our vermi-composting facility.  We canceled the orders for those pieces of equipment, as, at 6,000 head occupancy, we could not afford to operate with the existing level of capital expenditure, let alone more.
  7. We utilised an innovative computer system to track the amount of manure that would be generated in each pen each day.  We printed daily reports and managed pen cleaning and maintencance activities based on those reports (which were based on real feed delivery and prior pen cleaning information).  Using this high-tech computer system, we developed the Streamlined Manure Handling (SMH) principle, which aimed to minimise handling of manure.
  8. If we could finish our project up to 14,940, we would commit to installing a sprinkler system that would aid in dust suppression in the summertime.  We offered to do this in the past, but DEC said that we were prohibited from doing this without an additional works approval.

Were we operating, we would continue to adopt new technologies and improve all management areas of our business.  Technology is exciting, and increasingly effective products at more reasonable prices are being developed every day.

Because some people are philosophically opposed to what we do, though, it does not matter how good we are — it will never be good enough.

Matt and Janet Oct 2010

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