Sask. dairy farm makes manure into cow bedding

August 13, 2013 - 8:38am
Bedding Master system at the Kornelius’ farm near Osler on Aug. 12, 2013. Courtesy Jason Kornelius.
Bedding Master system at the Kornelius’ farm near Osler on Aug. 12, 2013. Courtesy Jason Kornelius.

Elkrest Farms near Osler is one of two dairy farms in the province recycling manure into cow bedding.

Originally from B.C., Jason Kornelius runs the Saskatchewan dairy farm with his brothers Brad and Trevor.

“Some people think, ‘That’s just not right having cows lay in their own manure, right?’ Then they’ve come to see it and they are like, ‘Oh, that’s not what we expected at all,’” Kornelius said.

The manure comes from a pit in the barn, which gets pumped into a separator. The nutrient-rich liquid that gets separated goes into a lagoon, to be used in the fields for fertilizer.

A separator squeezes the water out of the manure and leaves it with 65 per cent moisture. It then drops into an eight-by-40-foot long drum which turns the mixture as air moves through. The manure begins to ferment and the bacteria are removed. It is then heated to 160 F for about two days before it loses its foul smell and comes out looking like peat moss.

“It really has no smell because air is getting pulled through it, so it pulls the ammonia and everything out of it,” said Kornelius, adding it smells more like dirt than manure.

The brothers were looking stop using straw for bedding because they’d been consuming too much of it. They went through about 12,000 to 15,000 bales of straw a year just for bedding.

The recycled manure is basically the fibers that pass through the cow, which is a lot finer than straw.

Cow comfort is one of the most important factors of a successful dairy farm, said Kornelius.

“If the cow’s not comfortable, she’s not going to milk for us. We want the cows eating, drinking, and lying down,” he said.

“The cows actually lay in the stalls—they look way more comfortable. We actually have less mastitis with this now because it is all heated up so all the bacteria is killed whereas with straw, there is still bacteria in there,” he said, adding it’s all on-farm product so even if there was bacteria in it, the cows have built up immunity to it.

Less bacteria means less infections and less wasted milk when the cow is taking antibiotics.

Kornelius is hoping for a five-to-seven year payback on the Bedding Master system which was made in Washington. A grant through the Farm Stewardship Program helped him pay for it.

The machine typically produces twice as much bedding as is needed, so the brothers are selling it to the neighbour.

The process is the same in the winter and the drum throws off so much heat that the building doesn’t have to be warmed.

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