Farm Progress

New ISU Extension publications discuss how to limit risk when agitating manure in pits.

August 23, 2017

3 Min Read
BEWARE: Several gases are created in a manure pit, but hydrogen sulfide is by far the deadliest. Though it does give off an intense rotten-egg smell, it doesn’t take much of it to overcome a human.

The risks of hydrogen sulfide in swine operations have been known for years, but beef operators also need to be aware of the dangers this gas can pose.

Increasing this awareness led Dan Andersen, assistant professor and ag engineering specialist with Iowa State University Extension, to create a series of four publications that provide information and resources to help farmers stay safe when working with manure.

“One breath of hydrogen sulfide at 500 parts per million is enough to render someone unconscious almost immediately,” warns Andersen. “When you are working with a manure pit, and once you realize the gas is a problem, it’s usually too late. Hydrogen sulfide gas smells at 1 to 2 parts per million, but levels above that amount knocks out your ability to smell, so our natural detection system goes away.”

Information about the importance of monitoring for hydrogen sulfide and the types of monitors available for purchase is available in publication AE 3603, Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Monitoring.

Monitors are available from ISU Extension, which has several models for farmers to test.

“Personal protection meters are a low-cost investment, usually around $200, that will notify you if gas is present,” he says. “These instruments can be taken anywhere and are always monitoring the air.”

Safety tips when handling liquid manure

The second publication in the series, Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Manure Agitation, AE 3604, discusses how to stay safe when agitating manure. “Manure that is stagnant and sitting around has minimal loss of hydrogen sulfide,” says Andersen. “These levels of hydrogen sulfide are typically not hazardous. But when the manure is agitated and the crust is disrupted, hydrogen sulfide levels can elevate quickly.”

The final two publications in the series focus on barn ventilation for both cattle and swine facilities. Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Barn Ventilation at Cattle Facilities, AE 3605, and Hydrogen Sulfide Safety — Swine Barn Ventilation, AE 3606, discuss how to set up a ventilation strategy when working with manure.

“The most important thing to do is to try to maximize airflow,” Andersen says. “When agitating, there should be at least a 10-mph breeze, and fans can be set up to bring in additional air.”

Proper positioning can also help minimize risks of exposure to gas. “Think about where you are setting up,” Andersen adds. “Don’t stand downwind from the barn if at all possible.”

Arora receives distinguished service award

0821W2-1721B.jpgKapil Arora recently received the 2016 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of County Agriculture Agents during their annual meeting and professional improvement conference held in Salt Lake City. The award is given to agents with more than 10 years of service in Cooperative Extension and who have exhibited excellence in the field of Extension education.

“A master educator combines expertise and resources at the local, state and national levels to provide for a free exchange of ideas, methods and techniques to better the lives of citizens,” says the NACAA press release announcing the award. “Dr. Kapil Arora is an example of an individual’s efforts in creative engagement and educational programming, grant writing, program delivery, entrepreneurial efforts, building consensus, developing partnerships, institutional service, mentoring, and developing and delivering research based knowledge to Iowans.”

Arora serves counties in central and north-central Iowa, and his clients include farmers, landowners, consultants, service providers and agency staff. He has been providing service to Iowans for 15 years in his current position as an ISU Extension ag engineer.

Source: Iowa State University

 

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