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Touring the Endres Manure Composting Operation

Clean Lakes Alliance, in partnership with Yahara Pride Farms and Endres Berryridge Farms, hosted our fourth annual Farm Tour on Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017. The event was held at the Endres Berryridge Farms manure compost site in Waunakee, Wisconsin.

The event brought together more than 120 attendees (farmers and suburbanites alike) to learn about manure composting as a manure management technique. Roughly 50 guests were members of the North American Manure Expo traveling from as far as Ontario, Canada to participate.

The event started with a welcome. Clean Lakes Alliance, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Endres Berryridge Farms representatives spoke on behalf of the partnerships and practices being implemented to reduce phosphorus runoff to local waters in Dane County.

Jeff Endres, who co-owns Endres Berryridge Farms with his two brothers, then gave an introduction to his experience composting dairy manure over the past several years and began a tour of the manure compost site. Jeff started by showing us how the process begins in the heifer barns.

What we learned:

  • Jeff Endres is a 4th generation dairy farmer and his daughter Sarah could be the 5th on the 100+ year old dairy farm.
  • Yahara Pride Farms is about “what if,” striving to move forward with new technologies and new ideas.
  • Jeff started composting dairy manure 4 years ago, and built the covered structure 1 year ago.
  • Jeff uses corn stalk, sawdust, and recycled compost in barns as bedding for cows. When barns are cleaned, the mixture including dairy manure is taken for composting.
  • Jeff currently composts 20% of the farm’s dairy manure and re-uses all of the compost produced on site. 
  • Jeff implements his compost facility in accordance with NR502 state standards with his piles (which are rotated every 12 weeks) normally reaching over 140 degrees.
  • Composting allows the Endres team to spread when it’s most environmentally sound; compost acts like a sponge on the field and doesn’t “burn” growing crops.

We were able to see a demonstration of compost piles being turned; you could see how warm them were and smell the composting process. While conventional equipment allows for just two rows within the barn, with several aisles, Jeff is putting together equipment that can create four rows, using just one shifting aisle.

Jeff has observed a volume and pathogen reduction with the piles shrinking to about one-third their original size. He likes the flexibility with timing his manure application to avoid applying in winter when runoff risks are greatest. He also noted that the compost process removes fly larvae benefiting fly control in his heifer barns. University researchers have found that the controlled digestion process produces nutrients in a more bioavailable form ready for plant uptake.

The tour concluded with a manure composting spreading demonstration on an alfalfa field and a question and answer session. Attendees left with a better understanding of the successes and struggles farmers face when implementing new management techniques, and the possibilities for manure composting as an additional tool for manage manure.

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