Litter, Manure, and Diapers

One day I was out at the farm cleaning a stall where I had been keeping a bottle calf.  In the chicken houses about 50 feet away, my husband and his father were using a housekeeper–essentially a wagon that scoops up chicken litter with a spreader mechanism on the back.  When the housekeeper is full, it is driven to the stackhouse (a building designed for litter storage) and piled in there so that it is kept off the bare ground and covered from the rain. 

After cleaning the stall, I made my way to the two dog pens by the workshop and cleaned the dog poop out of them.  All of a sudden I realized I had managed to surround myself with fecal material.  It struck me then just how much poop we have to deal with on the farm.  Waste management is always a concern for animal production.  Of course, when we talk about waste on our farm we are talking about feces but every business and even every individual must deal with leftover, unwanted “waste” materials.

I think about poo when I think about the idealists that spout on and on about how to fix the world.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t strive to do our part to make the world a better place.  What I am saying is that there is no way to have a beautiful baby girl that lights up your world with her smile without having to change a lot of diapers. 

In this world, we cannot have perfect solutions to complex issues because there is still going to be undesired or unusable byproducts.  And here’s where I get controversial: 

Unfortunately, we cannot save every dog from the “kill shelters.”  Unfortunately, we cannot provide sanctuaries for every unwanted horse.  Unfortunately, we cannot produce poultry without producing chicken litter.  Unfortunately, we cannot raise cattle just to look at them in the pasture.  They were designed to become beef or to produce milk.  And I believe they were designed that way by divine appointment. 

There is an ugly side to things.  I know and appreciate this fact.  I don’t like to dwell in the bad parts–most people don’t.  But we do have to accept that they happen–poop happens.  And once we accept that, we move forward in dealing with these things the best we can.  Stackhouses are designed to hold poultry litter to prevent runoff during rain events.  In the stackhouses the litter will also go through a heat that produces a soil amendment with a cocoa like odor.  (This is true!)  When litter is stored for at least 8 days in a stackhouse, the pathogen load is reduced by 96%.  Then we have a beautiful, natural fertilizer to spread on pastures, gardens and organic produce operations.  Our farm is located one mile from a county school and there are neighborhoods all around us.  I don’t think that our neighbors like the smell that fills the air for the couple days after spreading.  I just wish I could explain to them the beauty of the system they are experiencing. 

*From University of Missouri Extension.

“In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.”–King James Bible

We are all a part of the life cycle.  We will one day become fertilizer ourselves.  I ask forgiveness from the people that find my thoughts offensive.  I simply feel that it is important for us to accept the reality of waste.  Some of us are more familiar with it then others.  We know that we must take the good with the bad.  We are fully aware that there is not one simple solution that will address everyone’s causes and concerns.  Fight for your causes, believe in your principles but do not forget that there are two sides to every story and that every baby will need to have their bottom wiped.