Often, I get inquiries from farmers on issues such as ‘how can I increase the milk yield from my dairy cows? How can I control mastitis? How can I prevent my cattle from getting foot and mouth disease?’ etc. But the other day, I bumped into a unique query.
This reader complained of a farmer who had directed the discharge pipe from his zero grazing dairy unit onto a road and the water flows in to a stream. It was a nuisance and health hazard.
Farm waste management is a critical issue and must be handled in a safe and responsible manner for the sake of the environment and neighbours.
To start off, every farm generates waste and there are farmers who are reckless in their management of such. I have seen farmers throw raw dung, poultry droppings or hog waste on public roads, oblivious of the environmental pollution, the harmful pathogens therein and the bad smell and subsequent public health risk. It is also a criminal offence.
Waste management is something doable and if executed well, has some benefits. Waste when well managed can be a form of value addition that you can get a farmer a marketable product for example manure or biogas.
When not managed well, farm waste will create breeding grounds for disease causing micro-organisms, disease vectors and is an eyesore to your clients and neighbours who can take a legal action against you for polluting the environment.
Livestock waste management challenge is among the reasons why in areas with controlled development, livestock farming is prohibited. Even chicken droppings from a few chicken if not well managed can get out of hand. In intensive production systems like zero grazing, waste management must be given a priority. So what should you do?
Composting is a degradation process that utilises micro-organisms to breakdown farm waste into manure. Manure from livestock waste is organic and is very safe and sustainable for crop agriculture unlike chemical fertiliser whose use degrades soil quality over time.
How to make compost
Compositing has several advantages. It greatly reduces the volume of the farm waste, the heat generated during the composting period kills harmful micro-organisms and weed seeds and in the end you get a marketable product – organic manure. The process of composting can be hastened by adding water, regular turning to increase the moisture content and air for aerobic decomposition.
Solid waste can be cheaply composted in a pit or heap. When dealing with liquid waste to produce liquid manure, a container is required. Bad small especially from hog wastecan be controlled using activated charcoal which can be sourced cheaply from agro-chemical companies.
Biogas is clean and renewable energy that can be produced from farm animal waste through anaerobic process. The resultant gaseous mixture is composed of methane and carbon dioxide which burns in a clean way that doesn’t pollute the environment. It can be used for cooking, heating and lighting homes. The slurry (biogas manure) is of high quality. It has more nutrients than compost or farmyard manure.
If you have a large farm, consider locating the waste pit away from residential areas. Don’t direct raw waste into water bodies; compost pits are preferably located in fodder plantation for ease of application.
What the law says
The Environmental Management and Coordination Act spells out into details the laws governing disposal of effluent from farms and factories. When setting up large farms an environmental impact assessment will be required and this will mainly dwell on the measures that have been put in place to manage waste.
- The writer is the Vet of the Year 2016 and works with the Kenya Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Eradication Council – KENTTEC, [email protected]