Serving Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Dairy turns waste into bedding

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 04/19/2013 3:12 PM

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GOODHUE -- Huneke Dairy is turning waste into bedding.

The 250-cow dairy located near Bellechester in southeast Minnesota is recycling its manure and turning it into bedding for the free-stall barn.

The manure is pumped into a 12,000 gallon tank and then ran through a Doda manure separator.

The unprocessed manure runs in one end of the processor and a product that resembles finely chopped haylage comes out the other end. Any overflow of manure goes back into the tank for processing and continues to circulate until processed.

Liquid and particles small enough to fit through the screens are pumped to the manure storage basin visible out the window behind the separator.

The product that resembles haylage falls into an auger and is blown through a pipe into the room next door. There, it sprays up out of the pipe, hitting a piece of plywood that forces it to fall to the cement floor below. It's kind of like being in a gentle snowfall as particles build drifts on the floor. The product comes out of the digester at 65 percent moisture, Mark Huneke said. It smells like forage.

The separator runs two and a half to three hours per day, Huneke said. It is started manually, but it shuts itself off when finished.

Paul and Micah Huneke first saw a manure separator on a Waterville farm. They were interested and did more research. They formerly used sawdust for bedding, but now they don't purchase any bedding.

The product that comes out of the separator provides all the bedding they need and more. They bed with a skidsteer.

The liquid in the manure storage basin will be field applied and will likely cover more acres because it will have a higher nutrient content, Huneke said. They also hope they are able to pump less often as less waste goes into the basin each day.

The screens on the separator have to be cleaned every 150 hours. Micah and Mark clean them, Paul said.

They got the separator up and running at the end of January, Paul said.

Their herd somatic cell count has declined since they started bedding with the undigested fibers, Mark said.

It is the 21st separator that Northland Farm Systems has put in, said Sid Morrison, of Northland Farm Systems. One of those was installed in South Dakota, the rest in Minnesota.

Visitors to the Huneke Dairy Manure Separator Open House on April 4 came from Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota.

Dairies are installing the separators to use a byproduct they have and eliminate buying sawdust or sand, Morrison said.

Doda is an Italian company. Northland Farm Systems has been a Doda dealer for four years.