Waste no moreAnimal waste doesn't go to waste at Stockmen’s West in Dickinson. Larry Schnell, general manager of Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, said Stockmen’s makes about 1,000 tons of compost a year, which is sold for $30 per yard.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Animal waste doesn’t go to waste at Stockmen’s West in Dickinson.
Larry Schnell, general manager of Stockmen’s Livestock Exchange in Dickinson, said Stockmen’s makes about 1,000 tons of compost a year, which is sold for $30 per yard.
“Most people come with pickups and buy it by the truckload, including landscapers who will come and purchase many truckloads at a time,” he said.
North Dakota farmers may also purchase compost to spread on their fields from Stockmen’s West in Dickinson.
Stockmen’s sale of compost began seven years ago, Schnell explained.
“We sell it for a number of reasons, including health regulations,” he said. “Because of those regulations, people can’t just haul and spread it anytime they want, so we started selling it seven years ago. And if you compost it like we do, it creates half as much and is easier for people to haul.”
While commercial fertilizers are also used to enrich the fields, Arthur Ridl, one of the partners at Ridl Farms, said spreading animal manure on the fields makes good use of an otherwise unusable product that is found in abundance on the farm.
“Manure is readily available on the farm for us and making it into a fertilizer is a good use of the manure, instead of just letting it pile up in a pen,” Ridl said.
Schnell said Stockmen’s manure supply comes from the cattle it sells.
The manure is mixed with other contents, like grass clippings, then is allowed a few weeks to break down before the compost is ready for sale to customers.
He said Stockmen’s sells loads of compost, mainly during the spring and fall when people are commonly working in their fields and gardens.
Ridl said manure is spread in the fields in the spring and fall at Ridl Farms, but he said some farmers prefer to spread manure on their fields only one season a year.
Ridl said he and his partners will sometimes spread the manure themselves or hire professional manure spreaders.
“There are people in the neighborhood that do it themselves with spreader trucks that do it,” he said.
Since 2007, Ben Auch of Mott has partnered with his brother-in-law to start A&H Country Services, a custom manure spreading business they bought from a man in Bowman in 2007.
“We go out, mostly to farms and ranches, and clean out the cattle feed areas and load it on our trucks and spread it in the fields,” Auch said. “The biggest benefit it has for farmers is that it is a time-saver for them.”
Auch said he can haul roughly 15 tons a load in trucks three times as big as most farmers use, and the trucks travel faster than tractors too.
“Basically, it’s about time,” he said. “The time a farmer would spend hauling and spreading manure themselves is time that would be lost getting their hay primed.”
Manure is a “one-stop shop” product, said Ron Wiederholt, nutrient management specialist for North Dakota State University Extension Services.
“Not only is it a recycled product, but it is also a combination of multiple nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium — all in one package,” he said. “With commercial fertilizers, you have to pay for each of those products.”
But Wiederholt said it is important for growers to test soil levels for different elements to make sure they are not over- or under-applying nutrients.
That’s a rule Ridl lives by because the process of dispersing manure is not an exact science.
“There are no accurate tons per acre or pounds per acre of manure that needs to be put out on the fields like there is when you spread commercial fertilizers,” he said. “Out here, mostly have to use an educated guess and test soil levels before we spread.”
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