Be a good neighbor, plant trees around the pig farm

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Like a good neighbor, pig farms are there.

Too often pig farms get a bad press because of the smell. Some of this is justified because pigs smell, just like cattle, chickens, turkeys, dogs, cats, and humans. You get enough of anything together in one place, and you’ll smell.

Pig farmers can do a lot for themselves and their neighbors to lessen the odor emanating from barns – from specially formulated diets to pit additives to barn filters to a living barrier like a windbreak or windbreak.

Although it is said that the best time to plant a windbreak was 10 years ago, the second best time is today.

Windbreaks, a line or two or three or nine of a variety of trees, planted around farms and livestock facilities serve many purposes.

First, a windbreak, in addition to other pleasing landscaping, adds “curb appeal” to any construction site with or without livestock.

Additionally, rows of vegetation such as conifers and deciduous trees can “hide” livestock facilities. Not that breeders want to hide their facilities; they are proud of what they have built through hard work, blood, sweat and tears. However, neighbors of ranchers may wish the hard work was hidden away.

All this is not necessarily bad.

Odor barrier

Windbreaks not only satisfy the aesthetics of an agricultural site through the eyes of neighbors, but also the scent glands of those same neighbors.

When appropriate trees are selected, and placed and spaced correctly, windbreaks have been found to reduce the dispersal of dust and ammonia created by livestock facilities. University of Minnesota agroforestry educator Gary Wyatt, along with fellow extension educators Shane Bugeja and Dianne DeWitte, recently presented the “Windbreaks and Good Neighbors” workshop. Wyatt shared research from a study that showed a single row of immature Leyland cypress trees reduced dust and ammonia from a chicken coop by 30% and 18%, respectively.

Many other studies show similar results of vegetation mitigating the amount of odors and dust from livestock facilities.

As with everything farmers and ranchers do, you need to have a plan, and planting a windbreak is no exception.

Wyatt said it’s important not to “box in” your facilities, with the first row of trees at least 150 feet from your pigsty. Given setback requirements from property lines and other buildings on a site, proper spacing between rows of trees and barns may not be possible. This may be why you see open-air cattle barns with no tree barriers.

When establishing a shelterbelt or shelterbelt to improve a livestock operation, producers should consider the direction of prevailing winds and annual snowfall, so as not to create drift problem.

Livestock farmers can also go high-tech, as some hog systems have electrostatic fencing with high-voltage lines of barbed wire that “knock down” odor-carrying dust particles coming out of barn fans.

Secondary Benefits

In addition to mitigating odor and dust problems and improving the curb appeal of a livestock farm, windbreaks can also reduce the spread of infectious diseases, as some pathogens are spread by aerosolization . Another benefit of windbreaks is that well-placed vegetation can reduce seasonal heating and cooling costs for farm buildings without disrupting ventilation.

It makes sense to start planning your windbreak of the future to start reaping the full benefits. The key word is “plan,” and many organizations and agencies can help you choose the right mix of deciduous and evergreen plants to meet your needs. Evergreens that retain their needles provide year-round benefits. It is recommended that you first consider plants native to your area and, of course, those zoned for your growing region.

Consult county soil and water conservation districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Department, Natural Resources Departments or extension staff for a recommended list of plants suitable for your area. These agencies can also help you map your shelterbelt and direct you to available cost-sharing programs.

For online resources, check out these sites on planting and shelterbelt practices:

Schulz, a senior Farm Progress writer, grew up on the family pig farm in southern Minnesota before a career in agricultural journalism, including National Hog Farmer.

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