By Beth Lutter
Raising high-quality pigs by following the six We CareSM ethical principles is the ultimate goal for producers Danny Kluthe, Dodge, Nebraska and Wayne Dahl, Dawson, Minnesota. But while working toward that goal, both men make being mindful of their neighbors and stewarding the environment a top priority with every management decision they make.
Kluthe and his wife, Josie, have eight 1,000-head barns, and the state’s only anaerobic digester. It was installed in 2005 in partnership with the Nebraska Public Power District and with grants from USDA and the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
His motivation for the renewable energy project, known as Olean Energy, stemmed from a desire to be a good neighbor, including being mindful of Sacred Heart Olean. Kluthe has been a life-long member of the church, which sits across the road from his barns.
“Manure goes through the anaerobic digester and comes out odorless,” Kluthe said. “It’s important to me to neutralize any odor.”
Manure collects in deep pits under each barn. The pits are partitioned so that one-fourth of the manure gravity flows daily to the in-ground digester, which is 14-feet deep, 80-feet wide and holds 440,000 gallons.
The digester, sealed with an insulated, flexible cover, heats up to 100°F to allow bacteria to break down manure. Methane gas is separated from manure and pumped through a 3306 Cat engine that turns an 80-kilowatt generator to produce electricity. After processing for 21 days, manure travels to a polyethylene-lined lagoon, exiting with nutrients remaining but minus odor.
Kluthe sells 100 percent of the energy produced by Olean Energy to Cuming County Public Power District. He’s also able to fuel his diesel truck and farm tractors with a mixture of methane gas stored in a compressed natural gas tank and diesel.
“Very Worthy” Project
“Every day, I feed manure to the anaerobic digester, and every day the hogs replace the manure. That is renewable energy at its best in my opinion,” Kluthe said. “Even after 13 years of working with an aerobic digester, I’m still excited about technology that turns manure into a renewable resource on our farm. It’s been a very worthy project.”
To the north in Minnesota, Wayne Dahl and his wife, Laura, agree that being conscientious neighbors is a priority.
“We want to be a courteous neighbor,” Dahl said. “That’s what makes it a joy to live in a small community.”
The Dahls own a 4,800-head nursery barn and two, double-long wean-to-finish barns with a total capacity of 4,000 head. All the barns have deep-pit manure storage and are equipped with automated sprinklers, inlets with fans and automated controllers.
When it comes to being considerate of local traffic, Dahl gives credit to Ian Olson, his manure management specialist, and to nephew Brent Dahl, who applies the manure.
“You can hardly tell that Brent has gone through a field. It’s excellent coverage with very little odor,” said Dahl, who added that using semis to haul manure to applicators in the field vs. having applicators go in and out of fields has made a huge difference.
“Unless the field is right next to the barn, the applicators are staying in the field, which really limits the amount of mud and manure on the roads,” he continued.
Attention to Details
In addition to manure application, monitoring water pressure in the barns and the pigs’ water intake is something that Dahl and barn manager Caleb Larson routinely evaluate.
“Having ideal water pressure limits pigs getting sprayed in the face and wasting water,” Dahl said. “We also watch very closely for water drips that can lead to more manure in the pit. Less manure equals fewer gallons to apply to fields and fewer trips down the road. Less water also leads to manure that is higher in nitrogen, so it’s a better product, as well.”
“Maintaining the environment and being mindful of the next generation of pork producers is the right thing to do. And you get so much back in return.”
– Wayne Dahl, Minnesota, pictured with his wife, Laura, and their family
The Dahls spend time volunteering and enjoying their children and grandchildren. Considering themselves lucky to be pork producers, they still get a thrill when they get a new load of nursery pigs.
“These barns have been a real blessing for us, and we’re happy to give back to the community,” Dahl said. “Maintaining the environment and being mindful of the next generation of pork producers is the right thing to do, and you get so much back from it.”
Producers affirm their obligation to safeguard natural resources in all of their practices.
- Manage manure as a valuable resource and use in a manner that safeguards air and water quality.
- Manage air quality from production facilities to minimize the impact on neighbors and the community.
- Manage operations to protect the quality of natural resources.