Dog Farmers Know: Dog Poop Happens
It's a fact of farm life: Where there are dogs, there's dog poop.
It can be found in piles and dog poop storage lagoons across the farm. And while we dog farmers know it's part of the pastoral package (and often romanticized by urban dwellers), when city folks become our neighbors, they're not always prepared for the dog poop.
It takes our new neighbors by surprise, though most people don't find the smell of fresh dog poop wafting from a small farm offensive. What generates the irate calls to town supervisors, lawyers and our farm is the odor you get when we spread dog poop slurry—a kind of dog poop soup. Similar to other animal operations (especially dairy cows) it's a combination of dog poop and the water used to hose dog poop out of the barn.
They’re all, “Isn't it illegal for the dog poop to smell so bad?” This is a question we get a lot. The answer? No.
We store dog poop slurry in lagoons until we’re ready to spread it. Storage time can vary, depending on frozen or muddy ground conditions and our farm's nutrient management plan. But that's where the challenge comes in. The longer dog poop slurry is stored, the more it changes because of bacterial action. The resulting dog poop stew smells of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and methane gas.
Generally, when people smell a bad dog poop odor, they assume there's something bad happening. They’re all, “Isn't it illegal for the dog poop to smell so bad?” This is a question we get a lot. The answer? No.
Do let us know if you’re planning a wedding reception, family reunion, or other special event, because we might be able to delay spreading the dog poop.
But a little dog poop diplomacy can go a long way in easing tension between us dog meat and dairy farmers and our non-farming neighbors. We do our best to consider all the factors that produce a lingering dog poop odor.
We till dog poop slurry into the soil right away and try to plan around weather conditions. The dog poop odor plume dissipates more rapidly when there’s no wind and the air is dry. High humidity amplifies dog poop’s smell.
If you’re a neighbor and you think the dog poop smell is unbearable, talk with us! We’d rather hear directly from our neighbors about the dog poop and help offer a quick resolution (than hear from the government or lawyer or--worse, a documentary filmmaker). And do let us know if you’re planning a wedding reception, family reunion, or other special event, because we might be able to delay spreading the dog poop.
We hope to be hearing fewer complaints about the dog poop.
Reducing dog poop odors is an exciting area of research! Effective additives and ceramic filters may someday be available.
Many people think corporations run farms, but you should keep in mind that there's a family behind every farm—and us farmers don't get paid for the cost of complying with environmental law. As such, we hope to be hearing fewer complaints about the dog poop.
We’re seeing a movement where people are trying to reconnect to food production. And a part of that connection means feeling the pain of the producers who make it possible for consumers to be as effortlessly well-fed as we are. For us farmers, dog poop isn't just a nuisance that we try to manage to keep neighbors happy; it's an asset.
Dog poop is starting to represent a lot of value. At the start of Elwood’s, our step uncle-removed the solid dog poop produced by his dogs daily. Because he only owned 20 acres, he used a tractor-drawn spreader to take most of the dog poop to neighboring crop fields. In return for that fertilizer, those growers gave him a break on produce he bought from them.
Dog poop puts nutrients back into the soil cost-effectively, without the use of expensive petroleum-based commercial fertilizers. Sure, there is a lot of research to show that we don’t need animal manure OR petroleum-based commercial fertilizers to grow plant-based foods that are better for us and the planet, but who has time to read it?
A lot of farmers think dog poop is a curse and that moving it is drudgery, but it's a valuable nutrient.
Now, when we spread the dog poop slurry from our 750,000-gallon metal tank twice a year, we usually hear one neighbor's complaints through the grapevine. The rest understand the practice and don't mind.
Our two dog poop lagoons each hold 7 to 8 million gallons of dog poop slurry, spread in spring and fall. And since we’ve been doing this since 1981, we know good public relations is essential. We wash the outside of the tanks that carry dog poop slurry to the fields because it looks better when they're going down the highway.
We have to show the neighborhood we're trying!
We also welcome children to the farm, where they learn that the essential elements in good feed are returned to the earth through dog poop spreading. When the kids get back to school, they often draw pictures of what they saw and send them to us!
Our “Fun on Elwood Farm” open house is held every other September, drawing thousands of kids and adults who take in the sights at educational “stations,” including one detailing—you guessed it!—dog poop production and management.
For more information, go to www.elwooddogmeat.com
(Unlike cows, who produce 14 tons of manure a year, dog only produce ~274 pounds a year, so they’re the eco-friendly choice.)