Heartland Microbes
Odor Free Hog Farming
A system called Biozyme is eliminating much of the odor at hog operations in Oklahoma and Texas.

BY PHYLLIS JACOBS GRIEKSPOOR (reprinted with permission)
The Wichita Eagle


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EAKLY, Okla. - Two things are conspicuously missing from the 5,000-head-plus confinement hog feeding operation here: odor and sick pigs.

With temperatures above 90 degrees, humidity rising in advance of a thunderstorm and winds almost calm, conditions are ripe for stink. But there is none.

Inside four barns, feeder pigs grunt, snort, eat and sleep. Aisles and pens are clean and closer to odor-free than the average farm barn or horse stable. There are no hogs with sores or bite marks, no squealing hogs, no sick hogs.

Outside, a shed built to hold dead pigs for the rendering truck stands empty, an unused shovel leaned against it. Behind the barns, a 2-acre lagoon bubbles with aerobic activity. No smell rises from the water.

A few miles away at Cordell, Okla., Top Hog, a breeding operation, is similarly odor-free. It, too, has a lagoon that bubbles and boils as odor-causing waste is biodegraded.

At both locations, as well as more than 40 others in Oklahoma and Texas, credit for eliminating the sickening odors associated with large hog farming operations is being given to a biological system called Biozyme Waste and Odor Control, a product manufactured by partners A.C. Dromgoole of Rocky, Okla., and Stan Irvin of Hays.

The product, a combination of aerobic microbes, soap and neutralizer, has been in use at Cordell for almost five years.

Both Max and Shane Boothe, owners of Top Hog, are past presidents of the Oklahoma Pork Producers Council.

"Before corporate farming was allowed in the state, I had one of the biggest breeding operations in Oklahoma with about 600 sows," Max Boothe said. "Now, I've got twice that many sows, and I'm one of the little guys."

Boothe said he's been delighted with the success of the Biozyme odor-control program and that his neighbors have been, too.

"I'm one of the people who lives out here," he said. "I'm glad to have this problem solved."

Dromgoole said the success has been a combination of an effective product plus the willingness of farm managers to follow the cleaning procedures that allow it to work.

"You can't just pour this on a pile of manure and presto, it's taken care of," Dromgoole said. "You have to use it properly, follow directions and do all the best management practices in running the barn."

That, he said, is one of the reasons he has been reluctant to have his product leave his control.

"I've been pretty cautious about approaching universities for studies," he said. "I want to be sure that the protocol I have established is followed. When you work with somebody else, you run the risk of them not using the product correctly, then putting out a report that says it's ineffective. I have something that I know works, and I want to make sure that anybody who uses it does it correctly."

So far, the really big names -- Smithfield, Tyson, Seaboard -- have not gotten on board, Dromgoole said, though he has made some presentations.

"They send some guy out to stand around and nod, then nothing happens," he said. "I have been talking to Hanor, over west of Woodward, though. They just finished building a 6-acre lagoon, and I'm hoping to get our product in there."

Philip Davis, manager of the Eakly operation, is a contract feeder for Hanor.

"A year ago, my neighbors a half-mile away weren't lying about how bad the smell was," he said. "Now, they've stopped calling. I think the Biozyme guys do a real good job. Now you can drive right up the barn, and it doesn't smell."

Dromgoole said his next efforts will focus on getting some cattle feeders to test the product in feedlot lagoons.

Liberal Feeders at Liberal is one of those operations, but Dromgoole said it's too soon to tell how well the product is working there.

At Kansas State University, Bill Hargrove, director of the Kansas Center of Agricultural Resources and the Environment and the Kansas Water Resources Initiative, said he is interested in studying the product, especially its application to feedlots.

"I'm aware of studies on trying to get aerobic activity in lagoons, but most of them have involved some kind of mechanical aeration," he said.

A spokesman for Seaboard Farms, which has huge hog farming operations near Guymon, Okla., said it is testing a broad array of methods of odor control, including microbial products.

At Smithfield Foods, environmental technology director Garth Boyd said he found Biozyme intriguing.

"I would think it's certainly something we'd want to test," he said.


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(Biozyme/ now called Heartland Microbes)