Pork Producer Surveys Document Efforts to Control Odor

AMES, Iowa — Two surveys conducted by Iowa State University researchers show Iowa swine producers are using a wide variety of techniques to minimize odor from their operations. "Air quality issues related to livestock production have received plenty of attention in recent years," said James Kliebenstein, ISU professor of economics. "While the discussions have been lengthy and regulations have been instituted, little is known about the current status of livestock producers' use of odor control measures." Jeffery Lorimor, ISU associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, also was involved in the research. "The survey results help establish a baseline on the use of technologies designed to control odor," he said. "The information also will help Iowa State as we continue our air quality research and extension efforts." The research was funded by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. A mail survey was returned by 562 swine producers in August 2002. A telephone survey of 354 swine producers was conducted in spring 2003. Information was gathered on the use of odor control methods, level of satisfaction with those methods, type of production systems, operation size and distance from neighbors. Questions on the two surveys were similar, but not identical. The mail survey asked the producers if they were using or had used any of 24 different technologies to help reduce odors. The four technologies that were most popular with producers were windbreaks, buildings with deep pit manure storage below them, composting mortalities and injecting manure below the soil when applying it to fields as a crop fertilizer. Some technologies were well-liked, but were not used by many producers. For instance, manure storage covers made of natural materials such as straw or chopped corn stalks, called biocovers, were used by 10 percent of the producers, with 70 percent of those users satisfied. One portion of the phone survey asked if the swine producers had received any odor complaints. Only a small percentage had received complaints, with more than half of those related to manure application on fields. "Manure application is a key area for reducing odor complaints," Lorimor said. "This is something that is done only a few days each year but it leads to many of the complaints. Producers need to use extra caution and care during manure application. In addition, more communication and coordination with neighbors on the timing of manure application may be helpful." Only a few complaints were related to production facilities or manure storage. "Technologies in use to control odors emitted from buildings or manure storage units appear to be working well," Kliebenstein said.