DES MOINES — A feed additive used with cattle may help greatly reduce pit foaming in hog buildings.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota have found adding monensin reduces the amount of foam in pits prone to foaming.
By directly adding monensin (commercially made as Rumensin), pits with large amounts of foam showed a significant reduction in just a few weeks, Chuck Clanton, an Extension ag engineer at the university, said during the recent Iowa Pork Congress.
Monensin is a natural product that when fed to beef or dairy cattle, affects microbial activity in the rumen.
It is used primarily to boost feed efficiency and weight gain in cattle.
Clanton said monensin will “increase production of propionic acid, thus decreasing the amount of acetic acid, a precursor for methane.”
The Monensin makes more energy available to the animal with less energy lost in methane emission.
“Monensin reduces bloat in cattle by reducing foam in the rumen,” he said.
Clanton said when Rumensin 90 was added to the pit immediately after pumping, the results were just as good.
“We added one to two pounds of Rumensin, let it circulate for 10-15 minutes and found it will last 9 to 10 months,” he said.
“If you pump pits twice a year, you should be in good shape.”
Clanton said five pounds of Rumensin 90 per 100,000 gallons of manure should handle foaming issues.
He said foam reduction could take as many as two weeks to work after the pit is treated.
Monensin appears to be a short-term fix to a problem that has plagued hog producers for several years, Clanton said.
“Rumensin is a band-aid,” he said. “We’re not sure how to prevent foaming, but we know this will knock it down.”
The university’s research is part of a project funded by the Iowa Pork Producers Association with Iowa State University and the University of Illinois also participating.
The $1 million project was launched this past summer and will last three years.
Steve Hoff, an ag engineer at ISU, said producers put themselves at risk if foaming becomes too severe. Buildings have been leveled due to methane explosions directly linked to foaming issues, he said.
“If you make any attempt to break up the foam, you are going to be releasing explosive methane. Make sure all ignition sources are off and make sure there is proper ventilation.”
Hoff said foaming has no predictable pattern.
“Our attempts at correlating foaming versus non-foaming barns on the same site has been elusive. You have identical barns with identical feed, and one foams and one does not.”
He added the role of dry distillers grains also is being investigated.
Clanton said foaming seems to mainly be an issue in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota.
--- Jeff DeYoung, Iowa Farmer Today