2004 Manure Certification Meetings Also Educate on Hydrogen Sulfide Dangers

Daniel J. Meyer, agricultural engineering field specialist


Livestock farmers raising animals over slotted floors which have deep pits underneath have a potentially dangerous situation when the pits are agitated. Pit agitation releases hydrogen sulfide gas in sometimes lethal concentrations in the buildings for pigs and people. Some people die from entering manure pits also even when they have been agitated recently. Many new confinement pork producers aren’t aware of the dangers involved with pit agitation or entering pits until animals or people die or have a close call.


I worked together with Angie Rieck-Hinz on developing educational materials for the annual confinement site manure application certification meetings, which were held around the state of Iowa in January and February 2004. I had developed previously an engineering practice through the American Society of Agricultural Engineers that is entitled Manure Storage Safety. I recently had updated that practice to include “confined spaces” information. I included many of these engineering practice ideas along with some in-field pictures for a 25-minute portion of the required two-hour annual manure certification program. I also included an actual field trial comparison of hydrogen sulfide gas levels when using a pit additive in one building and nothing extra in another building (control).
A second item which I had developed was a 7 ft. x 10 ft. agitation safety sign to mount on the side of an animal building with a deep pit underneath (near a chopper pump hole). A larger 18 ft. x 24 ft. agitation safety sign to mount on four-by-four posts near earthen dairy manure storages, which have an organic cover, that was also developed. Both safety signs were on a power point slide used during the training in the section Safety Issues: Animal & Human Health.


A total of 1,144 pork producers attended the 2004 manure certification meetings or watched the two-hour video and turned in an evaluation. The evaluations summary showed that the information presented on the “Safety Issues: Animal & Human Health” topic was marked 50 percent 'excellent' and 48 percent 'good'. The other three topics received lower excellent and good percentages. The attendees also gave the presenters a mark of 91 percent 'excellent' and 7 percent 'good' for the category of “the information presented was useful for my farm operation”. The evaluation summary also stated 97 percent of the presenters were prepared and knowledgeable.
Thirty of the forty developed small agitation signs for confinement buildings and three of the ten developed large dairy earthen storage agitation safety signs have been sold since the January and February meetings. More signs will be made as the demand dictates. As I visit with farmers and do meetings, more of these signs will be sold and put in the hands of farmers who can benefit from a reminder on the dangers of entering manure pits or being in the buildings when pits are agitated. It is hoped that many of the 601 commercial manure applicators that stop at a farm to agitate their manure pits will see some of these signs too and be reminded of the dangers.

Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu