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Microbial Community Analysis to Identify Risk Factors in Manure Foaming

23 May 2013

Foam production in deep-pit manure storage is correlated with distinct bacterial populations present in the manure, according to research from the University of Illinois.

A study was conducted to assess whether shifts in manure microbial populations could explain foam production in deep-pits manure storage by Dr Richard Gates of the University of Illinois and reported for Pork Checkoff.

To make the study relevant and practical, swine sites with similar genetic stock, same feed source and similar barn design were selected for sampling to reduce site-to-site variability. Additional samples were provided from farms in Iowa and Minnesota to include in the analysis.

Samples were collected over time to determine if foam production or shifts in microbial communities occur in the manure of these facilities. Twenty-six barns were sampled four times during a six-month period from April 2012 to September 2012.

The results indicate that microbial communities do indeed differ between foaming and non-foaming manure samples. The researchers noted that some deep-pits were consistently stable in their foam or non-foam status and also the microbial communities associated with each of them. Other deep-pits shifted from foaming to crusting (or vice-versa) during the study and their microbial communities changed over time.

These results support the idea that foam production in deep-pit manure storages is correlated with distinct bacterial populations present in the manure. However, Dr Gates and his colleagues are conducting additional research to determine if the bacterial communities are the cause of foaming, or merely an indicator of the foaming condition.

This National Pork Board-funded study was a key first step to discovering the cause of foaming and developing a solution for foam production in deep-pit manure storage. Additional funding has been secured to further investigate this problem on a much larger scale. Industry support has been obtained by major swine integrators to help identify and correlate environmental and management factors related to this foaming phenomenon.

May 2013

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