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 Post subject: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:29 am 
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Drunk Dialed Ian MacKaye
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I've been vegan for nearly five years now and I've learned a lot in that time through reading and PPKers about how to frame arguments and discussions about my veganism.

I'm reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer and I'm wondering how you guys address the argument that many plant farmers rely on manure from grazing animals to grow their crops. I'm at the part in the book where Foer is interviewing the guy from Nieman Ranch about why he chooses to kill animals for food when he believes in animal welfare. The farmer said that a truly healthy farm is one that raises both plants and animals together.

My reaction to this is "So why do you have to kill those animals?" Couldn't you just have a group of animals that you care for, like we do our cats and dogs, and let them roam your farm, eating and pooping as they please, and reaping those benefits? I know nothing about farming so I don't know if that's even feasible or ethical, but I want to have an answer to this since it may come up one day.

Your thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:41 am 
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It is possible to grow crops without using animal manure, I think you can find more info on that at http://www.veganorganic.net/

I know that in the 1800's when we didn't have an extensive sewer network in bigger cities that they used to collect the stuff and used it to fertilize the land. (edit: that means in NL)

There are people who still utilize that http://www.humanurehandbook.com/

When it's about sustainability on (smaller) farms with the use of animals as fertilizer producers, I'll have to think about it (I'm at work now, limited time)

First thought is that the animal probably eats more sources in food than it produces as fertilizer so there will be a deficit that the farm has to source elsewhere.


Last edited by Veg_Eric on Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 6:43 am 
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pickledtreats wrote:
Couldn't you just have a group of animals that you care for, like we do our cats and dogs, and let them roam your farm, eating and pooping as they please, and reaping those benefits?


This.

Someone theorized to me that dogs and humans have worked together for countless hundreds of years as they help us hunt and we feed them in return. I don't see why we can't have a similar relationship with other animals - feed them and they fertilize the ground, helping to grow crops we can go on to share with them and create a self perpetuating cycle that is beneficial for every creature involved.


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:39 am 
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From what I understand, in the US, most farms don't use manure for fertilization. The outbreaks of e. coli and such with spinach were incidents where cow manure was used. I actually didn't know that manure wasn't used because I remember reading all the hoopla that manure wasn't supposed to be used for vegetable crops and it was.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:57 am 
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Veg_Eric wrote:
It is possible to grow crops without using animal manure, I think you can find more info on that at http://www.veganorganic.net/

This group's book, Growing Green is a really good resource. The book is pretty technical and meant for commercial growers, not home gardeners. But the preface addresses your question exactly. I wish their website were a bit better.

There's also this blog that critiques Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's dilemma. The posts on Polyface farm should be especially useful.


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:01 am 
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Ohhhh. I thought the thread title was saying that manure is a way to address an argument. So that's my answer.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:04 am 
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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:07 pm 
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I don't know how relevant this is, but when I did the math (based on info at the National Resource Conservation Service site), I get that livestock in the US produces 9,977 MILLION POUNDS of manure EVERY DAY.

That comes out to 115,474 pounds every second!

Close to 60 tons of shiitake every second.

I don't know exactly what that has to do with the argument about the need for manure. But kee-ripes, man!

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:15 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:20 pm 
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By the way, here are the numbers I relied on:

POPULATION in millions
beef: 89.6
dairy cows: 13.7
pigs and hogs: 60
layers: 290.8
broilers: 7,017.5
turkeys: 289

POUNDS of manure produced by different animals per day, based on (for reasons I don't understand), 1000 pounds of animal:
beef: 59.1
dairy: 80
pigs and hogs: 63.1
layers: 60.5
broilers: 80
turkeys: 43.6

The thing you have to multiply by because animals don't come in 1,000-pound units:
beef: 1 (steers, according to the site, average about 1,000 pounds)
dairy: 1.4 (they're heavier than steers)
pigs and hogs: .2
layers: .004
broilers: .004
turkeys: .006 (they didn't give this figure; I made it up, thinking turkeys were at least a little heavier than chickens)

Also, I did some rounding here and there.

So dairy cows, for example:
There are 13.7 million of them, and each 1,000 pounds of dairy cow produces 80 pounds of manure a day. But each dairy cow actually weighs more than 1,000 pounds, so you need to multiply by 1.4.
13.7 million cow x 80 pounds of manure a day x 1.4 = 1,534.4 million pounds of manure from dairy cows every day. (= 8.9 tons of manure every second. Just from dairy cows!)

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 1:22 pm 
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Check this out - http://saywhatmichaelpollan.wordpress.c ... m-animals/

Adam, a (former?) ppker has other great stuff on that blog too. Another blog to look at is the permavegan. Here's a great, semi-related post on that site - http://permavegan.blogspot.com/2010/02/ ... leman.html

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 2:01 pm 
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Nitrogen is the main limiting nutrient for plant growth, so im going to focus on that. Animals are pretty good at concentrating nitrogen, but they have to get it from somewhere. Farm animals eat plants that obtained the nitrogen from the soil. In a closed system, with no feed inputs, animals are merely recycling the nutrients. If you were to graze animals in your pasture, collect the manure and use it in your garden you are effectively mining nitrogen and other nutrients from the pasture. If you sell your produce or flush your toilet you are losing the mined nutrients and end with a net loss.

However, legumes and a few other species of plants are capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria. When legumes are used as a cover crop (the term for plantings of beneficials between main crops) this immediately relates to a net gain in nitrogen, as well as adding organic matter to the soil to help feed soil life and create more of a spongey texture. Basically we need to be asking ourselves; should we plant some seeds and let nature fix nitrogen right were we want to grow food? Or should we burn fossil fuels to power an inefficient system of fixing nitrogen, so we can ship it all over the country?

Another issue if puchasing manure is chemical carryover. This year in Washington state several farms were affected by the herbicide aminopyralid, which decimated some of their more susceptible crops (great argument for diversity). http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2010/08/01/1549538/herbicide-tainted-manure-wilts.html


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:42 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
I don't know how relevant this is, but when I did the math (based on info at the National Resource Conservation Service site), I get that livestock in the US produces 9,977 MILLION POUNDS of manure EVERY DAY.

That comes out to 115,474 pounds every second!

Close to 60 tons of shiitake every second.

I don't know exactly what that has to do with the argument about the need for manure. But kee-ripes, man!


Yeah, if anything it's sort of a straw man argument because we are SO very far away from having a shortage of manure. In fact, manure is a huge problem today given our reliance on large scale animal ag. Farmers have more manure than they can store, which means they hold it in manure lagoons that are notorious for leeching nutrients into ground water or overflowing due to too much rain. Or you know, they just over apply it to the fields and you get terrible fish kills and things from the runoff. If there's anything we don't have at the moment it's a shortage of manure!

Maybe this link will help http://www.cafothebook.org/thebook_myths_8.htm


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:47 pm 
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I know we don't have a shortage of manure, but I'm asking based on the argument some people have that to have a "successful" and balanced farm you need to raise animals and plants together. Assuming there aren't massive shiitake lagoons...


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:51 pm 
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pickledtreats wrote:
I know we don't have a shortage of manure, but I'm asking based on the argument some people have that to have a "successful" and balanced farm you need to raise animals and plants together. Assuming there aren't massive shiitake lagoons...


i know what you're saying, pt, and i've often thought about it myself. why not just have animals live on your farm and graze and poop and let them live out their lives like that? I really don't know what farmer's arguments against it would be. it sounds ideal to me, though I know nothing about farming.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 3:58 pm 
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Personally, I choose not to get engaged in debates about small scale agriculture. It's a pick your battles kind of thing I guess. Especially considering what a small proportion of meat comes from those farms.

But I'm with those who have said that you can have animals on a farm without treating them as food products. I'm sure there's an economic argument against that, but honestly the shift would never happen unless there was a widespread shift in values anyway and at that point I'd hope that life would trump profit margin.


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:02 pm 
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Thessaly wrote:
Personally, I choose not to get engaged in debates about small scale agriculture. It's a pick your battles kind of thing I guess. Especially considering what a small proportion of meat comes from those farms.

But I'm with those who have said that you can have animals on a farm without treating them as food products. I'm sure there's an economic argument against that, but honestly the shift would never happen unless there was a widespread shift in values anyway and at that point I'd hope that life would trump profit margin.


yeah, it definitely doesn't pertain to large scale animal agriculture since those types of factory farms aren't usually mixtures of vegetables and animals. in my nutritional ecology class my professors would always remind me (whenever i talked about being vegan) that you needed animals for the most sustainable farming. But they were so anti vegan that i never really wanted to ask why the animals had to be killed.

I agree that in terms of the environment and animal welfare small scale farms that produce meat and veg aren't really big contributors, but it's still interesting to understand why they do the things they do.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:09 pm 
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Thessaly wrote:
Personally, I choose not to get engaged in debates about small scale agriculture. It's a pick your battles kind of thing I guess. Especially considering what a small proportion of meat comes from those farms.

But I'm with those who have said that you can have animals on a farm without treating them as food products. I'm sure there's an economic argument against that, but honestly the shift would never happen unless there was a widespread shift in values anyway and at that point I'd hope that life would trump profit margin.

i agree with everything you say.
that said, we've talked about starting a business with goats (eco lawn service) [this is always just idle talk, it will never happen, but i wish it could] and using their manure for the garden. the city here uses sheep for cutting the grass in the public parks and it's such a cool idea.
we've also considered getting bunnies or guinea pigs for their ability to process our kitchen waste into garden manure. But we've always decided against because it makes me feel weird and almost hypocritical- hell, i felt so bad about the worms in my worm bin that i liberated them into the compost mountain. My compost is good enough and there are some good alternatives, I think, if we were to compost the organic wastes, seaweed, paper, etc that we produce we could make some decent fertilizer. Also, i don't think the humanure people are that crazy.

honestly, spending lots of years in farm country, i think farmers spread their manure on the fields because there's not much else to do with it; but when it's fertilizer time, they're using chemical fertilizers. saying that we need farm animals because we need the fertilizer seems pretty weak to me.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:23 pm 
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1) Like the farmers in the veganic network link say, you don't need animals to have a healthy farm.
2)And like someone said earlier, animals only concentrate nutrients already available from plants...so why do you need the animal intermediary, rather than soil-building cover crops?
3) If you work with animals to provide manure (but let them live), you're going to have to have a lot of land set aside to nourish them - land that will need additional fertilizer and animals that will need expensive medical care.
4) Manure is still widely used despite e-coli; it just needs to be aged and composted sufficiently first, to kill the bacteria off.

But it isn't just manure that is used in organic farming, probably more organic fertilizer comes from blood & feather meal, bone meal, fish meal than manure. I actually started using chemcial fertilizers and stopped buying organic foods when I first went vegan, but now I garden veganically (I grow the majority of our veggies year-round) and buy organic for the rest, for environmental and farm workers' health issues.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:24 pm 
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we fertilize our community vegetable garden with plant-based compost--no animal anything, no chemical anything. just discarded vegetable matter, grass trimmings, leaves, prunings from within the garden, etc. we accept scraps from the community, but it seems like a plant farm would produce enough scrap green matter to maintain a reasonable supply of compost (maybe i'm being naive about that). it's certainly more work that hauling manure from the animal pasture to the crop field, but it's a pretty practical solution.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 4:41 pm 
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acr wrote:
we fertilize our community vegetable garden with plant-based compost--no animal anything, no chemical anything. just discarded vegetable matter, grass trimmings, leaves, prunings from within the garden, etc. we accept scraps from the community, but it seems like a plant farm would produce enough scrap green matter to maintain a reasonable supply of compost (maybe i'm being naive about that). it's certainly more work that hauling manure from the animal pasture to the crop field, but it's a pretty practical solution.

The Growing Green book talks about this. Going from my memory, they talk about using both compost and green manure (nitrogen fixing plants). The reason why there's all these successful organic vegan farms in the UK is that it's very expensive to truck in manure from a distance and the area isn't suited for animal agriculture. Not that it can't be done elsewhere, just that these farmers had motivation apart from animal welfare to change methods.


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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 5:21 pm 
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More on my mind-boggling manure findings:

Assume that a dump truck can carry 35 tons, or 70,000 pounds. (According to one manufacturer of articulated dump trucks, payloads range from 26.4 to 43 tons. I averaged those two extremes.)

If livestock in the US produce 9977 million pounds of manure every day, you'd need 142,529 dump trucks like this one to haul it away:
Image

Let's say a dump truck like this is 25 feet long. I really don't know. Just say.

That means that in order to haul a day's worth of manure, you'd need a line of articulated dump trucks 675 miles long!

That's from DC to Atlanta!

I am totally disturbed. By this, I mean.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 10:43 pm 
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That is a lot of poop. Good god.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:18 pm 
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Our farm is 3.5 acres, with over a hundred varieties of veggies, and feeds about 800 people a season with no manure (or blood meal or fish emulsion). The compost comes a company that picks up (vegan) kitchen and yard waste from homes and restaurants. I hear people talk about the necessity of manure in agriculture all the time, and it makes me all stabby because it's just not true.

Most farms don't work like our farm, but it's a great model, and means less garbage in landfills. And poop is out of the equation, which is nice.

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 Post subject: Re: How to address this argument? Manure...
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 11:19 pm 
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FootFace wrote:
More on my mind-boggling manure findings:

Assume that a dump truck can carry 35 tons, or 70,000 pounds. (According to one manufacturer of articulated dump trucks, payloads range from 26.4 to 43 tons. I averaged those two extremes.)

If livestock in the US produce 9977 million pounds of manure every day, you'd need 142,529 dump trucks like this one to haul it away:
http://www.volvo.com/NR/rdonlyres/9F923818-2B7D-4E4F-8AB3-20ED558C9777/0/IMG_5083.jpg

Let's say a dump truck like this is 25 feet long. I really don't know. Just say.

That means that in order to haul a day's worth of manure, you'd need a line of articulated dump trucks 675 miles long!

That's from DC to Atlanta!

I am totally disturbed. By this, I mean.


PS, I love your poop math.

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