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Composting Barns

Keith Woodford lead the group through one of his current projects relating to composting barns together with the associated controlled duration grazing systems and their potential to transform the New Zealand dairy industry.

Keith Woodford, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at AgriFood Systems Ltd.

Introduction to composting barns:

  • Bedding compost in situ for 12 months. This can be any material that is porous and high in lignin.
  • Important is the tilling system, i.e. how compost layer is turned over daily to provide oxygen to deeper layers down to 60-80 cm.
  • Compost should be at 50-60 ºC – an indicator of appropriate composting activity. Composting process can be disturbed with inappropriate management e.g. over tilling.
  • 60-80 cm bedding of saw dust around 3 m3 per cow and slightly more with miscanthus.
  • Typically there is no liquid run off from the bottom.
  • Barns should provide min of 5 m2 per cow when cows stay in all winter.
  • Roofing system should provide enough slope (18%+) and centre opening to allow ventilation and moisture to evaporate.
  • Compost barn concept is orginally from the midwest of the USA.

Why is this important to New Zealand?

  • To get cows off paddocks late autumn and winter to reduce Nitrogen leaching.
  • Benefits to animal welfare; cows have shelter against cold/wet and shade in the summer.
  • Provides improved GHG over other barns with effluent storage.
  • Can support a more intensive system and provide the ability to feed cows better.
  • Can be built economically.

Non-members looking for more information are encouraged to use our ‘contact a nutritionist’ form and ‘member directory’ to find a member who can help them answer their questions.

If you are a Rural Professional interested in joining the NZARN please see our ‘membership’ section.

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