No Quick or Easy Answers for Using Raw Manure on Food Crops



Watch children’s first reactions at a dairy farm and you’ll see their hands quickly going up to their faces and their fingers pinching their nostrils shut.

“What’s that awful smell,” they’ll ask the farmer.

For a farmer who hasn’t hosted groups of students before, the first expression crossing his or her face might be one of puzzlement, but then quickly replaced by a smile or chuckle of understanding.

“It’s manure,” the farmer will tell the children, who are still so overwhelmed by the smell that they don’t immediately notice the dairy calves put in special pens in front of them to see.

“Manure,” they ask. “What’s that?”

By the time the farmer explains what it is  — cow poop, oh, yuck — and why it’s so good for the crops the farm grows, the kids’ interest has begun to flag. They’ve gone on to other questions such as how old are the calves and what do they eat. They might even be given bottles filled with milk so they can feed the calves.

And so it goes with raw manure, an unpleasant-smelling byproduct of livestock operations but one that has the sweet smell of success for farmers who depend on it to nourish their crops.

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