Compost Turners Are Cost Effective And Efficient

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Windrow composting using compost turners is a method by which farmers manage their dairy waste economically and efficiently. Mass composting enables farmers to reduce storage and upkeep costs, while increasing the efficiency of their farm. Especially in these uncertain times, farms everywhere can benefit from reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and maximizing the output of their farms.

The mechanics of compost turning

Establishing a plan for composting does require management and forethought. You must create windrow piles, have the proper windrow machines, turn your windrows regularly, and keep an eye on the composting progress. The compost will form as microbes in the manure and break down the organic waste. Good quality compost requires a moist, oxygen-rich environment to efficiently operate, requiring farmers to aerate the soil by turning each pile approximately two to four times.

Understanding the cost and efficiency of different methods

A recent study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (“CIAS”) analyzed the various composting systems that use common farm equipment or specialized composting machinery. The study compared the findings against long-term storage. It was found that composting can alleviate expensive long-term storage systems which utilize large warehouses or structures with associated high upkeep costs. Moreover, the benefits of composting can be enhanced if farmers share or lease equipment, like compost turners.

The study worked by estimating the costs of four composting methods. These methods included a tractor-drawn compost turner, using an existing front-end loader, hiring custom help with a compost turner, and leasing a bulldozer. CIAS believed that an estimate of these four programs could help farmers determine if windrow composting is appropriate for their farms. The idea was to create options for small, medium, and large enterprise farmers.

Researchers examined the equipment and labor costs for a standard 60-cow dairy farm. Specifically, they calculated the time it takes to form the windrow pile, turn the pile, and reload the compost. This included setup and disassembly time for the equipment for each of the four methods.

How the costs line up

The CIAS study found the average cost for each method on a standard 2.1 acres lot to be $2,450 a year. That number includes the cost of straw to mix, labor, electricity, and fuel. The study was based on a scale of 60-cows, assuming four pounds of manure a day per cow.

The bulldozer required an additional $1,420 in annual rent to lease the equipment. Using custom equipment cost $3,055 a year to account for the labor costs. Yearly operational costs were the lowest for the bulldozer and front-end loader method at around $142 per cow each year. The next least costly method was the custom-hired and equipment compost turners at $170 per cow per year, and $185 for compost turning.

The researchers also estimated total equipment costs. For instance, composting under any method requires about $12,600 in initial equipment costs. Moreover, under the tractor method, it cost an additional $16,600 to acquire the tractor. The front-end loader cost about $2,750, while the bulldozer or custom help program wouldn’t need any equipment costs beyond the initial $12,600.

All told, the researchers found that the bulldozer and custom hire methods were the cheapest at $210 a cow. The front-end loader cost about $256 per cow, and the compost turner was the most expensive at $456 per cow. However, the researchers also cautioned that while the compost turner was the most expensive, it was also the most efficient composting system. The study noted that farmers who share equipment could substantially reduce these costs.

Choosing the best composting method for your farm

The CIA’S study found that composting is a viable option to manage manure if farmers use existing equipment, custom help, or rent/share machinery. The bulldozer and front-end loader methods are the cheapest, but also the least efficient. The researchers note that custom help or compost turner systems are more efficient and farms could share equipment to reduce costs. The goal of the study was to determine the most effective and least intrusive ways that farmers could incorporate compost turning systems into their operations.

Understanding the costs and effectiveness of compost turning methods can help you choose the most efficient system for your operation. If you would like to learn more about how a compost turner could benefit your farm, contact the experts at Scarab International today. We specialize in providing customized compost turners to fit your specific needs. You can call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email to learn more about our compost turners and our services. We offer new, refurbished, and used compost turners, as well as leasing options.