Easyfix, the Galway-based company that specialises in slatted rubber mats and other products such as plastic cubicles, feed barriers and rubber cow mats, has branched into the area of slurry management systems.
Earlier this year, the company purchased a well-established slurry management system called Aeromixer, which has since been rebranded Easyfix Slurry Technology.
The system is marketed on reducing ammonia emissions by 51%and increasing the nutrient content of slurry, while also eliminating the need to agitate.
The technology injects compressed air into slurry stored in a tank at specific points intermittently.
The oxygen that enters the slurry creates a bubble and as the bubble rises through the slurry, it helps to break it down and maintain it in a liquid state.
The main photo shows how the technology is set up within the tank. A network of piping is laid on the floor of the tank.
The piping is attached to manifolds, which are securely fixed to the floor and also connected to a rotary valve.
The compressor is activated by a digital clock in the control panel. The system operates for a period specific to one or multiple tanks.
Once the compressor is activated, air is fed into a rotary valve, which delivers air to the tank to the open valve port.
Only one port is operational at any one time, with this process operated by pneumatic distribution rotary valve. After a set period the rotary valve moves to the next port and so on.
The fact that only one port is functioning at any time and air is only being jetted out of two or four specific points reduces the air pressure required and the need for larger compressors.
“The reason we invested so much time, effort and finances in securing Easyfix Slurry Technology is due to its credentials.
“The system is the only one on the market which possesses proven independent research and the fact that the research was carried out in such a respected venue as Wageningen University is unrivalled.”
Ronan explains increased nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium values in slurry stems from a higher ratio of aerobic to anaerobic activity, with the latter responsible for breaking down nutrients.
“There is an increasing focus on reducing the use of artificial fertilisers and this is only going to intensify.
“Therefore, safeguarding the nutrient content of slurry will be even more important in the future, with nutrients present in aerated slurry more evenly distributed.
“The fact that the system eliminates the need to agitate has obvious safety benefits but it also opens up the opportunity to apply slurry post-grazing.
“Research also proves that through the aeration of slurry there is on average a 54% reduction in methane (NH4).”
There are two costs to consider – the upfront cost of the system and the daily running costs.
“The cost of installing the slurry technology varies depending on the size of the tanks. For example a six-bay tank with a 12ft 6in slat on top would be around €11,000 plus VAT.
Ronan says the system can typically be run at a cost of less than €2/day in a large tank.
“The initial outlay may seem significant at the outset, but when you break down comparable costs such as reduced chemical fertiliser, not having to purchase an agitator or pay a contractor to do so and then factor in the increased nutrient efficiency, the system pays for itself in three to four years. This is without putting a value on reducing ammonia emissions, which is growing in significance.”
The largest components of the cost are the control panel, air compressor, rotary valve, etc.
Ronan says an option open to farmers carrying out new builds and who may be finding it harder to justify additional investments is to invest in putting the piping mechanism in place when the tank is being constructed and it is much more straightforward to do so, with the project then finished at a later date.
Where the system is being installed in a tank which has been in use, then the only requirement is for the tank to be completely cleaned so that the piping can be fastened to the floor.
In large tanks, some farmers remove as much slurry as possible through the normal means with a tanker, then lift some slatted sections and lower down equipment such as a skidsteer to clean the slurry which is present.
Ronan says Easyfix expects there to be greater scrutiny on slurry storage in the future, which will inevitably bring tighter sanctions around slurry storage and spreading, while the importance of safeguarding nutrients in slurry will increase on the back of tighter restrictions on artificial fertilisers.
“Every day we hear agriculture being hammered in the media and talk of livestock numbers needing to be cut to meet ambitious emissions targets.
“Housing livestock and the storage of animal manures is responsible for almost half of all ammonia emissions in Ireland. A 60% adoption rate of new technologies could see ammonia targets satisfied by 2026.
“Easyfix wants to be part of the solution and we have invested in a 190-acre dairy demonstration farm close to our premises in Ballinasloe. We will be keeping a close eye on how the slurry system technology is working, while also monitoring many other aspects such as soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Farmers need to be supported with access to these technologies and we hope our input can help provide some direction”.
Easyfix also recently launched new ammonia-reducing rubber slat mats on to the market.
The mat, called the SDR Slat Rubber System, is targeted at improving the comfort, welfare and performance of cattle housed on concrete slats while also reducing ammonia emissions.
Ronan says: “Ammonia emissions are reduced by 31%. Research in the Netherlands has shown two-thirds of ammonia loss stems from evaporation losses from the floor, with the other third stemming from stored slurry. Increasing the rate at which faeces and urine is transferred to the storage area will cut down on these losses and this can be achieved with the new SDR slat.”
The slats have a camber in the centre which encourages the flow of urine and faeces straight to the tank. The cost of the rubber mats is slightly greater than conventional rubber mats, with a guideline cost for installing them in a standard 4.8m wide pen x 3.66m slat coming in at €1,150 plus VAT.