Manure management involves efficient handling, treatment and application of animal waste to minimize nutrient loss, prevent environmental harm and enhance soil fertility in agricultural systems. NEADAP has identified options to pilot in Kiambu County, Kenya: the use of covers, heap and pit composting of manure or bioslurry, and separate collection of solids and liquids.
The role of manure in sustainable dairy farming systems is very important. Manure is a valuable resource to enhance soil fertility, soil health and crop production while reducing the need for costly synthetic fertilizers. Good manure management from collection to application on land will save valuable nutrients. At the same time, it will reduce the negative effects of dairy farming on the environment, such as pollution of water and air and emission of greenhouse gases (GHG). The risk of spreading diseases will also be reduced.
However, small-scale intensive dairy farms practising zero grazing or semi-zero grazing struggle with managing manure efficiently, resulting in nutrient loss and environmental degradation. To address this, NEADAP, in collaboration with experts from Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as well as Dutch professionals, has identified viable solutions for improved manure handling on these farms. These options include:
- using covers such as plastic sheets, banana leaves or roofed structures to shield manure from rain and sun
- using heap and pit composting to enhance handling, minimize nutrient loss and yield high-quality compost
- separating solid and liquid components for land application.
NEADAP piloted these approaches in conjunction with two dairy cooperatives in Limuru and Kiambaa, Kenya, during both dry and rainy periods in 2023. While final results are pending, initial observations offer insights:
- Covering manure heaps or pits curbs nutrient loss. Plastic sheets outperform banana leaves, and roofed structures require higher investment.
- Heap composting yields valuable compost, but demands additional labour and vegetative materials for regular turning. It produces weed-free, pathogen-free compost that can be packaged, transported and sold.
- Composting, although needing less space than drying, requires careful management of vegetative materials and moisture levels.
- Pit composting suits liquid manure types such as bioslurry, yet contributes to GHG emissions due to its anaerobic nature.
- Separating solid and liquid fractions proved effective in Limuru, with solid fraction spread for drying and land application. However, drying may result in nutrient loss depending on moisture levels and speed.
Promoting optimal manure management hinges on raising awareness about manure’s value, potential losses and proper handling at every stage. NEADAP is developing training materials for extension staff and farmers, with training already underway for staff from Kenyan dairy cooperatives and the Ugandan Integrated Smallholder Dairy Programme. Furthermore, NEADAP aims to create an advisory tool for extension staff, aiding farmers in selecting the most suitable manure management strategy. Ultimately, the goal is for farmers to perceive manure not as waste but as a resource for enhancing soil fertility, crop productivity, environmental health, and income.
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Jr. consultant Manure management