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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Turning Bedding into Biomass

Through the efforts of Robert Hockman, the now-retired assistant director of medical/health administration at the College of Veterinary Medicine, a win-win solution was found for disposing of a portion of the bedding from stables.

Disposal of used stable bedding was a problem for the Large Animal Hospital of the Veterinary Medical Center (VMC). The bedding is a mixture of large quantities of wood shavings, horse manure, urine, and in some cases pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella. And with the stalls requiring 150 to 200 cubic yards of bedding each month, it builds up quickly.

Initially, options for disposal included sending the used bedding to a landfill or incinerator; both are costly and have environmental implications. On-site storage of the material was eliminated, due to space requirements and the potential to cause contaminated run-off. Without a solution for handling the used bedding, operation of the Large Animal Hospital was imperiled.

Then Hockman considered the benefits of the bedding; it’s organic and has a high nitrogen content. He developed a program that included treating the bedding and sourcing it out.

Special dumpsters, designed by the university and built by Roger’s Welding, are equipped with copper tubes in the bottom that inject steam into the bedding. The bedding temperature is raised to 210o and maintained for one hour, killing the pathogenic bacteria but leaving the valuable components intact.

After it’s cooled, the bedding is transported to the Florida State Division of Forestry where it is used as compostable biomass, used for growing pine seedlings.

- by Patrick T. Colahan, DVM, DACVS