Waste Odor and the Effects on Health

— Written By

I have spent my entire life around the smell of hogs. My family has topping floors and each year we pump the waste on surrounding spray fields. We are fortunate in the fact that we never get complaints concerning smell as a nuisance or health hazard. This is in part because our surrounding neighbors are farmers as well and the people who are not either don’t say anything or they don’t smell it. Now, irrigators that are pumping on new spray fields and irrigators who are pumping near new residents of the area could very well be hassled.piggy

To be honest, I hardly even smell the waste and definitely do not find it offensive even though I am close to it. I know this is because I am around it everyday and most people would feel differently. I do my best to understand where other people are coming from, as we all should. One problem I have with people complaining is that some would say the odor is a health hazard instead of a small inconvenience of smell. To me, there is a very clear distinction between an odor that has an unpleasant smell, and an odor that can cause health hazards.

There are a few situations where manure odor can have health risks. When it’s stored in a confined space and agitated, hydrogen sulfide can be released in large concentrations. This is not the case when the manure is stored in an uncovered lagoon or irrigated on forages. These are cases where the waste is dispersed into an unconfined area, where it is diluted by air. Therefore, if someone down the road smells the waste you irrigated, rest assured they are not in risk concerning their health.

With all that said, the farming industry especially hog farming is being targeted in many ways by people who would like to see livestock production done away with. It is our responsibility as farmers to do the best we can to minimize incidents and deal with conflict the best way possible. So, my suggestion to you as a hog farmer and animal waste operator is to deal with odor complaints in the calmest way possible.

In addition, there are multiple ways to reduce the amount of odor your operation puts out. Here are a few examples of ways to avoid conflicts with neighbors.

  • Keep your houses dumped in order to agitate your lagoon so that microorganisms can act upon the waste and reduce the overall smell
  • Notice wind direction before irrigating to help predict where odors will likely travel
  • Try irrigating when less people are outside and active to avoid complaints
  • If possible, don’t irrigate on holidays and special occasions when most families have gatherings
  • Have conversations with neighbors to let them know you are trying your best to operate effectively without bothering them

Written By

Photo of Max KnowlesMax KnowlesExtension Agent, Agriculture - Livestock (910) 592-7161 max_knowles@ncsu.eduSampson County, North Carolina
Updated on Mar 6, 2013
Was the information on this page helpful? Yes check No close
This page can also be accessed from: go.ncsu.edu/readext?203487