County cows chewing cud for cash

Posted Aug. 28, 2008, at 8 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine — There’s one sure thing about raising cows: They poop. A lot.

Pineland Farms Natural Meats estimates that the 2,000 cows on their cattle farm in Fort Fairfield, the largest feed lot in New England, produces about 10,000 yards of manure each year.

Thursday PFNM unveiled their new composting operation at the former Loring Air Force Base. “The agriculture community in Aroostook County will greatly benefit from this. It is large enough to make a real difference over a period of years,” Bill Haggett, PFNM’s Chairman said Thursday afternoon.

“Producing large quantities of high quality, organic compost is the perfect complement to our expanded cattle operation,” Haggett said. “We have been working closely with Maine’s leading experts in the composting field to assure that our product meets the highest quality standards.”

A reception celebrating the facility was held Thursday morning and visitors included farmers, townspeople, and state agriculture and environmental officials. They were shown multiple windrows more than 800 feet long, which were established in late June at a remote location on the former base.

“Our feedlot is fairly new,” Haggett said. “We are only in our third year, but we doubled our size this spring. We have been [stockpiling] manure and had about 20,000 yards of manure stored in Fort Fairfield that we are now composting.”

Haggett said the cattle operation is natural and the animals are fed no growth hormones or antibiotics and a completely vegetarian diet. The end product is considered organic, since it consists only of manure and bedding, such as straw or sawdust.

“The quality of the compost is excellent,” he said. “The mineral content is very good.” Haggett said the compost has less nitrogen than conventional, more expensive fertilizers, but the farmer will get a higher level of organic matter and a lower purchase price.

“Fertilizer has risen to about $700 a ton,” he said. “Our product will likely be about $30 a yard.”

Haggett said the composting operation will be a year-round business, and he is currently negotiating with Loring Development Corporation to use one of the former hangars during cold weather.

“To support our growing cattle business, PFNM is making large annual purchases in Maine, including the acquisition of hundreds of calves, hundreds of tons of hay and nearly 300,000 bushels of barley,” Haggett said. “Agriculture in our state has been a direct beneficiary of our growth thus far and we believe providing large quantities of high quality and safe compost at reasonable prices to Maine farmers and other buyers will help agriculture in a different way and is the logical next step in the evolution of PFNM.”

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