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Worms Cast A Spell Over Cowshed Waste

Cowshed waste could become an unexpected bonus for dairy farmers if research currently being carried out by a Bay of Plenty company is successful.

Power Organics BOP is looking for ways to enlist the earthworm into creating an environmentally acceptable management tool for dairy farmers to use on the farm.

The company has just begun a research programme, helped by a $69,000 grant through the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology's Grants for Private Sector Research and Development (GPSRD) scheme.

The company has been an enthusiastic promoter of the concept of vermiculture for the past year, with its 60,000 kgs of worms chomping their way through around 10,000 tonnes of organic waste a year to produce 4,000 tonnes of rich vermicast.

It's now looking at a system that will separate the solids from liquids in cowshed waste, and is working on a design for an on-farm vermiculture system that will turn the solid waste into fertiliser, leaving a cleaner liquid waste available for discharge or land application.

Peter O'Neill of Power Organics BOP says the environmental implications of cowshed waste and settling ponds are becoming a significant issue for farmers. "We're looking at finding a better system that will help environmentally as well as cost-efficiently," he says.

"Using vermiculture techniques will mean cost savings in fertiliser costs as well as in the conventional treatment of waste. The research will also look at ways of correlating the number of cows to the amount of worms needed to cope with the waste."

Power Organics BOP, which employs around eight people, is about to build and test the system on a farm near Te Puke.

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