Manure Dragline Systems

Do you have a manure pit on your hog, dairy, beef or poultry farm? If so, there’s one universal truth: when it’s full, it must be emptied.

Dragline systems can cut some of the hazards of handling and applying manure to crop fields. In the right circumstances, such a system will enable you to safely turn liquid manure from waste to a valuable source of crop nutrition.

“Dragline manure systems are normally fully contained and prevent a lot of the exposure to potentially poisonous or combustible gases. This sort of exposure is extremely hazardous to workers handling stored manure,” said National Education Center for Agricultural Safety (NECAS) Director Dan Neenan. “They require some equipment and infrastructure. But they can help make an otherwise risky job much safer.”

Get manure pit safety & rescue training
Sponsored by Nationwide and provided by NECAS, this one-of-a-kind manure pit simulator travels the country training first responders, farmers, ranchers and others on the importance of confined space safety and proper rescue techniques should a manure pit accident occur.*

Why use a manure dragline system

Dragline systems normally prevent operator exposure to harmful gases in stored manure. They also minimize odor in moving it from the manure pit to the field. When incorporating liquid manure into the soil, a dragline system enables precise placement compared to broadcast applications. This makes valuable crop nutrients like nitrogen available to crops planted in that field, sometimes well into the next growing season.

“There’s always potential risk when applying liquid manure in the field,” said Nationwide Senior Risk Management Consultant Paul Stevenson. “Before adding a system, make sure you have the right equipment and people to do the job safely and effectively.”

Get a gas monitor at a discounted price
Manure pit gas concentrations can vary over time, so it’s critical to monitor gas levels before every entry and to keep monitoring while in the confined space to ensure the safety of yourself and those working with you. We’ve partnered with KC Supply to offer a discount on gas monitors.

Manure dragline system components

A dragline system is best for applying liquid manure to a field near a manure pit or livestock barn housing it. Each system is made up of a few common components:

  • Pump to pull manure from pit
  • Main line to transfer manure to the field
  • Drag hose to reach from main line to applicator
  • Manifold assembly to attach drag hose to applicator
  • Tillage tool with hose assembly to incorporate manure

Farmers familiar with crop irrigation will recognize many of the parts of most dragline systems. Aluminum pipe (usually six or eight inches in diameter) and pumps or motors historically used for flood irrigation work well for dragline manure systems. Piping can be buried to ensure long-term durability and protection from the elements.

Flexible polyurethane hoses with synthetic fiber cores — similar to firehoses — are normally used for the draglines connecting piping to the applicator. See more on the components of a dragline manure system.

Manure dragline system safety tips

Keep these tips in mind in operating a manure dragline system to ensure your applications are safe and effective:

  • Keep communication lines open. A dragline system can distribute a lot of liquid manure in a hurry, up to 2,500 gallons per minute. That puts a premium on communication between operators. Consider using two-way radios or cell phones to stay in touch throughout an application.
  • Stick to the right pattern in the field. Driving over a drag hose is a quick, easy way to create major problems when applying manure with a dragline system. Ensure you have enough drag hose to complete the application without running short. A diagonal field pattern helps the operator keep an eye on the drag hose and other components.
  • Inspect components. But always inspect hoses, nozzles and manifolds for clogs before and during operation. Manure flows at a high rate of pressure in a dragline system and can cause leaks. Check throughout the system and have repair materials on hand in the field in case you discover one.
  • Purge systems before conducting maintenance. Make sure the system is free of air or liquid before removing components to replace or maintain them. This prevents the hazard of suddenly released liquid manure.
  • Have an emergency plan. Have an action plan in place in the event it happens. That includes the actions you’ll take to stop leaks and prevent environmental damage. Communicate those plans to anyone applying liquid manure with your dragline system.

“Planning ahead is of utmost importance to safe dragline manure system applications,” Stevenson said. “Overall, make sure you are aware of your surroundings — both land and equipment — to make sure the field operation is safe and you’re adequately managing the potential risks.”

Work with the right team

Applying manure with a dragline system is normally a two-person job. One person monitors pumping at the manure pit and one operates the tractor and equipment incorporating the liquid manure in the field.

“There are a lot of parts in a dragline system. That’s why it’s so important that both operators stay in constant communication during a dragline liquid manure application,” Neenan said. “Start by providing the right training for anyone working around a dragline system. Then make sure everyone is on the same page and working together before you even turn on a pump.”

Need additional assistance? Consult your local University Extension specialist or a local Nationwide Farm Certified agent today.

Watch what Nationwide is doing to build awareness of manure pit safety
Andrew McCrea, farmer and award-winning host of The American Countryside, talks with farm safety experts with Nationwide about the procedures farmers should have in place for manure pit safety and Nationwide's expanded partnership with NECAS to bring manure pit safety and rescue training to ag communities.

* National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)-compliant gear with a self-contained breathing apparatus is required to fully participate. Access to 150 gallons of water must also be provided.

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