Good bugs under threat from ‘chemical warfare’

Chlorine has long been promoted as an effective cleaner and sanitiser for dairy sheds, and on the surface, it is exactly that. However, is it doing more harm than good to the health of your farm?

Forward Farming biological farming consultant David Law says he came across some fascinating findings when he started investigating the green slime and green bubbles found on the surface of several his clients’ effluent ponds.

“After testing these green samples in the lab, I now know that the green slime is dead bacteria in the presence of chlorine,” says David.

“These dead bacteria contain a high level of aerobic bacteria, or good bacteria, which had previously been keeping the effluent pond healthy.”

David says a healthy effluent pond is dominated by aerobic bacteria, which naturally digest solids and create clear, processed effluent that is ready for soil to absorb.

In comparison, an unhealthy pond is dominated by anaerobic, or bad bacteria; a tell-tale sign of an unhealthy pond is a thick crust.

In addition to green slime or green bubbles, Law says an unpleasant smelling pond can be another sign there are dead bacteria present.

“When chemicals kill bugs, you get a toxic smelling pond,” says David.

“By using harsh chemicals such as chlorine in their cowsheds, farmers are saying ‘No’ to biology.

“Chlorine kills all bacteria like a bomb, including aerobic bacteria. When washed into your effluent pond, it kills all the good bacteria that would have helped your farm.”

David says in addition to chlorine, he’s seen other chemicals have an adverse effect on an effluent pond: copper sulphate, a common chemical in footbaths; and rumensin, a feed additive and rumen modifier designed to prevent coccidiosis parasites.

Having told his farmer clients they shouldn’t use harsh chemicals in their dairy sheds, David says he needed to be able to offer an alternative.

“Their question was always: ‘What should I use then?’ so after three years of research and development we launched a range of chemicals which includes DX50 Dairy Sanitiser,” says David.

DX50 is made from a stabilised chlorine dioxide and is engineered to kill pathogens 2.46 times better than chlorine, through a process called oxidation; the larger and higher voltage good bacteria are strong enough to resist DX50’s advances, so are not harmed, and effluent pond health is not compromised.

DX50 also formed a partnership with Clarks Products of Napier to bring farmers Ultimate ULF Acid and Ultimate Liquid Caustic, to complete the eco-friendly cleaning system. All products are MPI-approved for use in farm dairies.

David says the more harmful chemicals farmers use, the more they are moving away from the natural biological processes that create an optimal farm environment.

“Chlorine is now the go-to product for shed clean-up, and as a result I’ve seen an increasing amount of green effluent ponds,” says David.

“The DX50 range as an alternative not only cleans to the standard of chlorine but leaves the aerobic bacteria in your effluent pond to do its job – to naturally digest solids and create clear, processed effluent that is ready for soil to absorb.”


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