Manure Gas Hazards

When you have livestock, manure happens. And you need a place to put it such as a manure pit or tank. The breakdown of manure in these storage areas is a natural, biological process which produces and releases gasses.

Cheryl Skjolaas is an Extension agricultural safety and health specialist at the University of Wisconsin. She says there are a number of gasses that could reach harmful levels if you’re exposed to them too long. They include ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane, and hydrogen sulfide – which is the most concerning. It’s a toxic gas and at low levels can cause immediate health effects, even death.  

"It’s that rotten egg smell, but our olfactory system gets taken over by that gas. We can smell it at very low concentrations, but then it takes over our sense of smell and we don’t smell it," warns Skjolaas.

These are the signs to watch for that indicate you need fresh air immediately.

The first sign always gets to be the eye irritation, tearing of the eyes, the headaches, you just kind of feel fatigued, you’re getting a sense of dizziness or having problems focusing," she says. "When you get to, like for the hydrogen sulfide 100ppm, that’s considered immediately dangerous to life and health."

Skjolaas says the only way to know that your breathing space is safe in these areas is to use a gas monitor. It’s also recommended to have good ventilation so there is a fresh mix of oxygen.

Most Recent Poll

Will you have enough on-farm storage for harvest?

I just want to see the responses
49% (20 votes)
37% (15 votes)
Maybe, depending on yields
7% (3 votes)
No, it’s going to be a bin-buster
5% (2 votes)
No, I am looking at new bins or temporary storage
2% (1 vote)
Total votes: 41
Thank you for voting.