Maplevue experiences new kind of public event

The North American Manure Expo, hosted by the 75-cow Maplevue Farms near Listowel, brought attention to midwestern Ontario’s dairy sector and other farm operations. 

The event was delayed by one year for pandemic reasons and was attended by a small group of manure handling equipment operators and farm-sector stakeholders.

Originally billed as North American Manure Expo 2020, the expo was initially postponed until 2021 by the pandemic and then converted to an online-only platform for participants, exhibitors and presenters. 

Speaking with Farmtario in early September, Maplevue co-owner Doug Johnston said the farm had many requests from people who wanted to visit their site in the weeks before the Manure Expo, which was hosted in virtual form by Manure Manager magazine.

“We’re in a pretty visible location,” he said. “People drove by and saw all this equipment being brought onto the farm and they would ask, ‘I thought the Manure Expo wasn’t happening for a couple of weeks. Will we be able to come and see it?’”

Andrew Barrie, environmental specialist with OMAFRA, led a panel discussion about soil compaction at Maplevue Farms near Listowel as part of the 2021 North American Manure Expo. Photo: North American Manure Expo (screen capture)

The equipment was there to record comparative trials on solid and liquid formats for later inclusion on the Manure Expo online portal. Preparation for a virtual event was something new for the farm, said Doug. He and co-owner Dave Johnson are more accustomed to organizing farm-themed and general public events.

“I saw (the video preparations) happening and it was hard to imagine how it was all going to come together. But now it all makes sense.”

However, he admits to some stressful days leading up to the recording sessions. During the two weeks before the manure was supposed to be applied, it seemed to rain every other day. Wheat harvest was delayed and once it started, it was stalled by more rain.

“We literally finished the straw the day before they started the demonstrations,” he said.

There were up to nine spreaders on-site at once, reported Dave Johnston. “It was pretty busy.”

There in person for recording sessions was the “Compaction Dream Team” comprised of crop specialists from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Also on hand were representatives from the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association, farm tire retailers, the farm equipment sector, OMAFRA’s ag engineering department, and midwestern Ontario farm innovator Jake Kraayenbrink, who created an automatic inflation/deflation system for farm tires.

The team gathered for a two-part panel discussion while seated outside with Maplevue’s dairy barn and cattle as a fitting backdrop. They also dug soil pits and did in-field demonstrations of equipment, driving over pressure-sensing equipment placed beneath the soil at various depths.

Doug Johnston counted the compaction session as a highlight. He said Maplevue assisted in making the in-field testing more valuable by wetting one area overnight to create springtime conditions.

He said he also appreciated the virtual trade show format, which allowed interaction and featured informative videos.

Those who missed the North American Manure Expo can still register and view all the content until Dec. 31.