One very windy day three years ago, Vic Little drove to the lagoon near one of his 3,400-head hog nurseries and was horrified to see huge waves rolling across the surface and crashing against the northeast shoreline.
“It almost looked like you could surf them,” says Little, of Rosston, OK. “I thought about how much those waves were increasing the surface area of the lagoon and how much more odor was coming off it. And also, how much the wave action was stirring it and probably messing up the biological activity.”
Little says his first concern when he got into contract hog production with Murphy Farms in 1998 was odor and its effect on neighbor relations. In fact, Little's emphasis on getting along with neighbors and taking care of the environment earned him an environmental stewardship award in 2003 from the National Pork Board and National Hog Farmer.
“I had to find some way to slow down the wave action,” Little explains.
He first considered large, floating squares of PVC pipe tethered in the lagoons to interrupt wave action, but realized they would be too expensive and cumbersome.
Then he struck upon a brilliantly simple solution. He bought a roll of 1½-in., black polyethylene pipe and cut it to fit the nearly full width of his lagoons. He heated, mashed down and sealed each end of the pipe. Next he drilled a hole through each end of the pipe to which he tied a piece of nylon rope.
Finally, he drove steel T-posts on either side of the lagoon and draped the piece of pipe across and tied it to the T-post on the opposite side. He allowed just enough play for the pipe to float on the surface of the effluent.
It worked perfectly, even on the windiest days.
Little uses just two of these wave levelers on each of his 250 × 325-ft. lagoons. The levelers are spaced so they nearly divide the lagoons into thirds.
“That first one really slows the wave action. Before it can get going good again, it hits the next one. After that, it's not much farther to the edge and it can't get much of a wave going in that amount of space,” Little says. “It's really just a buffer on the surface of the lagoon.”
The banks of Little's lagoons are lined with riprap so bank erosion isn't much of a danger. Many lagoons aren't, so wave action can damage bank slopes and impair the lagoon's function, say lagoon-engineering experts.