STEVENS POINT — Mike Biadasz was a 29-year-old farmer from Portage County who died in August 2016 after being exposed to high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas that was released when he began agitating the manure pit. Since his death, the Biadasz family has shared Mike’s story in order to educate farmers about the dangers of manure gases.
Bob, Diane and Lisa Biadasz shared their most recent efforts to promote farm safety, especially when dealing with manure gases, at the Jan. 4 Agriculture Safety Connection Seminar.
The Mike Biadasz Manure-Gas Monitor Rebate Program was released in October 2017 and aims to equip farmers with monitors that can determine if there are unsafe gas levels in their work areas.
The rebate program is a collaborative between the Mike Biadasz Farm Safety and Education Fund, Marshfield Clinic Center for Community Outreach, the National Farm Medicine Center and the Wisconsin farming community. Through the program, farmers can apply to rent a four-gas monitor for five months at a time, receiving a $75 rebate for the rental. An operation can apply for up to five monitors and can use the program every six months.
Requirements for the program include being a Wisconsin farmer or manure hauler and the unit must be rented and it must be a four-gas model.
“The monitor needs to be a rental because they need to be calibrated every three to four months and this way we can ensure that they are getting that. Safety is too important,” Lisa said.
Four-gas monitors can be very expensive for farmers to purchase, but also can be life-saving technology. The Biadasz family said they hope that by offering this program, they can get the devices into more farmers’ hands and help prevent manure gas and other gas-related fatalities.
Bob, Mike’s dad, said from the time that he and his son built the open-air manure pit until Mike’s death, they had never heard about the potentially harmful gases that could be released from the manure pit. They hope by talking about the dangers, other families can avoid the tragedy they have dealt with.
Dr. John Shutske, professor at UW-Madison and UW-Extension who has published a report on Biadasz’s death, said his death gained so much attention because it was the first documented non-enclosed manure-gas-related death.
He said several factors played into the accident, including the weather and the cattle’s diet. The day was humid with no wind, and thick fog was present when Biadasz went to agitate the manure pit in the early morning hours. The weather conditions did not allow for the gases to disperse.
In addition to the weather, the cattle were consuming distillers’ syrups, which are high in sulfur, something the family were compensating for in the cattle’s diets, but was then finding its way into the manure pit. This increased the risk of high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas being produced.
Shutske said it is important for farmers to try to get rid of the hazards first, but if that isn’t possible to then use things like monitors to be aware of the situations occurring on the farm.
“Farming is a big venture, but farmers should work to stay away from circumstances where the hazard can’t be avoided,” Shutske said.
For more information on the Mike Biadasz Manure-Gas Monitor Rebate Program or to get a form, contact email@example.com.