An eastern Iowa farmer is hoping to get approval from the state to build four new barns for nearly 5000 head of cattle — and he proposes installing a huge “digester” that would convert the cattle’s manure and bedding into electricity and compost.

Bryan Sievers wants to put the operation at a site that’s near the small Scott County community of New Liberty. “What we’re planning on doing is building four, 700-foot buildings that would each contain 1222 head of cattle,” Sievers says, “…approximately 4800 head of cattle that we would be able to hold at one time in those four barns.”

If he obtains state permits, Sievers plans to ask a Belgian company to install an “anaerobic digester” which would take the manure and the bedding for the cattle and convert it into methane gas. Sievers says the methane would be used to power two generators. “We should be able to provide enough power for three local communities close to us here,” Sievers says.

The other byproduct of from the digester would be compost. “And that compost material not only could we spread it on our fields if we choose to, but we can also look for other uses, such as providing it into the lawn and garden industry,” Sievers says. “It can be used as compost for gardens and flower beds.” 

There are two of these sorts of digesters currently operating in Iowa.  One is at a livestock operation in the Amana Colonies.  The other is on a dairy farm near Westgate. The Scott County Board of Supervisors will hold a hearing Thursday at 5:30 p.m. to give the public a chance to comment on Sievers’ livestock confinement proposal.

Sievers is a former state legislator and Republican Party activist. Sievers was elected to the Iowa House in 2000 and then went on to serve in the state senate, losing a bid for reelection in 2004. Sievers had been serving as chairman of Scott County Republicans until this past March when he submitted his resignation, saying he wanted to devote more time to his family and farming operation.