Farm Horizons, May 2011

Manure mangement in black, white, and gray

By Lori Brinkman
Carver County Asst. Feedlot Administrator

As spring creeps ever so slowly from beneath the winter of 2010-2011, livestock producers are faced with the task of scraping lots, hauling manure stockpiles, and possibly pumping manure storage basins.

Hopefully, the weather last fall allowed farmers to get ahead of their manure management duties because this past winter certainly created a few difficulties, especially for those in a daily haul situation.

So what was your spring manure management plan?

Maybe you saved an old alfalfa stand for spring application and plan to plow it down before planting. Maybe you’re religious with soil tests and you knew exactly what fields or portions of fields are phosphorus deficient and those areas have received manure all winter long.

Or maybe you’re just happy to get out on any field where you won’t get stuck. These are all relevant manure management criteria and are pretty black and white from a producer standpoint.

Manure management can also have a few gray areas.

Anyone who has sat through a manure management presentation or done a nutrient balance sheet for their farm knows exactly what I am talking about.

First, what is the manure source? Bedded pack, outside lots, or bedded pack mixed with outside lots? What is the method of application?

Do you use knife injection or surface application with immediate incorporation, or incorporation in four days, or incorporation in 10 days? What is your application rate?

These variables can add a touch of gray when deciding whether to supplement crops with commercial fertilizer and how much to supplement. However, manure nutrients are relevant and some credit should always be taken.

Now back to the black and white from a regulatory standpoint.

The simplest component of a manure management plan is the sensitive area plan.

Every farmer knows where the water runs on their land. If your grandfather, father, or you installed an open tile inlet in a field basin, it’s because that’s where the water goes and, unfortunately, manure nutrients if you spread manure too close.

Know your sensitive areas and stay away when applying manure unless you plan to incorporate within 24 hours or in a timely manner when precipitation is not in the weather forecast. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

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