Manure…a precious commodity

There is a belief that manure is nothing more than a waste product on the farm. I can tell you that this is not the case on our farm, nor any of my neighbors’ farms from what I can tell. In fact, manure is quite a booming business in our county. Many people make their living handling manure. Half the reason we own livestock is for the cheap fertilizer that manure provides for the crops. We also have plenty of regulations to pay attention to. I prefer to call manure a by-product as opposed to a waste product, it’s just simply too valuable to waste, hence the term “the smell of money.”

Above ground manure containment, called a slurrystore.

Manure comes in two forms: liquid and solid. The solid manure consists of that which can be scooped by a skid loader and loaded into a manure spreader and applied on top of the ground. Liquid manure does not contain bedding and is collected in sealed pits or above-ground containment areas, then it is pumped out through big hoses and applied with a special disk pulled behind a tractor that injects it into the ground. Both forms provide a cheap, organic form of fertilizer for the crops. The manure replaces more expensive, petroleum-based synthetic fertilizers.

For some weird reason, the cattle like to play on the piles of manure... maybe they're playing king of the hill??

Because all the special equipment for handling liquid manure is expensive, most farmers around here (including us) rely on local individuals who have made a business out of it. We will call them up once or twice per year to empty our storage structures and apply the manure on our fields. There is new technology that is gaining popularity that will vary the rate at which the manure is applied according to the needs of the different kinds of soil in the field.

Stockpiling manure

The skid loader filling the manure spreader

We haul our own solid manure. The cattle live in cement lots with bedded barns for shelter. Ideally, we try to scrape every lot once per week. The skid loader is used to pile the manure until conditions are fit in the field to haul it. When conditions are fit, the manure is scooped up and loaded into a manure spreader pulled by a tractor. Gone are the days of pitching manure by hand, well, unless the spreader breaks and has to be unloaded by hand, that is.

Tractor and manure spreader

We must be careful not to apply more manure than the crops will utilize, because it is a source of the plant nutrients nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. We test our manure for nutrient content and work with the DNR as well as the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to stay in compliance with regulations and prevent any run-off into water ways.

To me, manure represents the whole cycle of life on the farm. The cattle eat corn. They turn the corn into meat and fertilizer for next year’s crop. Next year’s crop will be fed to cattle and the cycle starts over again. Definitely not a waste product by any means.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Wayne Nieman on May 24, 2010 at 12:39 am

    Great stuff, especially the quote about “the smell of money”! That’s something we heard often, but mostly when the wind blew from the east since our hogs were east of our house.

  2. […] The land grows corn.  The cattle turn the corn in to meat, and in the meantime produce by-products (a.k.a. manure…which is NOT a waste product, but a precious commodity!) to enrich the land for the next crop.  The longer I am here, the more involved I become with the […]

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