December 17, 2016
Farmers facing tight crop and livestock markets can impact their profitability by understanding the top five criteria in manure management decisions, according to experts who presented at the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers recent manure management workshop. Over 60 farmers attended the event held at Carroll, Iowa to learn how to better manage manure as a fertilizer source on and off the farm.
1) Which fields need manure and how much to apply
“The first thing you’ve got to do is determine how much manure you need and where it should be applied,” noted Abe Sandquist, founder of Natural Fertilizer Services. Addressing manure needs is a game of building organic matter and maintaining soil fertility. This balance can be achieved by comparing yield history of the field, manure sampling and soil testing.
“Soil testing is kind of like figuring the odds of your fertility,” said Sandquist. “When you’re fertilizing in a low soil test field, you’ve got a higher chance of getting a yield response that’s profitable.”
2) What application and storage equipment will you use?
Sandquist said farmers must determine what equipment they will use based on manure storage or holding capacity, density of their manure source and the range it can be hauled economically. Dan Andersen, Iowa State University Extension ag and biosystems engineer, noted that manure management decisions should make manure ‘logistically cheaper to move and more nutrient rich.’
Although solid manure is easier to transport, liquid manure generally retains more nitrogen, especially if it is stored in a deep pit rather than a lagoon. According to Andersen, manure storage systems of the future will likely be designed to retain even higher nutrient levels.
3) Using new tools to apply right rate of manure per acre
Another component of manure management includes precision application. Thanks to advancements in GPS technology, manure application tools have allowed farmers to better target their acres using variable rate control and yield analyses. The trick to benefiting from these advanced tools also involves optimum timing of application.
“Immediate injection or incorporation will reduce ammonia volatilization and retain 95% to 100% of the nitrogen content in the soil,” says Dr. Jim Friedericks, outreach and education adviser at AgSource Laboratories, based at Ellsworth, Iowa. “Broadcasting or surface application will reduce retention from 70% to 90%.”
4) Marketing manure may be an option for some producers
Alternative options such as selling manure or composting give livestock farmer’s flexibility in managing their fertilizer source. However, depending on the size of the farm, certain rules and regulations must be followed to ensure land and water resources are safeguarded.
5) Every livestock farm should have a manure management plan
Manure must be handled with care; both because it provides important crop nutrients and also because there are risks to the environment and the public if it isn’t stored, hauled and applied the right way. Every livestock farm should have a manure management plan, whether it is required or not, says Andersen. But the plan itself isn’t the key. “A plan is just a piece of paper. But carrying out that well-thought plan in the proper manner is the action that’s important.”
Farmers who have questions about any of these guidelines can contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers for a free and confidential consultation. CSIF is a nonprofit organization that assists livestock farmers who want help interpreting rules and regulations, guidance on good site locations for barns, counsel on enhancing neighbor relations and tips on how to protect the environment at no cost. For more information call 800-932-2436 or visit supportfarmers.com.
The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock responsibly and successfully. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association.
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