When you close out a finishing barn, you review performance data to confirm that every input resulted in the best possible performance. If it didn’t, you’re going to make changes.
Do you think of pit pumping and fall manure spreading the same way? If not, you should, says Emily Otto-Tice, swine senior nutritionist with Purina Animal Nutrition. You could get better “performance” from your manure and spread a more valuable, effective product on fields.
Manure is a commodity used to improve soil health. But managing soil health with manure has its challenges. No two fields have the same needs, and no two loads of manure are nutritionally identical. If the nutrients in the manure you apply aren’t in the right form or the right amounts to meet your field’s needs, you could waste nutrients through overapplication, or lose nutrients through volatilization, denitrification, leaching or runoff.
You can change the makeup of manure and improve its value as fertilizer by making changes upfront to swine diets, Otto-Tice says. She suggests these strategies to add value to swine manure:
Leave no manure behind. Fiber and protein in feed can increase manure volume and make manure stickier and harder to handle. Undigested proteins and complex carbohydrates in manure cling to surfaces, including walls and corners of a manure pit. Over time, manure can build up, reducing pit volume and increasing risk of a manure pit overflow.
Buildup isn’t just a pit problem. Sticky manure clings to floors, walls and corners in pens, too, adding time and difficulty to cleaning.
When you pump the pit, are you able to empty it completely? Consider time spent pumping in addition to time you spent throughout the year cleaning pens. See room for improvement? If so, talk to your nutritionist about nutritional adjustments that could improve manure viscosity, make it easier and faster to remove manure from the pit and pens, and save you time and labor.
Maximize value through nutrient consistency. During storage, manure solids sink to the bottom of the pit. Stirring manure can help maintain nutrient consistency before crop application. You can also cover your liquid manure lagoon to keep out rainwater and prevent nutrients from escaping as odorous gases.
Adjusting swine diets is another tactic to maintain the quality and value of manure. For example, adding certain types and amounts of probiotics to swine diets can improve nutrient digestibility. These microorganisms begin working in the pig’s gut to break down feed and help the pig turn nutrients into growth. They continue working in the pit as tiny agitators that “lift” and homogenize nutrients. They also digest proteins into nitrogen that can be used by plants, rather than allowing it to break down into odor-causing gas.
Yucca schidigera is another feed ingredient that can support the nutrient value of manure as well as reduce odors. Yucca works in the pig’s gut to convert nitrogen into a stable form rather than volatile ammonia gas. This helps manure retain more N in a form crops can use rather than being emitted as ammonia gas.
Apply nutrients with precision through testing. Are you pumping out a consistent product from start to finish? If not, you’ll see the difference in corn yields next year. Testing manure for nutrient content will help confirm the changes to your swine feed strategy are improving manure consistency and value. By testing manure, you can determine the exact nutrient content so you can avoid overapplying and wasting nutrients or underapplying and risking lost yield.
If you test manure for nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, ammonia and dry matter content, you’ll have data to precisely control what is applied to the field and meet nutrient limits, targets or goals. You can improve the value of manure by adjusting the ingredients in swine feeds and testing the results. When manure is better balanced, you’ll be in a better position to get a return on your fertilizer investment and avoid wasting valuable nutrients.
Ask your nutritionist about swine diet changes to improve manure value and visit purinamills.com/ecocare.