Manure application time is just around the corner

Manure application time is just around the corner

Fall harvest will soon be here, so it’s not too early to be planning your fall manure applications.  Here are some things to keep in mind.


Safety first.  Review your farm’s emergency response plan before you make applications.  Know the process, have phone numbers and a pocket guide for response easily accessible to everyone involved with manure pumping and spreading.  Consider getting the mobile app “Manure Monitor” for everybody’s smart phone, so you can coordinate emergency response plans for all employees.


Use care during agitation of manure in underfloor pits, keeping workers out of buildings and watching for signs of animal distress.  Avoid "rooster tails" above the surface when you first start to agitate.  Take pigs out of the building, if possible, and run ventilation fans and maximize fresh air into the building.  If there is foam on the manure surface, be aware of methane explosion hazards.  Put caution tags on entry doors during agitation and pumping.


Observe biosecurity protocols when pumping and transporting manure.  Equipment can carry pathogens, so exercise caution and clean the equipment thoroughly when moving from farm to farm.


Get manure sample kits in hand. Manure should be sampled every year, so contact your lab to obtain the submittal forms and kits early.  Grab good composite samples as you pump, ship the samples promptly, and ask the lab to perform the TKN, ammonium-N, P, K, and solids tests, as a minimum.


Keep good records. As soon after harvest as you can, record moisture-adjusted crop yields on the fields where you spread manure, so you can enter those yields in your updated nutrient management plan. Streamline the manure nutrient management plan process so that it gets done.  One suggestion is to print out one field map per page, and indicate where setbacks exist, and rates to use for this year. Drivers can sketch where applications start and stop in each field, and keep a tally of loads hauled.  In case of a farm inspection, regulators appreciate simple maps with clear indications of such information.


Calibrate your spreader and record the results.  Check calibration as soon as you can during the application.  Adjust the rate according to your calibration, and keep track of the total volume spread on a complete field, to calculate gallons per acre used.  A volume/area computation is a good backup calibration, especially if you can't get tanks full because of foam at the top.  It’s important to be able to show that you calibrated the spreader, if an agency inspector asks for your records.


Spread carcass compost.  Consider sending a composite sample of well-cured compost to your lab, since the compost is supposed to be part of your nutrient management plan. Once the compost bins are cleaned out, inspect the bins and repair any leaks in the back of bins where liquid leachate gets away.  Get compost carbon sources locked in for the winter.


Get a convenient depth measurement instrument for manure storage.  Consider mapping the solids depth in underslat pits with a laser device.  You can put a pocket laser on a PVC pipe stand and carry it through the building to measure manure surface between the slats.  If you can pump the liquid down completely, you can easily measure and record solids buildup with the laser.


For more information on any of the topics listed above, check out the U of I website or contact the author.  Please be safe out there!