Make Manure Pay

October 1, 2009 07:00 PM

By Jim Dickrell

Cows make manure. There's no changing that, but better management might allow you to reduce the amount of manure made and its composition. And that can go along way in reducing the hassle of manure management on many dairy farms, says Kevin Erb, with the University of Wisconsin's Environmental Resource Center.

"Opportunities abound if you're really willing to look for them,” says Erb.

  • For example, increasing the silage component of rations from 50% of the forage dry matter to 60% can reduce manure by 4 lb./cow/day,” he says. "It's something worth talking about with your nutritionist.”
  • He also notes that leaving a garden hose run in your parlor for an extra two minutes per day can add a tremendous volume of water to your manure pit over the course of year, requiring $100 to $220 in extra hauling.
  • Avoiding stops signs on your hauling routes will save three to five minutes for each stop sign avoided. "It may be more time efficient to drive an extra mile if you can avoid a stop sign,” he says, because these small time delays add to labor costs significantly.
  • Work with neighboring farms to trade fields to shorten hauling distances. Saving two miles in distance can save up to 10 hours in application time and labor for a 20-acre parcel, not to mention expenditures for fuel and wear on equipment.
  • Incorporate manure into soil within three days of application. After three days, nitrogen losses can be 3 lb/1,000 gallons of manure. If you're applying 10,000 gallons per acre, that's a loss of $12 to $24/acre in fertilizer value, depending on nitrogen prices.
  • The use of compost barns can also decrease manure volumes by 10 to 15% because no rainwater is added to the manure storage and the composting process drives off moisture.  

Erb presented his comments at Friday's World Dairy Expo Education Seminar sponsored by Jamesway Farm Equipment.

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