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 a long way toward reducing the hassle of manure management on many dairy farms, says Kevin Erb of the University of Wisconsin's Environmental Resource Center. "Opportunities abound if you're really willing to look for them,” he says.
- Monitor water use. Leaving a hose running 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 a year, requiring $100 to $220 in extra hauling.
- Avoid stop signs on your hauling routes—you'll save three to five minutes for each sign you stay clear of. "It may be more time-efficient to drive an extra mile if you can avoid a stop sign,” Erb says, because these small delays add to labor costs significantly.
- Work with neighboring farms to trade fields and shorten hauling distances. Cutting two miles of 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 the soil within three days of application. After three days, nitrogen losses can be 3 lb./1,000 gal. of manure. If you're applying 10,000 gal./acre, that's a loss of $12/acre to $24/acre in fertilizer value, depending on nitrogen prices.