Manuring Pastures & Hay Fields

Published on: 07:40AM Dec 15, 2009
Manuring Hay Fields
We don’t spread manure on any of our fields used for Hay production or pasturing of our animals. It’s a personal decision that we made years ago simply due to the fact that it doesn’t seem like a healthy option.   Of course there is manure in our pastures that is deposited by the animals while they graze. As far as I know, no one has been able to train their cattle to only “go” in one area, kind of like a Cattle bathroom! 
I recently read an article that spoke about “Johne’s disease” as an increasing problem. The disease is especially problematic in dairy cattle. The article took a look at weather or not manure should be applied to forages?   I’m sure most (if not all), of you have heard of Johne’s disease, but do you know how cattle contract the disease?
Calves under 6 months of age are the most susceptible. The common route of infection is when these young calves consume colostrum or milk from infected cow’s/heifers that have been on pasture, or that have eaten forages infected with MAP.
MAP is Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis, MAP is what causes “Johne’s disease. MAP can survive in manure & water for up to ONE YEAR!  
MAP can be reduced by exposure to sunlight, liming, as well as the process of fermentation as when ensiling.  
Manure should NOT be applied to pastures where calves and young heifers graze during grazing season. If you don’t have the option of applying your manure on non-animal pasturing or hay production fields, make sure you apply it/top dress it as soon as possible following harvest. This will allow the sun’s light to kill the bacteria (MAP).   If applying manure to your hay fields that will be utilized for haylage, be sure to follow good ensiling techniques.   This means making sure the harvested forage is at the proper DMC (dry matter content), when storing in a silo, trench or agbag. 
For most of us, pasturing is over for the next few months. If applying manure remember to keep it thin/top dress only. Especially if your ground is frozen.
Pitch of your fields and run-off is another problem you must consider unless your going to be renovating your hay field in the spring. Make sure you work “it” (manure), in as soon as possible. This will help keep the nitrogen in the ground where you ultimately want it and not going up in the air. This will also help keep the phosphorus out of your streams too! Your local watershed Representatives will thank you.