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Make manure more valuable by spreading it around.

Beef cattle produce about 10 tons of manure (dairy cattle about 12 tons) and about 11,000 gallons of urine a year if provided access to adequate forage and water. Fresh cattle manure in fertilizer value converts to (pounds per ton) 12-nitrogen, 9-phosphorus and 10-potassium on forage. The values may change somewhat depending on any supplemental feeding. Urine also has a high nitrogen content.

If left in a pile, manure essentially over-fertilizes the grass which will eventually grow through the pile, producing a rank growth the livestock don't find palatable.

The problem with livestock is they don't housebreak well. They will make their deposits where they want to, not necessarily where you want them to. In large pastures this manure tends to accumulate around watering and shade areas. Switching to rotational grazing helps spread out manure to a large extent since the livestock will water as individuals, rather than as a herd - the individuals will water and then return to the herd area. Livestock can be trained to not tree-up by fencing off shade trees to where they get used to staying out iii the sun to rest, leaving the manure in the field where you want it since they tend to defecate soon after rising from a rest.

Using rotational grazing makes it more practical to use a flexible harrow (or dragmat) on the pasture to spread out manure since it will be concentrated in a small area rather than scattered around a large pasture. A rule of thumb is 15 tons of fresh manure per acre will produce a layer 1/8 inch thick if spread out evenly. However, while this isn't practical, harrowing will help break up the clumps and spread the manure more evenly on the field.

Earthworms and insects (e.g., dung beetles) can make a large contribution towards reducing the amount of surface manure by incorporating it into the soil. While dung beetles will put their balled up manure deposits (as feed for their larvae) just below ground level, earthworms will carry it down to subsoil levels. In a field with a high level of earthworm activity, most of the manure should disappear before the paddock needs to be used again if it has been spread out.

Spreading will also help to reduce the level of flies and parasites. By spreading manure, the individual pieces dry out quicker resulting in a less attractive environment for fly or parasite reproduction.

If breaking up the clumps is your only concern, dragmats need not be elaborate or expensive. A homemade version can be made by attaching a length of chainlink fence to a pipe, putting some weights on the fencing. Be sure the width you use allows you to get through all of your gates.

Some commercial flexible harrows are multi-purpose in that laid on one side they serve as dragmats, while laid on the other side, where the tines point down, they will help prepare seedbeds, cover broadcasted seed or renovate pastures by stirring up the trash.

Flexible harrows are available from most farm equipment dealers. Further information on the benefits of using flexible harrows in pasture management is available from Fuerst Brothers, PO Box 427, Gibson City, IL 60936-0427, (217) 784-4266. A ten foot wide flexible harrow runs about $600 new but should last a lifetime.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Scharabok, Ken
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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