Spreading manure to redistribute nutrients
By Mary Hightower
U of A System Division of Agriculture
March 11, 2016
- Dragging can help redistribute nutrient rich manure
- Dragging can be done easily with little effort, time
(Newsrooms: with art www.flickr.com/photos/uacescomm/25648521766 )
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cattle and horses are natural fertilizer producers, but they don’t tend to drop their plant food very evenly as they roam their pastures. That’s where a little dragging can help, said Dirk Philipp, associate professor for animal science for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.
“The manure produced by grazing animals is full of nutrients,” he said. “However, only a small percentage of the pasture will be covered by manure.”
In pastures heavily stocked with cattle, up to 35 percent of the pasture can be covered in patties, but otherwise, “it’s normally just 15 percent and when it comes to urine, the amount of ground covered is even smaller, maybe around 3-5 percent,” Philipp said.
In those small areas, the concentrations of nutrients can be very high -- equivalent to 5,000 pounds of nitrogen per acre. However, Philipp said that much of it is lost to leaching, making it unavailable for use by plants.
Be a drag
The livestock producer does have the means to help spread the nutrient wealth around the pasture by dragging.
“It is probably less practiced because of the effort involved or the use of diesel,” Philipp said. “Unless fields are very large, dragging out manure piles and patches should take little time and effort.”
He said dragging is “easily accomplished by attaching a set of chain-linked old tires, a wooden beam or iron beam behind a tractor to smooth out areas of the filed that are heavily loaded with manure piles.”
Late winter and early spring is a good time “as many grasses, either cool- or warm-season, are still either growing very slowly or are still dormant,” Philipp said.
Other advantages of dragging manure piles:
- Will help reduce fertilizer costs
- Once the spring storms set in nutrients are more evenly distributed
- Dragging also will level out fields somewhat, reducing hazards such as mole hills.
“Horse pastures are mostly bermudagrass pastures that are well suited for dragging due to their smooth surface to begin with; less ideal for fescue or other bunch grass-type pastures,” Philipp said.
For more information about forage and pastures, visit www.uaex.edu or contact your county extension office.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service