Spreading Manure To Redistribute Nutrients

 Horses and cows produce nutrient-rich manure. Producers can spread the wealth
 by spreading the manure acorss the pastures.

 U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Dirk Philipp

   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. ∆

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