The Do’s & Don’ts of Manure Spreading
Sheldon Grywacheski is a grain producer and professional engineer born and raised in Saskatchewan. He’s gained 30 years of experience working with John Deere, Mitsubishi Hitachi, Brandt Engineered Product, Case Corporation, the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute, and now Dutch Industries. Sheldon has also had extensive exposure to farms and to producers throughout Canada, the United States, South America, Europe and Australia.
Make Manure Matter
Spreading manure is an excellent way to return nitrogen and phosphate to the soil, allowing animal/crop protection to come full circle: growing a crop or grazing takes nutrients from the soil, while animal waste contains those needed nutrients. Done correctly, it’s a sustainable system. So how do you make the most of your fertilization?
DO: Spread manure at the right time of the year.
“Generally you start spreading when you can work the ground within a day or two,” says Grywacheski. “Depending on the crop, that can be pretty early in the spring and the ground might not be entirely thawed. There is a lot of nutrient value in that manure, so you want to make sure you work the ground so the soil is able to take that in.”
DON’T: Apply the same manure to the same piece of land each year.
This primarily applies to pastureland – where less of the nutrients are removed each year. “There is no value to applying manure year-over-year to the same piece of land,” says Grywacheski. “You’ll saturate the land with phosphates.”
DO: Make sure you know what’s in your manure.
An analysis of the fertilizer will determine its nutrient value, and the rate of application. “Poultry manure, for example, is really an amazing fertilizer,” says Grywacheski. “You can apply it at a high rate but if you don’t have the right analysis you can risk some burning. With cattle manure you can apply it at a higher rate with lower nutrient value, but also lower risk to the pasture or crop.”
DON’T: Go Too Fast
Don’t go too fast with your tractor. Uniform application is one of the best ways to get even fertilization across the crop or pasture. “The heart and soul of the spreader is the beater systems,” says Grywacheski. “You want to make sure that it is moving the manure across the full width of the spreader and is able to deal with overlap for a consistent spread.”
DO: Be aware of loading challenges.
Loading manure is not a clean process – it is usually done directly from pens and everything from straw to fence posts can end up in the box. “A spreader will be dragged through rugged, frozen terrain, ditches and high-speed loading situations,” says Grywacheski. “A durable manure spreader will help avoid messy maintenance issues in the field. “
When spreading manure, the size of the equipment matters. Too small and you are making too many costly trips to the pen. Too large and you may not be able to maneuver in small pens or get through soft fields, and may have increased soil compaction.
DO: Determine what works best for your operation.
Consider utilizing multiple spreaders that match up with your current employee staffing and existing tractors and loaders to increase spreading operation efficiency while using already owned capital. Multiple mid-sized spreaders are also used by producers wanting to avoid complete shut down due to a breakdown of a singular spreader.
“Manure is an amazing product for yield,” says Grywacheski. “You want to spread manure at a steady pace, at a uniform rate with a clean discharge to make the most of those nutrients. A good manure spreader is a relatively inexpensive way to manage waste and see a positive return on your bottom line.”