Manure record keeping may not be fun, but it’s beneficial

Good records can help farmers plan manure applications and provide protection against complaints.

I can tell you that manure record keeping is good for you, but then so are liver and onions. I can say that you have to or you should, but that still doesn’t make it any fun.

Keeping records of manure applications is a fact of life. They have rescued farmers from some serious situations. They have helped right to farm complaints become non-issues. They are like insurance: you pay the premium and hope you never need the coverage.

And yes, they have also helped farmers with management decisions and problem solving.

Good uses of manure application records include back calculating the rate of manure applied to fields. No one wants to over apply manure. And no one wants to under apply it either—especially if they are counting on the nitrogen value of the manure. By the law of averages, there are just as many farms under applying as there are farms who put too much manure on the ground.

After completing a manure application on an entire field, count up the total number of loads spread on the field and divide by the number of acres. Did it come out to the planned rate per acre? If not, it can be due to driving the wrong speed or driving too far or too close together for each round in the field. If you are not the one driving the manure applicator, then visit with the driver or observe how they are operating. Decide the cause and remedy it before going to the next field.

The desired rate per acre of manure should be based on manure samples. Hauling time is the best time to pull a new manure sample and recheck the nutrient contents. Fill a plastic bottle, leave an inch or so of head space and freeze it until you can ship it to a manure testing lab.

Using the manure sample results, soil tests and yield goals of the rotation will determine the rate per acre for each type of manure on the farm.

Pocket-size record-keeping books are free from MSU Extension by emailing Natalie Rector or calling 269-967-6608 and providing your mailing address. Record-keeping sheets are available from the MSU. In addition, you can find forms specific to CAFOs with NPDES permits (in both English and Spanish) that include information for items beyond field applications. 

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