It’s April, it’s muddy and your manure pit is almost full. It’s a scenario that no pig farmer wants to find themselves in.
With last fall’s unusual weather conditions, many farmers were unable to apply liquid manure and now pits are filling up, fields are muddy and planting time is upon us, says Ted Funk, retired University of Illinois Extension ag engineer.
“Once you can get into the field, manure spreading takes precedence over planting,” he says. “No one wants to be applying manure when they could be planting. It will be an interesting spring season.”
Although it may not be the April some pig farmers were hoping for, Funk offers a few suggestions to help farmers manage their manure storage this spring.
Find an alternative safe place to spread manure.
If your fields are too muddy or you can’t delay the start of planting, consider low-slope pasture or fields covered with some vegetation as an option to broadcast spread manure. Be careful not to apply too much and create a runoff issue. Funk suggests contacting the state environmental authority to let them that you have a near-emergency situation and you want them to be aware of what you need to do.
He advises farmers prioritize fields in order to accept liquid manure. Rank fields by slope, reduced risk of runoff, low soil tests (if you have fields that could use nutrients) and distance from your manure source.
Consider using a custom hauler.
Custom haulers typically have a wider range of equipment that may be more suitable on your particular land. For example, a custom hauler may have a drag line whereas you own heavy tanks.
“More and more farmers are utilizing custom haulers to apply manure,” Funk says. “Custom operators typically have the newest equipment and can spread that investment over many operations.”
The next time you have the opportunity to empty a pit, consider using a simple laser distance meter on a home-built stand, and virtually map your pit floor through the slats to determine if you have solids or sludge build-up occurring, Funk says.
“A lot of times we don’t think about feed solids built up that you weren’t able to agitate,” he says. This takes away your storage volume and is something to consider.” If you know there’s a problem, you may be able to agitate the pit more aggressively next pumpout and gain back some storage capacity.
This is valuable information that you can add into to your storage volume calculations to help determine what’s available in your pit.
He also encourages farmers to make sure they don’t allow excess water in the pit. Water can also leak in through cracks in the pit wall, roof drainage runoff, backflow into pumpout ports, etc., Funk says. Use water meters on the building’s water supply to detect excessive leaking, and monitor water use regularly.
Look at sidedressing corn with manure.
Funk said draglining manure over emerging corn is growing in popularity among farmers for many reasons.
“Using drag lines over newly-emerged corn seems to be working well,” Funk says. “It’s a nice alternative to increase summertime manure storage space. It gives you a wider window for spring application, to surface-apply liquid on corn ground between the rows as it emerges.”
Glen Arnold, a manure management specialist with Ohio State University Extension, has led research efforts looking at sidedressing corn with manure.
In addition to saving money by using manure instead of synthetic fertilizer, sidedressing also resulted in increased yields as compared to fields where synthetic fertilizers were applied, according to an Ohio State University press release.