Nutrient Management on the Ranch


Now before you get excited at the mention of poo, I have no crafty songs like Will Gilmer, (Water ‘n Poo, you have to see it!) but I do want to talk about how we manage manure from the barns, pens, and feeding areas. We want to recycle nutrients on the farm, while at the same time being observant of environmental conservation. Taking care of our land and surrounding environments is not only important for our business operations, but also to provide quality land for future generations.

Thursday I posted this photo on my Tumblr photo blog with the caption “Talk about a crappy day” and Maegan Clark (@maeganclark) replied saying she didn’t know what it was. Well, it’s a manure spreader. They come in many sizes and differing models. Some, like this spreader, are made to spread solid material, while others, like the one in Will’s video, spread liquids.

Where do we get the manure? Manure is collected from barns with straw bedding, feeding areas from a concrete pad, weaning pens or corrals, and other areas where livestock congregate. We want to keep animals in a clean environment, with solid footing, and not lying in the mud. We routinely clean these areas, pile the manure, straw, or runoff water to spread later. Manure is often composted before spreading to speed nutrient break down.

Where do we spread the manure? Manure and bedding must be clean if we are going to spread it. We’re not spreading material from sick pens or anything that will contaminate food plots or pastures. We use this as an organic fertilizer (much like adding poultry litter) on pastures, hay fields, or crop plots. It’s cheaper for our production methods, recycles nutrients on the farm, and keeps animal handling areas cleaner.

How do we manage environmental impact? First thing that comes to mind with spreading animal wastes, is the environmental impact. When spreading, we avoid water collection areas, creeks, or ditches to avoid any nutrient runoff into water sources. Soil samples are routinely taken to measure nutrient levels returning to the land and make sure we are not exceeding safe levels.

For more information on animal manure management, visit this page from Tennessee Extension.

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