If possible, all manure, other than that in feeding sheds, should be hauled out daily and applied to the field. The most nearly ideal situation in getting the full value out of manure is found in grazed pastures, where the manure is dropped directly on the soil. The phenomenal growth of grass around spots where animals have urinated provides spectacular proof of the grass-growing powers of the liquid manure, much of which may be lost from stall-produced manure.
One of the important reasons why the grassland system of farming has come into such prominence as a conservation measure lies in the economy of fertility in grazed pastures. Under such conditions the loss of the fertilizing constituents, either by way of the drainage water or evaporation into the air, is reduced to the minimum. Since liberally manured grass provides a complete cover for the land, the principle of soil conservation is doubly met in such a system.
Both the solid and liquid droppings present problems in intensively managed pastures in that they make the surrounding grass unpalatable. The use of a harrow or some type of homemade drag is required to break the clumps of solid manure apart and scatter them about. Where labor is available, this work can often be readily done with a fork. The luxuriant growth of grass around the droppings necessitates the supplemental use of a mower. By this means the sward can be made much more uniform and attractive to the animals. Most of the dry grass clippings from around the droppings are consumed by the grazing livestock.
Standard practice in the use of superphosphate as an ammonia absorbent consists in scattering it over the floor and in the gutters behind the cows. If used only for reenforcing the phosphorus content of the manure, it can be applied over the spreader load before it is hauled to the field. The standard rate of application is about 50 pounds of the 20-percent grade of superphosphate per ton of manure. A 10-ton application of such phosphated cow manure, assuming that it contains the normal amount of bedding, will supply nearly as much N, P2O5, and K2O as is found in 1,000 pounds of 10-15-10 fertilizer.
Horse and sheep manure are somewhat drier than cow manure and require less spreading. If such manures are stored, it may be necessary to add water to prevent hot fermentation and consequent loss of ammonia. This water can be added as such or in the form of one of the wet manures, like those produced by cattle and hogs. Storage conditions are almost ideal in steer-feeding sheds where the steers are followed by hogs. Any horse or sheep manure that is available can be thrown into the feeding sheds where it is worked down by the hogs and compacted by the steers.
By reason of the harsh effects of cement floors on udders and feet, loose housing of dairy cows is now under study by State boards of health and may ultimately be widely adopted. The manure provides warmth in winter and increases the length of the effective life of the cow. The primary problem in such methods of` handling the cows is that of providing plenty of bedding, so as to keep them clean. If such a system is put into effect, fertility losses from the manure will be greatly reduced.
A careful check was made of the manure production of 47 battery-fed White Leghorn hens over a 14-day period at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. During that period the hens consumed 136.1 pounds of feed and voided 259.6 pounds of manure. The production of manure amounted to nearly twice the weight of the feed consumed. The yearly production of 1000 such hens would be about 72 tons.
Poultry manure presents a series of special problems, one of which is its marked tendency toward rapid decomposition and loss of ammonia. The ammonia losses occur both while the manure is fresh and while it is undergoing air drying.
One of the best means of preventing such losses is to apply hydrated lime to the fresh manure. Used at the rate of about 200 pounds per ton of wet ma-'lure, the lime stops the fermentation, serves as a disinfecting agent, and effectively deodorizes the manure. Hydrated lime is also being used to good effect in the loose litter on the floors of poultry houses. Here, again, it serves as a drying, disinfecting, and deodorizing agent.
Just as cattle, horse, and sheep manure is made into a better balanced fertilizer by the addition of superphosphate, so also is the effectiveness of hog and poultry manure increased by the supplemental use of potash.
Hog and poultry manures are largely the product of grain feeds and they lack potash, which the hays and bedding materials supply. The same applies to wet-sewage sludges, the potash in this case being lost in the runoff in the sewage-treatment process. When reenforced with 10 pounds of muriate of potash per ton, such sludges were found to be as effective fertilizers as fresh cow manure.
Plowing Manure Under
The manure of general livestock farms is most frequently applied on a sod in advance of plowing in preparation for the growing of corn. Applications of as much as 20 tons of superphosphate-reenforced cow manure per acre, or half that amount of potash-reenforced poultry manure, can be made to advantage in this manner.
The good effects of such manuring carry over several years, as evidenced by the better growth of the small-grain and legume-hay crops that normally follow the corn. In many cases, however, part of the manure can be used to better advantage on new clover seedings in small grains and on pastures. Similarly, reenforced manure is of great value as a late-fall or early-spring top dressing on hay lands, especially those that are largely covered with grasses.
Notwithstanding that most farmers have a deep appreciation of the value of alfalfa and the clovers as hay and pasture, at least 70 percent of the land that is devoted to such purposes in the northeastern dairy regions is covered with grasses. The reasons for this are found in the relatively cool, moist climate and in the natural acidity and low state of fertility of much of the soil. The grasses do not have as high fertility requirements as the clovers. Grasses are highly responsive to nitrogen and, for that reason, manure produces very marked effects on them.
But properly reenforced manure, applied at relatively low rates, also favors the clovers. Assuming that lime is applied to grass hay lands and pastures from time to time, the supplemental use of reenforced manure usually results in materially increasing their clover population. Thus, the manured grasslands produce better balanced hay and pastures than those that have not been so treated.
These same effects can be produced on both the grasses and clovers by the liberal use of well-balanced mineral fertilizers. Fertilizers have an advantage in that their composition can be altered to fit the variations in the need, and they are more easily applied. It usually develops that not enough manure is available to supply the entire soil needs of the dairy farm for optimum yields of the grain, silage, hay, and pasture crops. It is necessary, therefore, to develop a fertility program that involves the use of both manure and fertilizer.
Horse, hog, sheep, and poultry manures can be liberally applied to pastures without reducing the palatability of the grasses and clovers to dairy cows. But cows tend to avoid grass that has been given an application of cattle manure. That being the case, it is necessary to consider carefully just how the manure on the dairy farm is to be used.
The order of preference is to apply it to the land in advance of plowing for corn, winter grains, or new seedings of grass-clover hay and pasture crops; as a top dressing for grass hays; as a light top dressing on new seedings of hay and pasture grasses; as a heavy top dressing on combination hay and pasture fields, the first cutting of which is to be taken off for silage or hay; and as a light fall application on pastures.
Strawy manure is very troublesome in hayfields because the straw is often raked up with the first crop of the season. This difficulty can be overcome by putting the straw through a chopper before it is used for bedding. The chopped straw settles down to form a better mulch on the soil. It is also a better urine-absorbing agent and it is much more easily handled as bedding and as part of the manure that is hauled to the field.