Manure applied in the spring

Manure applied in the spring is less likely to lose nitrogen if conditions are good.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is dominating the news, farmers are getting machinery ready for spring planting and performing other tasks involved with the start of the growing season.

For many, spring is the time to apply manure to fields and pastures, says Melissa Wilson, Extension manure management and water quality specialist with the University of Minnesota.

She says much of the Midwest has no snow and little frost remaining in the soil, making it ideal for manure application.

“With hog manure, studies show that spring applications are good for improved yields,” Wilson says. “However, it’s usually more wet in the spring than in the fall, so most farmers choose to apply manure after harvest.”

Some hog producers empty pits twice a year, she says. Manure applied in the spring is less likely to lose nitrogen if conditions are good.

“If you apply and get heavy rains, you will lose some of that nitrogen,” Wilson says. “We recommend you avoid applying manure directly ahead of a significant rain event.”

With dry manure, she says there is some benefit to tilling the manure into the soil. Wilson says feedlot manure is not going to be as readily available in the field as liquid hog manure injected into the soil.

Sampling the manure is also beneficial, especially during application, she says.

Manure may also be applied on pastures. Wilson says applying manure after the first cutting of hay could help increase yields on lower-quality stands.

Producers should also watch the thermometer when it comes to manure management, says Shawn Shouse, Iowa State University Extension ag engineer. Nitrogen conversion is partially dependent on soil temperature.

“When the soil is cool, there is not much conversion,” Shouse says.

Finally, Manure that is surface applied and within 200 feet of a water body needs to be incorporated, he says.

“Most feedlot manure is not incorporated, but in this case, you want to be careful,” Shouse says because a heavy rain could send most of the nutrients into the water.

Jeff DeYoung is livestock editor for Iowa Farmer Today, Missouri Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.