Friday, March 15, 2013

Spreading a Little "Love" Around

Today I'd like to talk about ... Hmmm. How shall I delicately put this? Today, I'd like to talk about ... organic fertilizer. How's that?

If you raise livestock, then "poop" is a natural byproduct. You can't get more organic than that. Just like with humans, what goes in one end comes out another. When that natural byproduct has been collecting in the same spot for more than 20 years, it can create quite a pile.

In January, we hired the 4 Bar S Co. based in Arlington to move manure from five different locations where we feed cattle in the winter. They brought two big trucks and a payloader to do the job.
The payload driver had to move circular bunks out of the way to get to the "goods." Curious cattle in the pasture south of the lot came to watch the action.
To begin, the payloader operator pushed the manure into a big pile. Then, he scooped bucketfuls of the manure into the trucks.
The drivers tag-teamed and took trucks to nearby alfalfa fields and spread the "organic fertilizer." Each 1 ton load of manure was spread over about 1 acre and then the trucks went back for another load. They averaged a load of manure spread every 12 minutes. (Only Randy would time it.)

By the time they were done with the job, they had trucked 158 loads of manure to our alfalfa fields. It cost $43 per load if the manure was spread on a field within 1 mile of the collection site. Randy had it planned logistically so that the trucks didn't have to travel more than a mile to deliver the goods.
Randy chose to put the manure on alfalfa fields because manure is higher in phosphates than many commercial fertilizers. Alfalfa can use more phosphate than other crops, so it was a "natural" match, so to speak.

Because we used the manure on the fields, we won't need to do an application of commercial fertilizer on the alfalfa ground this year. Comparable commercial fertilizer would cost about $35 an acre.

So, why did we (Randy) choose to spend the $43 per acre rather than the $35 for commercial fertilizer? (Yes, of course, I asked, with my eye firmly on the checkbook.) Cleaning up the manure has some side benefits. It makes it less sloppy for feeding, reducing wear and tear on equipment. It also can help in disease control for the cattle.
Right now, the manure is still lying on top of the soil in the alfalfa fields. As the ground warms up and the moisture from our snow and rains soaks in, he or Jake will lightly disc and pack the alfalfa fields to incorporate the manure into the soil.

So, there you have it - the scoop on poop.


  1. Sounds like a rancher's version of spring cleaning to me! May this result in a bumper crop of alfalfa for you!

    1. Yes, this spring cleaning was long overdue, much like the spring cleaning that should be happening at my house.