Manure application through the seasons

Wisconsin’s seasons can be unpredictable. Sometimes winter may run long or spring may come early. We cannot control the weather, but we can be aware of the alternatives to manure spreading when the weather is less than ideal.

Here are a few seasonal tips for manure spreading

Applying to headlands during the spring

Even though the weather may feel like spring, check to make sure the ground is not frozen, snow-covered or saturated before applying manure. Spread to areas immediately before tillage in the spring and confirm that weather and field conditions are ideal before spreading. Check your local conditions by using the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast System developed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, UW-Madison and the National Weather Service.

Storing manure during the summer

During the summer months it is best to frequently transfer manure from barnyards and calf pens to the designated storage facility. If you do not have enough storage, summer application is suitable for pastures, summer fallow and forage crops  

Checking soil temperatures in the fall before spreading

Some farmers choose to inject manure in the fall. This allows more time for the organic portions of manure to break down before the plants need the nutrients in the spring. It is recommended that you apply manure in late fall when soil temperatures are below 50 degrees. Refer back to your nutrient plan when determining the amount of manure spread on each acre. Low soil temperatures prevent the nitrogen in the manure to be lost in leaching.

Ground frozen? Avoid spreading in the winter

Winter manure application should be viewed as a last resort. When the ground is frozen, the nutrients from the manure cannot be incorporated into the field and the risk for runoff increases significantly. If you need to spread during the winter, avoid slopes greater than six percent. Work with your local crop consultant or your county land conservation department to develop a winter spreading plan. Having a plan will minimize the risks for runoff.

Though it is not always easy, manure management is important for crops, soil health and water quality. Take a look at the weather and field conditions before you take the tractor and manure spreader to the field.

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