Swine Waste Feeds Grassland Pastures

Hog manure is a low-priced alternative to using high-priced commercial fertilizer for pastures.

Commercial fertilizers have reached record high prices this year. While corn and soybean prices are also reaching new market highs, the price for cattle and sheep are not matching such inflation. This has some livestock producers thinking about alternatives to dry fertilizer that may be more affordable for fertilizing pastures.

For some, that could mean the confinement swine barn down the road. But, is liquid swine manure useable on grass pastures? How can it be applied without tearing up the sod? Will smell be a problem?

These questions are the topic of a summer demonstration study and field day that will be held Monday, June 30 at the CRP Research and Demonstration Farm north of Corning, Iowa. At the field day, both cattle and hog producers can see the application of liquid swine waste into pasture. They will also be able to see a test plot that has had the liquid hog manure applied on May 27.

It may make sense to use hog manure

Cropland, particularly cornfields, will always be the target of liquid swine manure for fertilization purposes. However, there are times when it makes sense to also put it on pastures.

A major question of many grass and hay producers is whether this application will do more harm than good. Will the application cause a physical disruption and/or nitrogen "burning". This demonstration field day will show some results, says Chris Nelson, chair of the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee.

"There are times when a swine operation needs to move out manure," he notes. "That can be a scheduled application, or an unscheduled emergency. Summer application to cropland is not usually a choice because it will cause soil disruption and injury to crops. If manure can be applied to pasture grass with little or no tillage disturbance, this will greatly enhance the forage production when cropland is not available."

Place to apply manure during summer

This demonstration at the CRP Research and Demonstration Farm east of Corning will show swine and cattle producers that they can both benefit by applying manure fertilizer to pastures in the summer months, says Nelson.

The CRP Demo Farm field day will have the swine manure discussion and demonstration after a free light supper starting at 6:45 pm. From 5:00 to 6:45, a pasture walk will be held that will show the results of two other grazing experiments ongoing at this farm.

Fescue renovation and "patch" burning

The first will be the results of a 2007 fescue pasture renovation program called Spray-Smother-Spray. In this program the pasture was killed in early 2007 and a corn crop was planted. That corn was later subdivided by electric fencing and then grazed before maturity as a forage crop. Now in 2008, that field is being reseeded into reed Canarygrass with a pearl millet cover.

The other experiment is the use of controlled fire burning of sections of a pasture to improve quality and production. This "Patch Burn" grazing system is being demonstrated on both warm and cool season grasses in one open continuously grazed pasture. Fires were set to parts of these pastures on March 26, 2008. This is year three of this five year grazing study.

For more information concerning the CRP Farm Summer Field Day, contact the Southern Iowa Forage and Livestock Committee at the Adams County Extension Office, 641-322-3184, or e-mail [email protected].  

The CRP Demonstration Farm is designed to assist cattlemen in innovations that boost meat production by demonstrating the best use of hilly ground, which is grass. Rotational grazing is demonstrated on the farm along with numerous types of management and equipment. The farm is located 2 miles north of Corning, Iowa. Signs will be posted on Highway 148 north of Corning to assist visitors. For long distance travelers to the field day, the Lake Icaria Park campground is only 1 mile further north of the farm.

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