75 Questions and Answers on Manure Management and Organic Fertilizers

Here are some common questions asked about manure management, our oldest of organic fertilizers, what it is and how to apply farmyard manures to your farms, homesteads and gardens.  

However, one can also upset the balance of the soil by adding too many nutrients to the soil.

Before determining fertilizer requirements, it is first necessary to make an overall assessment of the soil type and conditions and to identify factors other than nutrient supply that could potentially limit crop growth.

Then the objective is to make best use of the nutrients that are already available e.g. from organic manures and soil reserves. Finally, when the fertilizer requirement is determined, it must then be accurately applied.  

As a general rule of thumb, apply evenly at known application rates not exceeding 250kg/ha of total manure nitrogen per year. Test your pH soil level regularly and adjust with lime where necessary.

Q 1.  What is the oldest organic fertilizer?
 Barnyard manure.
Q2. Is the manure's popularity justified?
Yes. Barnyard manure has proved its importance.
Q3.  What kind of manure is most valuable?
In terms of value they are poultry, sheep, horses, cattle, pigs
Q4.  What does manure contain that makes it so valuable?
The phosphoric acid, potash, and nitrogen are the chief elements.
Q5.  Why do horse and sheep manure heat up while others do not?
Probably because that from the horse and sheep contain less water.
Q6. Does what I feed my livestock affect the quality of the manure?
Manure varies with quality and quantity of feed.
Q7.  What feeds produce the best manures?
Feeds high in nitrogen, phosphoric acid, and potash.
Q8.  Give some examples of a few feeds in the order of their value as fertilizer.
Cottonseed meal, linseed meal, gluten meal, wheat bran, and corn meal, rank in value in the order given.
Q9.  What elements do growing stock need in greater amounts than mature animals?
They need nitrogen and phosphoric acid.
Q10.  What proportion of the fertilizer of the feed may be recovered in the manure?
About eighty per cent on the average farm
Q11.  What is the chief factor in determining the fertilizing value of a given manure?
The age of the animal.
Q12.  What is the most valuable element in these organic fertilizers?
Q13.  Why?
Because nitrogen is usually present in larger quantities, and it is more costly when purchased
Q14.  What effect does bedding have on the manure?
The richer the bedding in fertilizer elements, the richer the manure

Q15.  Is it economical to pile manure in the open barn lot, exposed to the weather?
No, the result is great loss, due to leaching from rains.
Q16.  Is open lot feeding advisable?
No, the loss in manure from leaching is wasteful.
Q17.  What is the purpose of bedding?
To absorb the liquid excrement which contains over one-half the value of the manure.
Q18.  What bearing has this upon the amount of bedding?
There should be abundance of bedding to absorb all liquid waste.
Q19.  How does cutting bedding affect its absorbent powers?
Straw cut in one-inch lengths will absorb three times as much urine as long straw.
Q20.  What other advantage comes from cutting bedding?
The manure is in condition to be much more easily handled and less bedding is needed.
Q21.  Does stored manure lose its strength?
Yes. Nitrogen passes to the air in the form of ammonia that is noticed as a strong odor on a winter morning.
Q22.  What is the best method to prevent loss in manure?
To haul it to the field as fast as it is made

Q23.  What other advantages are there in immediate hauling?
The manure should be handled only once if its total value as manure is realized.
Q24.  If the manure must be stored, what is the best way of doing it?
Stored manure loses by leaching due to rains and hot fermentation. Leaching is prevented by keeping the manure under shelter or by placing it in water-tight pits or bins of cement.

manure management
A diagram of good manure management
Q25.  How can manure heating be prevented?
By keeping manure in a compact heap so air cannot enter to enable bacteria to thrive. Each daily addition to the pile should be firmly packed into place.
Q26.  What other treatment is needed?
Water will cool the pile and keep out air, so water should be added when necessary.
Q27.  When manure is to be stored for some time, what else should one be aware of?
Cover the heap with a few inches of earth which will prevent the escape of ammonia.
Q28.  What is the best method of saving the manure?
A covered barnyard is probably the best means.
Q29.  What advantage has this besides saving manure ?
It saves labor as it is easy to gather the manure outside the stalls at any time, and it can be handled when the ground is right.
Q30.  What is the best way of looking after exposed manure?
By making the heap so high that the heaviest rains cannot soak through it.
Q31.  What is the best way of applying manure?
As a top dressing.
Q32.  What is the advantage of this method?
It is nature's way. As the fertilizer descends gradually, it feeds the plant roots, and it is not covered beyond their depth.

Q33.  What other advantage has top dressing?
It acts as a mulch, preventing the escape of moisture from the soil.
Q34.  What objection is there to this method?
It may interfere with tillage unless the manure is fine.
Q35.  Should manure be spread before or after harrowing?
It should be spread after plowing, and then harrowed into the soil.
Q36.  Should manure be left in piles in the fields?
No, because this means a second handling and increases the labor.
Q37.  Are there other objections?
In piles it is liable to lose by fermentation and by leaching; it makes the ground under the piles highly fertilized and thus the fields are spotty.

Q38.  What objections are there to a spotty field?
Part of the crop may grow too rank and fall, and the crop is apt to mature unevenly. In either case there is a money loss to the farmer.
Q39.  What is the better way of spreading manure?
Broadcasting either by hand or by using a manure spreader.
Q40.  When coarse manure must be plowed under what caution is necessary?
It should not be covered too deep especially in clay soils where the air may not reach it readily to assist in decay.
Q41.  How deep should it be covered?
In clays, about four inches, but it may be much deeper in sandy soils.

Q42.  Is it possible to apply too much manure?
Yes. In general one should not use more than eight or ten tons per acre.
Q43.  Is it well to try to cover the entire farm each year?
No. It is better to manure only one crop in a rotation, thus covering only a part of the farm annually.
Q44.  How long is the effect of manuring noticed?
It may affect crops for a dozen years or more, but each year the effect is less noticeable.

Q45.  All things considered, is there any fertilizer better than manure?
No. When barnyard manure has been properly cared for, it has no superior.
Q46.  How did commercial fertilizer come to be used ?
When it was discovered that certain elements in the soil are necessary to plant growth, farmers concluded to supply these elements artificially.
Q47. Where does the nitrogen usually come from?
From animal refuse matter, from packing houses, soap and glue factories.

Q48.  What is dried blood?
It is the blood from slaughter houses dried by heating to a powder.

Q49.  Is there more than one kind?
There is the red blood and the black blood.
Q50.  What is the difference?
The red blood is dried more carefully and not charred, while the black blood is dried more rapidly.
Q51.  Which is the more valuable fertilizer?
The red blood contains from thirteen to fourteen per cent nitrogen, while the black contains from six to twelve per cent.
Q52.  How much nitrogen is there in hoof meal?
It contains about twelve per cent nitrogen.

Q53.  How valuable is horn meal?
It contains from ten to twelve per cent nitrogen, but not in good form for plant food.

Q54.  What is fish fertilizer or guano?
The oil of the fish is extracted and the remaining "pumace" is dried and ground for fertilizer.
Q55.  What elements of fertilizer does it contain?
From eight to eleven per cent of nitrogen and three to five per cent of phosphoric acid.
Q56.  Is leather meal a good fertilizer?
No, because it resists decay.
Q57.  What can be said in favor of sulphate of ammonia?
It is a by-product of coal gas and coke, resembling common salt and is the richest in nitrogen of all fertilizing materials, containing from twenty to twenty-three per cent.
Q58.  What is nitrate of soda or Chili saltpeter?
It resembles salt, is entirely soluble in water, and is a very desirable nitrogenous fertilizer with from 15- 16% nitrogen.
Q59.  For early spring growing crops which fertilizer is best ?
Chili saltpeter, because it is immediately ready for the plants.

Q60.  How does nitrogen compare in cost with the other elements ?
It is the most expensive, costing nearly three times as much per pound as phosphoric acid or potash.
Q61.  Is it usually advisable for the ordinary farmer to buy nitrogenous fertilizer ?
No. It can best be supplied by the use of barnyard manures and by growing legumes.

Q62.  What is the source of the potash of fertilizer?
Nearly all of it comes from the potash salt mines of Strassfurt, Germany.

Q63.  In what forms does it sell?
Kainite, containing about twelve per cent potash; muriate of potash, containing about fifty per cent; and sulphate of potash, with about 53%.
Q64.  Do these provide available plant food?
Yes. All are soluble in water and available to plants.
Q65.  How is phosphoric acid obtained for fertilizer?
From phosphates. The bones of dead animals and minerals containing phosphates.
Q66.  How are bones treated for this purpose?
Raw bone meal is another organic fertilizer made by grinding raw bones to a powder, the finer the better.
Q67.  How rich is bone meal in phosphorus?
It contains twenty-two percent of phosphoric acid and four per cent nitrogen.
Q68.  Does bone meal decay rapidly?
No, the elements in bone are only gradually available to the crop.

Q69.  What is the value of steamed bone meal?
Steaming removes the fat and some nitrogen, so that it contains about twenty-eight per cent phosphoric acid and one and one-half per cent nitrogen.
Q70.  Does steamed bone meal decay more rapidly than the raw?
Yes. The removal of fat causes more rapid decay and so they are considered a better source of phosphoric acid.  

Q 71.  What is lime and where does it come from?
It is a soil additive that is made from pulverized limestone or chalk.
Q72.  How does lime aid the soil ?
Lime changes the physical condition of sandy soils so as to make them hold water. Some soils may be deficient in lime.
Q73.  How does lime affect clays?
It makes clays more mellow. A soil rich in lime crumbles more easily and is more readily brought into good condition for crops. It also helps to break up compounds so as to make their elements available for plants.
Q74.  Are there other uses of lime?
Yes. It helps the growth of bacteria. It makes an acid, or sour, soil sweet.
Q75.  How is lime applied?
It is drilled and afterward harrowed in. 

If you are keeping horses for the first time, you may be wondering what to do with all that horse manure. See our page on horse manure and how to manage it.

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