Inside a barn
Filling manure spreader
A clean barn
Manure storage pit
After manure application
Nutrient management on sheep farms
One of the most important aspects of any animal-based agricultural
operation is having an effective waste management plan which reaps
the benefits and helps reduce the risks associated with the use
and disposal of animal wastes. Improper manure management can
have a detrimental effect on water quality.
Manure management regulations are created and enforced by federal,
provincial, state, and local authorities in an attempt to minimize
water pollution. Good manure management will also ensure that
you get the maximum benefit from the nutrients in the manure.
If sheep and/or lambs spend any part of the year in barns,
stalls, pens, loafing areas, or feeding areas, you will need
to deal with manure from those areas. Manure is not just the
urine and feces from livestock, but also the bedding, runoff,
spilled feed, and anything else mixed with it.
A complete manure management system involves collection, storage
(temporary or long-term) and ultimate disposal or utilization.
If your sheep produce more manure than you can use on your land,
you need to develop ways to sell the manure or give it away.
Manure production varies with breed and feeding levels. The
amount of bedding to be handled with the manure depends on the
housing system selected. A market lamb weighing about 100 lbs
produces 4 lbs of manure daily, the equivalent of about 0.06
cubic feet per day. About 0.65 cubic foot per day of storage
is needed for each 1,000 pounds of live sheep, or about 40 pounds
of manure per day.
Manure as a Fertilizer
Manure contains valuable nutrients, like nitrogen (N), phosphorus
(P), and potassium (K). In addition to the three major elements,
manure also contains essential micro-nutrients (boron, calcium,
copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybednum, sulfer, and
zinc. Manure nutrients come from the feed that the animals have
Anywhere from 75 to 90 percent of the plant nutrients fed to
animals are excreted in their manure, so it should be no surprise
that the stuff is an excellent fertilizer. The level of protein
and inorganic salts in feed (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium,
phosphate, and chloride) will be reflected in the characteristics
of the manure. The amount of nutrients depends on the type of
animal and the way the manure is handled. Manure than contains
a lot of bedding will contain fewer nutrients than pure manure.
The nutrients in manure are a mixture of inorganic and organic
forms. The inorganic forms are similar to those in commercial
fertilizer. They dissolve in water and plants can use them right
away. The organic forms come from the remains of plant tissue,
cells, and bacteria that are in the manure. They are slow-release
nutrients that the plants cannot use right way. They become available
to the plants as the manure decays.
The organic matter in manure is also valuable because it makes
soil easier to manage, less likely to erode, and more likely to
absorb water. Regular manure application lowers soil pH. The acidifying
effect of manure is less than that of inorganic fertilizers.
Typical nutrient composition of sheep manure
Lbs. per ton
Land application is the most effective and economical way to
utilize solid manure, so long as the manure is not applied to
sloping ground, frozen land, or on slopes near ditches, streams,
and roads. To get the most value from your manure, you should
apply it close to planting time. Applying manure at this time
makes it less likely you will lose nutrient to leaching or runoff.
For any field larger than a garden, a manure spreader is a great
timesaver. Manure spreaders vary in size. By calibrating your
manure spreader, you can get a good idea of how much manure
you are applying. The simplest method to calibrate a manure
spreader is to spread tarps on he ground and weigh the amount
of manure that falls on each tarp as the manure spreader passes
Storage of livestock wastes and wastewater involves accumulating
manure in an environmentally sound manner until they can be
applied to land or otherwise utilized. Manure storage facilities
allow farmers to spread manure when the conditions are right
for nutrient use by crops.
The ideal storage site for solid manure is a roofed shed with
an impermeable floor (e.g. concrete). Dry manure can be stored
in solid form in stockpiles; however, the piles should be covered.
Obviously, manure storage structures or sites should be located
to minimize odour nuisance to neighbours.
Composting is "the breakdown of manure (by micro-organisms)
under controlled and managed systems to produce a beneficial
end-product (compost)". Fresh manure may contain pathogens
and should not be spread on land that produces crops that are
eaten raw (e.g. carrots, strawberries, lettuce, and greens).
E. coli, salmonella, parasites, hormones, and other pathogens
contained in manure can be reduced by proper composting. Composting
reduces manure volume by approximately 50 percent. It reduces
odors and kills weed seeds and fly larvae. Methane emissions
can be reduced by a well designed composting process.
Making good compost depends on having the proper source of
nutrients with a balance of carbon and nitrogen, keeping the
pile of compost moist, and making sure that there is adequate
aeration. The ratio of carbon to nitrogen is critical to the
composting process. While composting can occur over a wide range.
The ideal ratio is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen.
Products from animals, such as manure, are too high in nitrogen
for efficient composting.
Products from plants, such as leaves, wood, or paper, are too
high in carbon. The composting process can proceed by mixing
animal and plant products together. Compost should be maintained
at temperatures of 130-149° F (55-60 degrees°C) for
a period of several days, if possible up to two weeks.
Composting can be done in bins or windrows (long open piles).
Turning the compost pile will keep it aerated and speed up the
compostingprocess. Organic wastes typically take several months
to a year to compost in a compost pile.
Nutrient Management Laws: Federal
The Federal Clean
Water Act provided the mechansim to regulate industries that
have a potential to discharge pollutants into waterways. By confining
animals to areas or lots, farmers and ranchers can efficiently
feed and maintain livestock. But these confined areas become major
sources of animal waste. Large animal feeding operations are required
to have a permit to operate.
An operation is an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) if animals
are confined at least 45 days in a 12 month period and there
is no grass or vegetation in the confinement area during the
normal growing season. The operation is is a Confined
Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), if it meets the definition
of a AFO and meets one of the following CAFO definitions. The
operation is a large CAFO if it has at least 1,000 animal units
(AU). That would be 10,000 sheep and lambs.
The operation is a medium CAFO, if a manmade ditch or pipe carries
manure or wastewater from the operation to surface water or
the animals come into contact with surface water running through
the area where they are confined. Medium CAFO's have at least
300 AU, which would be 3,000 sheep and lambs. No matter what
size the operation is, it may be designated a CAFO if the permitting
authority inspects the operation and finds that it is adding
pollutants to surface water.
If the operation is a CAFO, the operator must apply for a permit.
Most states have the authority to manage CAFO programs and issue
permits. The permit will require you to control pollutants at
your operation and keep them from getting into surface waters.
Click HERE to read about the federal requirements for sheep
Nutrient Management Laws: State
Some states have enacted laws which expand federal regulations.
For example, nutrient management laws in Maryland require anyone
with 8 or more animal units or $2,500 in gross farm income to
develop and implement nutrient management plans. An animal unit
is defined as 1,000 lbs. of livestock. A sheep is 0.2 animal
units. Eight animal units is equal to approximatey 40 mature
The nutrient management law in Delaware is similar to Maryland's,
requiring all persons who operate an animal feeding operation
in excess of 8 animal units to develop and implement a nutrient
management plan. Persons applying nutrients to 10 acres or more
of land are also required to have a plan. Pennsylvania's nutrient
management law focuses on concentrated animal feeding operations,
requiring farm operations with animal densities of 2,000 lbs.
or more per acre to develop and implement nutrient management
of a nutrient management plan
|1) Aerial photograph or map
or soil map of field(s)
2) A current or planned crop producton sequence or crop rotation
3) Results of soil, plant, water, manure, or organic by-product
4) Realistic yield potentials for crops in rotations
5) A listing of all nutrient sources
6) Recommended nutrient rates, timing, form, and method of
application including incorporation timing for the time
Cost Share to Improve Water Quality
Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was reauthorized in the
2002 Farm Bill. It provides incentive payments and shares for
farmers to implement various conservation practices: animal
waste/manure storage facility, composting facility, fencing,
treeplanting, prescribed grazing, heavy use area protection,
hayland planting, spring development, watering facility (tank
or trough), filter strips, stream crossings, etc. EQIP may cost-share
up to 75 percent of the costs of certain conservation practices.
Any farmer engaged in livestock, crop or wood product production
on eligible land may apply for EQIP. Limited resource producers
and beginning farmers and ranchers may be eligible for cost-shares
up to 90 percent. Approval of applications for funding is based
on how well an application competes within the statewide pool
of applications. Details and sign-up information is available
at local NRCS offices.
Nutrient management on sheep farms
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