Variable rate manure spreading could be a good option for your farm


Today’s fertilizer prices may be just the incentive needed for some farmers to explore the benefits of variable rate manure spreading. 

 Manure can be a rich source of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, as well as trace nutrients. It has the additional benefit of improving soil quality by boosting organic matter. Best of all, manure is often inexpensive or comes at no cost. But you’ll need a sharp pencil — or should we say a fine-tuned algorithm – to determine whether VR manure spreading is a good fit for your operation.

Costs can be prohibitive

Custom contractors who do most manure spreading today are seldom set up for variable rate (VR) applications. And forget about that old manure spreader – it isn’t going to cut it. That means new gear.

“The cost of the capable equipment is usually the first issue,’’ says Garth Donald, manager of agronomy and co-founder of Decisive Farming. “You’ll need to get an all-new manure spreader that has a variable rate drive system.’’

Manure is not homogeneous

Nutrient values in manure can vary due to a number of factors including livestock feed and animal age and health. Values typically vary in distribution within any one source, as well. You’ll need to mix it and have it tested on a regular basis to know precisely what’s in the manure you’re sourcing, whether it’s been produced on your farm or elsewhere. 

You’ll also require regular soil testing to know which areas within your fields can utilize manure most efficiently, and where there could be environmental issues. All of this can be a complex undertaking. Advice from an agronomist may be helpful.

“It’s not the same as going out and putting 100 pounds of 46-0-0 across a field and then burying it,’’ says Donald. “In that case, I know I have 46 pounds of actual N that’s going in there. With manure, it’s all about understanding the nutrient base. You have to know where you can use this resource to optimize its value.’’

Which producers are most likely to benefit from VR manure spreading?

Individual needs and circumstances will determine who can benefit from adopting VR manure spreading. But there’s one group that’s better positioned than most to gain.

“For organic farmers, going to VR manure spreading is a comparatively easy pill to swallow. They need to have good production but can’t use chemically made fertilizer. It’s the best fit.’’

But it’s not the only fit. Producers already using VR technology may find the cost associated with adopting VR manure spreading easier to rationalize. On the other hand, if you’re a farmer interested in increasing the quality of your soil, VR manure application can improve its structure while increasing its water-holding capacity, nutrient retention and microbial health.

Adopting VR manure spreading poses a host of challenges. But it’s a worthwhile consideration given its potential economic and environmental benefits. 

Ready to explore the potential of VR for your operation? Contact your local Decisive Farming representative today.