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With feedlot manure, it pays to be precise

Date:
June 2, 2011
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
The same precision farming techniques that work with crops can work with manure management on cattle feedlots, according to agricultural scientists.

ARS agricultural engineers Roger Eigenberg (left) and Bryan Woodbury are applying precision farming techniques to harvesting cattle feedlot manure, which could help feedlot operators recover valuable byproducts and possibly allow selective harvesting for fertilizer with higher nitrogen and phosphorus content.
Credit: Photo by Stephen Ausmus

The same precision farming techniques that work with crops can work with manure management on cattle feedlots, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Agricultural engineers Roger Eigenberg and Bryan Woodbury and their colleagues with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Clay Center, Neb., map the distribution of manure on the surface of feedlots and the flow of liquid manure in rain runoff.

This research could lead to both precision harvesting of manure and also precision application of manure to crop fields, while controlling nutrient losses, gas emissions, and odors.

The scientists, at the ARS Roman L. Hruska U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, map manure distribution by slowly towing a GPS-equipped conductivity meter over feedlot pens and cropland. The meter estimates the amount and quality of manure in various places on the feedlot surface by measuring the manure's ability to conduct electricity.

Manure contains salt from feed supplements. Salt, in solution, is an excellent conductor of electricity.

The researchers used an ARS-developed computer program, called ESAP (Electrical Conductivity Spatial Analysis Program), to choose spots on the feedlots and a nearby hayfield to sample soils, rather than sample randomly. Eigenberg and his colleagues used the program to associate high soil conductivity levels with manure solids and with the chloride in the salts found in manure.

These techniques could be used to help feedlot operators recover valuable byproducts from the feedlot surface, such as manure suitable for burning to generate steam. It could also allow selective harvesting for a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen and phosphorus content, by scraping from the "sweet spot" of the pen.

Eigenberg and Woodbury also mapped a hayfield, downslope of the Clay Center feedlot, designed to capture and use manure nutrients.

The scientists found that the liquid manure in rain runoff was being unequally distributed to the hayfield. So, they made adjustments to flow tubes, resulting in a more uniform runoff and a more effective treatment area.

Read more about this research in the May/June 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine at: www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/2011/may11//feedlot0511.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Don Comis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "With feedlot manure, it pays to be precise." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 June 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602102458.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2011, June 2). With feedlot manure, it pays to be precise. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602102458.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "With feedlot manure, it pays to be precise." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110602102458.htm (accessed August 20, 2014).

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