The William H. Miner

Agricultural Research Institute

Miner Institute
Farm Report


Manure application season is upon us. As we head into another crop year, now is the time to evaluate how you are going to keep records. As feed and fertilizer prices continue to stay high, knowing what is going on your fields and what is going on in your fields is a powerful tool to help you make feed and fertilizer purchase decisions. Good records can help you fine-tune your feed production system.

What to sample?
Part of a good crop record system is sampling the right stuff at the right times.

1. Manure - Should be sampled at least once a year, close to when it is getting applied.
Sampling Solid Manure:
a. Take 6 samples from different places in stack.
b. Avoid sampling from crust (it is lower in nutrients).
c. Samples may be taken from spreader.
d. Take samples from 6 different loads.
e. Mix samples in a clean plastic bucket and take a composite sample for lab analysis.
f. Freeze the sample until sending it to the lab for analysis.
Sampling Liquid Manure:
a. Agitate the manure storage before sampling.
b. Use a bucket on a rope to throw into manure storage and take multiple samples.
c. Mix sub-samples in a larger bucket and take a composite sample.
d. Another method is to take samples from different loads during loading of the manure spreader.
e. Sample may also be taken at the time of application. Place 3-6 small buckets at several locations in the field. Mix and take a composite sample.
f. Freeze the sample until sending it to the lab for analysis.

2. Soils – Should be done at least once every 3 years on each field. Soil samples are important for nutrient and lime applications.
a. Sampling can be done in fall, winter or spring. Taking samples when the soil is not saturated is important. Fall or winter samples allow for use in planning spring applications of manure or fertilizer and where crop changes could be made.
b. Cornell University recommends that you sample 15-acre areas at a rate of 2 to 3 sample cores per acre.
c. Mix sample cores together and sub sample about 1 cup to send for lab analysis.
d. Samples should be analyzed for pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

3. Feed samples – if possible sampling each field while harvesting will give the best information for making management decisions.
a. Take a sample from multiple truck loads and mix together
b. Send a few cups of sample for analysis of phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Measure of protein and energy can be done at this time but should not be used for diet formulation if the forage is going to be fermented.

What to Record?
Records will be most useful for management decisions if they are kept on an individual field basis.

Manure Applications - Rate (number of loads and size per load), date, source (if multiple sources), and method and timing of incorporation. Weather conditions will be helpful in reviewing your records in the fall.

Planting - Date and method of planting.

Fertilizer and lime applications - Date and method of application.

Yield – Date and yield (often as number of loads; if you are going to use this knowing weight per load is important).

While writing this information on paper or a map is available to every farm, if your equipment has planting and harvest software lots of this can be recorded there, or if you are an “app person” there are lots of apps available for record-keeping geared to agriculture.

What do I do with it?
You can use this information at the beginning and throughout the growing season to evaluate when and if more nutrient applications are needed. More importantly, at the end of the season compiling these records will help you determine where to go next year. Combining nutrient application records, yield records and forage testing results will help you think about what worked and what did not. Finally, having a good set of records is useful for your nutrient management planner (if you have one), your seed and fertilizer supplier, and most importantly, your banker.

— Sally Flis

I was a summer research student in 2001 and a grad student from 2004 to 2008 and now work as a Nutrient Management Planner in NY and VT for Bourdeau Bros. of Middlebury.

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The Miner Institute Farm Report is written primarily for farmers and other agricultural professionals in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. Most articles deal with dairy and crops topics, but also included are articles dealing with environmental issues and global agriculture as well as editorial commentary.

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