The manure that my cattle make is a very important component of our farm. My favorite farmer tends to 4300 acres of crop ground, and the health of that soil is critical to our farm’s sustainability.
Both plants and animals need a number of macro nutrients in large quantities to operate their metabolisms and build their bodies. The important ones are carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. A farmer takes molecules which are organized in a low energy state and reorganizes them into forms that have energy and are ultimately available and usable to humans (food!).
Each year when a crop is harvested off of a field, it takes with it the important macro nutrients that nourished it during the growing season. In order to maintain continuous soil health, these nutrients must be periodically reapplied to the soil. The specific needs of the soil are determined by laboratory testing of the dirt through sampling.
While the primary resource that my feed yard provides is beef and products made from cattle, my animals produce another resource during their tenure on our farm: manure. This fertilizer is sampled and analyzed for nutrient values, transported to a nearby farm, and applied agronomically to refuel the soil.
It is important that we get our poop in a group several times a year in order to maintain optimal animal comfort and the most judicious use of the manure that they produce. This process requires that Matt’s farming crew works with my feed yard crew — teamwork is always best!
The field pictured above has grown the perennial plant alfalfa for seven years. It is now time to fertilize the soil, and plant a rotational crop to help preserve soil health and protect future crops by breaking insect cycles and preventing weeds. After growing corn for a year, it will be replanted to alfalfa.
I figure that it makes me pretty unique when one of the many reasons that my husband “needs” me is my cattle manure…