Manure handling influences nitrogen losses

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The type of manure-handling system on your dairy can affect the amount of nitrogen lost to the environment.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin reviewed the test results 778 manure samples from four types of manure-storage systems — earthen basin, daily haul, bedded pack and stack. They used a nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio of 6.5 — the estimated nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio of manure at the time of excretion for the comparison. As nitrogen escapes from manure, the nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio declines. Knowing this, the researchers were able to estimate nitrogen losses from the different manure-handling systems. Here are some of the study’s results:

  • The nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio for earthen-basin systems was higher than that for bedded packs, indicating more nitrogen escaped from the bedded-pack systems.
  • No differences were found between the nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratios of earthen basins and daily haul or between earthen basins and stack systems.
  • No differences were found between the nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratios of covered versus uncovered storage systems.
  • Top loading of manure into slurry storage yielded a lower nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio than bottom loading, indicating more nitrogen escaped during top loading.
  • Estimated nitrogen losses from the time of excretion until removal of manure from storage ranged between 2 percent and 36 percent.

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