Dairy producers must control manure output from their operations in order to continue to exist, says Joe Harner, extension agricultural engineer at Kansas StateUniversity. Harner discussed factors that contribute to “minimizing the mess” during an educational seminar last week at World Dairy Expo.

  • Use the latest manure-management values. Don’t get caught with a manure-storage system that’s too small. The latest engineering standards have increased manure production from 120 to 150 pounds per cow per day. Systems designed before 2000 may be undersized by 20 percent, based on these values. “Many dairies increase milk production or expand the herd size without changing their manure-storage system,” Harner said.


  • Manage the diet. Low-cost rations just don’t cut it. They often contain excess phosphorus which may require two to three times as much crop land for manure application as a diet formulated to more precisely meet a cow’s phosphorus needs.


  • Follow operating procedures. Components of a manure-handling system are complex. When you buy a piece of equipment, commit to following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Designate someone to maintain the system.


  • Don’t cut corners. Performance of solid-separation equipment decreases as solids in the waste stream increase. If you cut corners on maintenance and cleaning, you may save water, but performance declines when equipment becomes plugged.


  • Use good judgment. Ration decisions are made based on research, but manure decisions are made based on producer testimonials. There is not a lot of independent research available to use when evaluating manure-processing equipment.