by Joel DeRouchey, environmental management
The winter of 2018-2019 is one that producers will want to soon forget. In many parts of Kansas, extended cold periods with excess moisture in the form of snow and rain caused significant surface and drainage “damage” to confined pen surfaces. Additionally, many producers utilized higher than normal amounts of bedding for calving areas and in pens for confined cattle to have a dry area to rest and reduce their environmental stress. However, this additional bedding material also now must be removed when cleaning pens or calving areas.
The soggy conditions in confined cattle pens often leads to development of uneven drainage patterns from manure and dirt shifting and cattle walking in these areas disturbing the pen surface. This leads to pooling of water that may occur in a pen location previously established to shed water. When cleaning pens of accumulated manure and/or used bedding this spring, producers should reestablish drainage flow patterns as needed. It is important to create or redevelop mounds that can serve as a valuable location for cattle to utilize for a location that often dries faster and can provide more comfort.
Confined pen cleaning and material disposal:
- Scrape and spread. By cleaning and spreading the material over a larger land area, the material will dry and be exposed to sunlight, thus killing the fecal bacteria and serving a fertilizer source for growing forage or on crop ground. This is the ideal method of disposal, but lack of producer access to a manure spreader may prevent this practice in some situations.
- Piling for composting and/or mounding. Since ideal composting involves the combination of nitrogen (manure) and carbon (wasted hay or bedding) sources, feeding site waste provides an ideal material to compost if scraped and piled together. Composting generates heat and kills fecal bacteria and prevents their use as a larvae food source. Once the pile is composted, it can be either removed and land applied, or can be graded, packed and serve as a mound for upcoming cattle in confined pens. For more information on manure composting, visit the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Community website on composting at https://lpelc.org/educational-and-commercial-resources-for-manure-composting/
For cow-calf producers utilizing temporary feeding and/or bedding areas substantial levels of manure and fecal bacteria have accumulated. In fact, there are approximately 4.5 million fecal coliform bacteria per pound of material at a typical winter feeding site. If we assume 50 square feet for a single hay feeder and a total of 10 tons of manure, wasted hay and/or bedding from this site, this equals approximately 90 billion fecal bacteria. Fecal bacteria present on these sites can survive in the manure/wasted feed material, especially surrounding round bale feeders for numerous months. Thus, if these sites are not cleaned, cattle placed in these sites later this year will be exposed to these bacteria which has the potential to cause disease or health challenges.