Submitted to: Hoard's Dairyman
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 21, 2006
Publication Date: June 1, 2006
Citation: Russelle, M.P. 2006. Manure management: alfalfa fields give us options. Hoard's Dairyman. 151(11):404. Technical Abstract: The average cow in the U.S. produces more than 18,000 lbs. of milk each year and generates about 42,000 lbs. of manure. Manure management is not the only task on the farmer's 'to do' list, but in today’s world it is increasingly important to do it right. Although alfalfa acreage is a relatively small proportion of total crop acreage on most dairy farms, this acreage can help open windows of opportunity for manure spreading. Alfalfa can utilize the nutrients efficiently and may produce higher yields with manure than without. In particular, alfalfa reduces its nitrogen (N) fixation when N from other sources is available. Consequently, alfalfa can serve as a friendly regulator of N buildup on your farm – it adds more new N when N supplies are low, but cuts back as N supply increases. There are three manure application strategies on alfalfa. Applications before stand establishment and during alfalfa production are meant to apply nutrients for the alfalfa, whereas applications soon before stand termination are meant to provide nutrients for the subsequent crop. Key nutrient management issues are rate, time, and type of application. There are significant knowledge gaps in optimizing manure application on established alfalfa. Emerging concerns about transmission of disease organisms in manure raise the need for research on this topic. Recommendations for manure management on alfalfa are provided.