Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forum › Equipment Category › Equipment › Fertility Management Question
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- January 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm #82263
Hello again Teamsters,
I am doing research for a writing project on the subject of Market Gardening with horses. I am writing for Rural Heritage and Small Farmer’s Journal—with an eye towards eventually producing a 2nd book (1st one is THE NEW HORSE-POWERED FARM).
I am wondering if any of the horse-powered (or mule or oxen-powered) market gardeners—or anyone managing crops with draft animals—here could tell me about fertility management on your farm? This may include compost management, soil amendments,and of course, implements to deliver fertilizer to the soil—with particular interest in organic or ecological approaches. What kind of spreaders are folks using? Anybody have a review of the new manure spreaders from the likes of E-Z Spreader, Pequea, or Miller? Anyone using using box spreaders, or cone spreaders that run on ground drive, or sprayers for foliar feeding? Other innovations? What and how much are you applying annually to your land?
If you do write a response and don’t mind being quoted could you also include your name and the name and location (town, state or province) of your farm? If I do use your quote I’ll let you know where and when it will appear beforehand.
Thanks in advance!January 30, 2014 at 1:41 pm #82299
Stephen, I use the same spreader that you use. I load by hand, and spread it on thick before the final discing.
A few years ago I bought an old JD 1010 crawler to use in the woods for building roads and pushing up logs. It is a bit of a relic, so my expectations are not, nor were not, high. However, the first spring after I bought it I was looking at my manure piles, and it dawned on me that I could use it to turn them for better composting. It works great. I build a contribution pile for a season, then roll it over and let it work again while I build a new one. Before I turn the new one over I move, or spread the old one.
I don’t have a tractor for loading so that is still elbow grease, but generally I like to let the critters rest while I work to load, then I rest while they spread. I was told as a young teamster to remember, “It take a lot of work to work a horse”…. and it is still ingrained in me as part of my relationship with the working animals that I have work to do too, and forking manure is damn honest work.
We still move quite a bit of manure by the wagon-load too, as not all of our food plots are fields. We have raised beds by the house, and now a small hoop-house. Some of that is also done with the horses, but the kids move small loads with the 4-wheeler…. loading and unloading by hand.
I do like the old JD spreader. Reasonably simple to maintain…. although fixing chain that breaks with a load on kind be a little interesting….. Always keep the fork on the forecart.. 😯
CarlJanuary 30, 2014 at 2:56 pm #82301
We have our herd of 60 milking goats in a 40×70 hoop barn. We bed with chopped oat straw out of Canada and have a bedded pack. We have up to 20 hogs in a smaller hoop barn and use a bedded pack with them as well (same straw).
I clean the smaller barn with a tractor and hire an excavator to clean out the large barn. The excavator loads it into a dump truck and we field stack the compost for a year, turning it periodically. I time the cleaning of the small barn when the excavator is here so that he can load and transport with the dump truck. We rotate where the manure is field stacked and spread accordingly.
We used an old 50 bushel spreader for several years and eventually purchased an 80 bushel, 2 wheel, Lancaster spreader that we hook to a forecart. This was a great purchase for us and is an outstanding piece of machinery. No more breakdowns! We load with a tractor and generally spread with two horses and sometimes 3 depending on the terrain. All compost is spread in the spring before 1st cut. Spreading compost is one of the horses’ most challenging jobs – short duration, heavy pulls. However after a winter of logging they are in good shape and up for the job. We generally spread 12-15 loads a day. Spreading manure is good spring work as it is too wet to work in the woods and too early to cut hay. I believe strongly in the continuity of work for the horses’ physical and mental agility and spreading in the spring fills a nice gap.
We also purchase poultry manure out of Chazy, NY to make up for any fertility short-falls. We normally soil test our hay land every three years or so.
GeorgeJanuary 30, 2014 at 4:53 pm #82303
Interesting topic Stephen,. I only use the composted horse manure on our own garden but as part of a logging contract with the horses I a going to produce 125 yes of Ramial chips this spring. The organic farm I am supplying them to has a goal of 250 yards of composted material to add to the soil each year. Popple, birch and alder. Labor/horse time will be of interest perhaps.January 31, 2014 at 12:26 am #82304
The only thing horse powered about our fertility management this year is manure production. There is a rodeo horse operation down the road from us, and they delivered and spread about 50 side dump semi loads on our 10 acres of vegetable field , which is still in hay sod. We are just starting out at our new farm this season, having just moved. We’re leaving a long lane next to our field for them to deliver into a wind row this season, from which we’ll spread as ground opens up in rotation. We tow a JD spreader behind the forecart. One goal is to come up with a compost turner that will improve and shrink the material.January 31, 2014 at 3:13 pm #82314
With high Phosphorus in our fields, I have opted to use our good horse and steer manure on some neglected distant hay fields. Our horse drawn spreader has been broken for a while now and we are still trying to get parts, so we will be using a tractor to spread the manure. With great distances to cover it will be easier on the horses and less risk of getting into a traffic problem with 4 abreast.
I hope, in the future, to purchase a ground drive cyclone type spreader for broadcasting seed and fertilizer, and a drop spreader for depositing lime and rock dusts on small acreage. Until then my best option for broad application is my Earthway hand spinner or the tractor spinner.
Right now bagged lime and sul-po-mag are the doctors major orders, but I do employ the animals for 2 precision fertilizing tasks. I have a dry box ground driven fertilizer attachment for applying granular amendments. This mounts onto my riding cultivator and I am able to apply at 4 different rates. It works great for heavy feeding crops like cabbage and onions, I use a little Kreher’s poultry manure for this.
The other animal drawn tool that I have is a 50 gallon sprayer. With 15′ of boom width I can cover 5 rows at a time, but I have the ability to shut of specific rows if needed. My idea behind this is to do a lot of folliar feeding of the crops. The theory that people should eat more smaller meals appeals to the way that I manage my crop fertility. With a less than ideal sandy soil I don’t have a lot of capacity to hold nutrients, so rather than a lot of broadcasted amendments that could leach away I will be giving a few small liquid applications during the season. I will be relying a good deal on decaying cover crop matter for a good amount of my fertility, but what I lack in N and micro-nutrients should be manageable with my folliar feeding. I also us the sprayer to apply microbes to my soil and plants, with the hopes that as my soil improves so will my beneficial microbe population. My steers work best for this tool, because in order to apply the desired 40 gallons of water+amendments per acre, they need to walk rather slow and our steers excel at this verses some of our quick horses. I give David Fisher full credit for the sprayer idea 🙂
Because of my P problem, I like to use cover crops and non-P minerals for fertility. While I work on getting the soil in better shape, the side-dresser on the cultivator, and the sprayer come in handy to fill in the gaps of my plants needs.
In the future when we have exported some of our extra P, I look forward to cycling our manure back onto our own land.January 31, 2014 at 4:16 pm #82316
Good points Erika, I forgot about my GD hopper spreader for lime and granular fertilizer. I load by hand, either from a bulk dumptruck load, or by the bag. It has adjustable outflow, which is pretty rough, but it works good enough.
We also picked up a small sprayer that Lisa uses for applying her biodynamic preps and micro-nutrients our pastures….. it is a 4whlr attachment, but is battery operated so I can also mount it on my forecart and use the horses. It has a wand and broadcast mister.
CarlJanuary 31, 2014 at 10:09 pm #82318
I have a friend with a csa that wasn’t happy with organic matter in her soil so she bought some manure solids from a large dairy with a digester. I’m working on her to use horses I keep telling her I have harnesses that will fit her quarter horses. EliFebruary 2, 2014 at 10:29 pm #82364
Thanks to everyone for informative and thoughtful replies,
Carl and George’s responses illustrate how the systems we develop are based on the scale we choose to farm at (or that farm economics compel us to choose). For instance, 15 years ago we initially planned to milk ten cows, but once our sister cheese co. was up and running they needed the milk of 20 to operate at what they felt was an economically viable level of production. 20 cows translates into 45-50 head on the farm plus four horses—a lot of poop! That herd increase obviously had a huge impact on our manure storage and handling, and we eventually had to invest in facilities to manage all that manure in an environmentally sensitive way. We built a cover-all structure for the herd and a smaller one to store manure in winter and a 1/4 acre stacking pad for making windrows of compost. Like George, we determined that at our scale it made more sense to have a neighbor come in with a frontloader and dump truck to clean out the composting pack in the cover-all barn. He also hauls compost to a rented field that is about a 1 1/2 away from the farm. We off-set this cost by selling some finished compost to organic growers and homesteaders in the area. We are managing 80 acres total—4 acres in garden plus hoop houses, 35 or so in pasture, and the balance in hay land. Jim’s clients who want wood products on their land are following the same trend as we are, but maybe for different reasons. We buy in about 800 yds of pine wood shavings annually to bed down all the animals. We found straw to be cost prohibitive. My wife Kerry also prefers the pine because of all bedding materials (save sand) it harbors the least amount of environmental mastitis. We use both tractor with PTO spreader and horses on JD ground-drive spreader to get the compost spread on the land. WE intensively graze the hill pastures and do not spread there, but the garden and hay fields are all spread annually. As Erika mentioned, we are also seeing some high levels of phosphorous in the garden—at this point it is in the higher range of optimal, but we still have to monitor it. We put about 10 tons of finished compost to the acre in the garden and sometimes more,and about 5tons/acre on the hay fields.
As best as I understand it from a historical perspective, 100 years ago, a dairy milking 20 cows in Vermont would have been on the large side. They might have had 2 or 3 teams and 6-8 farm hands (as well as their own children) working on the farm. Of course, many farmers at that time would have been growing all the forage crops (and bedding from straw). Even so, moving all that manure would be a Herculean chore. One big difference, is that we are putting a lot of labor into making compost rather than spreading out the back of the barn all winter (as a lot of farms in the northeast without spreading bans still do—including plain farmers). We do most of our spreading in the spring and fall, but will spread cover crops in mid-summer before plowing down. This year I hope to graduate to putting the Fjords 3-abreast on the spreader to lighten the work for them. Below is a record of our hours on the Horse-drawn spreader for 2012:
JD “H” series Manure Spreader: 35 hours total (141 spreader loads—24 on hay field—the balance on the market garden approximately 141,000 lbs. or 70 tons of compost delivered to soil by horse power in 2012).
Erika–thanks for the description of the oxen with the sprayer—saw your photograph of that a while back and intended to ask you for more details.
The photo shows me loading the JD spreader with our little Kubota to spread in the garden, while neighbor Matt Dow loads up the dumptruck for a compost delivery to Fable Farm in Pomfret.February 3, 2014 at 1:04 pm #82367
Like other states with a big poultry past or present, in CT it is getting increasingly hard to find places that can receive manure let alone need it. I need to learn what the environmentally critical level of Phosphorus is for this soil type, but I am suspicious that I am promoting P runoff into the headwaters of a well loved creek if I apply more manure to my garden. 2,000 lbs of P to the acre is rather high, so I just assume not make it worse with manure until I learn more. It is such a shame because manure is such a wonderful farm product when manage correctly. The poison is in the dose.February 3, 2014 at 4:26 pm #82370
This is the first year we plan on being “fertility independent” our oxen are a huge part of this equation. Our four acre market garden will be fed by our two oxen, one milk cow and heifer, plus goat barn bedding pack, and chicken brooder bedding. Not only that but most of our hay and straw came from the farm. We have had to buy both hay and straw this year because of the drought, but hope to put up more this year. The fertility is one of the ways I justify keeping oxen, because most of my farming is still tractor based but I do spend a good amount of time with the oxen training. Whenever my wife starts to question the oxen I show her the massive pile of compost behind the barn that was “free.” I would still like to produce more fertility because I don’t fertilize any of the pastures. We are working on the fertility there by rotationally grazing our sheep and some steers. I use a ground drive spreader pulled by my truck untill the oxen get big enough to pull it. I would like to add some sort of spray rig in the future, as Erika said the steers are great at that task.February 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm #82372
These are great posts…. I thought of another way we manage nutrients on our farm, and that is through intensive grazing, and feeding hay out in the winter. As Stephen mentioned scale, sometimes scale is determined by economic considerations, but it also can be the other way around.
Importing nutrients as square and round bales, and feeding them out during the winter by moving the steers, cows, and horses around the farm is much less effort and cost than gathering manure, handling it, and re-spreading it, and allows us to maintain the scale that allows us to operate without the kinds of investments that start to dictate scale changes.
Using this kind of system also lends itself quite well to the having draft animals as primary motive power. Using systems that require less infrastructure, or investments in power equipment allow the appropriate use of animal power. I probably only collect about 1/3 of the manure that is generated and applied to the land on our farm. Pasturing hay fields at least part of the year is the primary way we get nutrients on those fields, and end up using most of our compost in gardens.
CarlFebruary 4, 2014 at 8:29 am #82392
Erika, yes the poison is in the dose and that is the big drawback with manure. The major nutrients in manure are not in the best proportion for crop use. If we apply manure to meet the N requirement then P is way too high. A good reason to integrate legume cover crops in the rotations (to add N). If you have a 2,000 lb phosphorus soil test you will not need any P on that site in your lifetime. A 50-60 lb/ac soil test is very adequate from an agronomic POV and also protective of the environment. I am not sure if CT has a P-Index, if so that would provided some guidance regarding vulnerability of specific aspects of the site such as field slope, nearness to water, etc.February 4, 2014 at 3:39 pm #82395
we are going to be working 7 acres in vegetables this year with about 4 acres in vegetables and 3 in a 1-yr fallow cover crop. almost all power comes from our team of belgians though we have used the tractor for plowing old sod and occasional heavy plowing jobs during busy times. we do use the bucket loader for all compost loading into our new idea no 18 spreader. the past two years we’ve made all the compost we can with our horse manure, vegetable/food waste from a small community of 35-40residents and leaves/straw/bedding. we generally produce about 25yds of finished compost a year, but we could use more as our vegetable fields are naturally quite nutrient-poor. while this will be our 3rd year running the farm, 3 acres of our land has been farmed organically in vegetables for the past 35years with varying degrees of care and management. that part of the farm is particularly weedy, disease-heavy, and has fertility issues, thus we are prioritizing fallow periods on those fields, typically in a red clover fallow. the past two seasons we have only applied our compost and monthly foliar sprays of fish/seaweed with a 5gal backpack sprayer. the rain really hurt our crops last year, and this year i have started working with lancaster ag as I believe we will see better yields from our fields by adding a sidedressing program to our vegetable crops– especially as we are still working to improve soil fertility. we have had good success with overseeded cover crops in the aisles of our vegetable rows and will continue to do that whenever possible in our production fields. i would be very interested and i’m always looking for a midsize ezee flow or other drop spreader for dry fertilizers/lime. Erika i’m very interested to learn more about the dry box sidedresser that you use on your cultivator, any photos?February 5, 2014 at 6:02 am #82400
Could you elaborate a little on your over seeding between rows of crops? What is the row spacing? what are you using for cover? How do you mow clip?
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