One of the least glamorous parts of feeding cattle is cleaning up their sh#! (more appropriately known as manure). Some days Farmer J spends the majority of his day engaging in the sanitation efforts. Although it isn’t pretty or fun, it is vitally important to the operation.
First, we have to keep the pens clean for the comfort of the cattle. It is simple as that.
Second, we use the manure to improve the nutrients in our soils. We are already engaging in diverse efforts to keep the existing nutrients in our soil (i.e. minimal tillage and cover crops), but in addition, we are actually improving our land!
The manure is gathered from the pens and spread on the field as a natural fertilizer. Using cattle manure allows our operation to use less commercial fertilizers, and it makes a serious difference in our soil health. The manure increases organic matter in the soil, which in turn improves our corn yields. Maintaining soil health and improving yields is very critical to producing the corn necessary to feed our cattle.
It is also pretty cool that we have created a sustainable circle of production. The fields produce the feed for the cattle, the cattle digest the food to create the fertilizer for the field, and the fertilizer improves the field that produces the feed . . . and the circle goes on and on.
It’s a dirty job, but the sh#! is important!