June 15, 2012 – After the manure is spread, the job still isn’t done till there is a paper trail. I won’t bother trying to convince you that it will be good for you, even though it is. And I won’t tell you it is easy, because it isn’t. But there is a new development that might be useful. For some time, there has been a free computer software manure planning tool available through Purdue University. The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) has recently funded an upgrade that now allows Michigan farmers and nutrient management plan providers to print off the data in a greater variety of tables.
Once this is loaded to your computer, you can add the output template tailored to Michigan. Directions are available for installing and downloading the software at the same site.
Balancing fertilizer and manure is no easy task. The most valuable thing this software can do for you is help you know your soil test values, crop needs and manure applications. It can quickly calculating how much, if any, additional fertilizer you need on the field. This calculation can directly impact your wallet in addition to helping you stay in compliance with Right to Farm.
Under Michigan Right to Farm guidelines, all livestock farmers of any size or species should have a written plan for manure applications. The plans do not have to be elaborate nor computerized to meet Right to Farm guidelines. The computerized manure template is easy to use and free, so I suggest you start here before expending a bundle of money on more elaborate systems.
If you are a permitting livestock farm, you probably have a hired plan provider. They may already have your data in this software and could provide your farm data to you electronically (the files can be emailed). You or your farm staff can utilize this program to keep track of manure applications and know the agronomic value and resulting fertilizer needs. Many plans that have been written for NRCS may also have been entered into this software. Those producers could get their data from their consultants.
Manure and nutrient management is an ongoing priority. Hopefully, these computer tools can help meet required needs and be useful to farmers.