Impacts of Aeration Incorporation of Turkey Litter on the Yield and Quality of Alfalfa Production in Northern Minnesota

Final Report for FNC06-643

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2006: $5,902.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
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Project Information


500 acres total, 496.5 acres actually. Rents ground. Strictly grows hay, mostly for horses. That’s what it started out to be. Hayseed came out of Canada. 30 % to 40 % alfalfa and orchard grass, meadow brome, and express timothy (a finer stemmed and heavier grained timothy with smaller head than regular timothy). 4 kinds of alfalfa that are very winter hardy.

When seeded it was put in with an annual rye grass to give a cover crop. So got hayledge off it the 1st year.

Oh yes. On the fields I tried two different ways, put in turkey manure prior to seeding and also tried on 160 acres applying on top of the hay field. The quarter where he spread it on top there was a remarkable difference but got a much great response when he pulled a drag, 14 foot aerator behind it to perforate ground so water and manure could get in. I call it a harrow. That really established my root system. On both of them, I went at 11 cuttings per application of turkey manure. Producing 4 ½ to 5 tons per acre. Got 4 cutting in 2011.

Haying in November even during deer season. Very fine hay. Introduced as horse hay but was also tried for dairy goats and was very successful. The protein value and relative feed value is very nice. 14 to 18 percent protein, 24 to 38 % digestibility. After this long got higher numbers on ground with turkey manure prior to seeding. There is a difference in the long run. The ranges are the two different processes 14 for on top 18 for application prior to seeding.

This year entire 500 acres averaged 5 tons to the acre. That was after 11 cuttings since fertilizer was applied.

Did soil tests. Say he should add potash and zinc – needs just a little.

Got 11 cuttings off of one application of fertilizer. Pretty good. May not apply again this year but will add potash zinc.

Rate of application. Did both the same – 18 lbs turkey manure per acre. Raw manure but had been sitting in a pile for a couple of years. Total of 4 tons total for each application. He tried more in some areas but that was too much and it burned it. Went ½ again as much on 12 acres. Also tried twice as much on 12 more acres and that nearly killed everything except pigweed.

Total of 34 tons used.

Some applied 3 times.

Bought the turkey manure from local turkey operation with several thousand birds.

Cut hay and took harrow out and set it kind of severe and went out crisscross all over field then spin spread across field and then went over with harrow again. Got a little rain. Was so heavy it burned the rye grass out but orchard grass and alfalfa produced well.

Had 40 acres that didn’t do anything with. It had timothy on it. Was at edge of these fields. Hayed it and got 9 bales. So wanted to see what could happen. Doesn’t know what kind of timothy it was. Came with the place and didn’t have any care. So took aerator and went North & South and East & West and looks like axe cut it 6 inches deep. That did a lot. Then pulled harrow at an angle and took alfalfa only and put in spin spreader at 6 lbs per acres. Went across with no rhyme or reason but about every 30 or 32 foot apart (width of spin spreader on back of tractor – with PTO). Lightly harrowed and threw a little dirt on it and lightly broke dirt. That was done in early fall. Next spring didn’t really see nothing or in summer but in fall some sprouts started coming. Got lucky and got a heavy snow before cold. In spring would thaw and get cold and thought it would kill it but through the summer field was growing more and more. Cut it that fall and got 54 bales. Went through next winter and into spring and alfalfa came flying up – looked like it was hand planted.

This year got 111- 1,000 lb rounds and 1700- 70 lb squares.

Off that same

Tried 26 acres with alfalfa in a creek area that flooded. It had kind of choked it. Tried same program on it and it produced so pretty.

Through doing this process your roots go very very deep. It doesn’t seem to kill out. A few neighbors put in straight alfalfa and their hay is pretty much gone. It’s mainly grass a lot of quack grass. Ours is still holding the nutrients.

A lady with milk goats buys the square bales because the goats produce more milk but this combination produces more milk than anything they’ve tried. Dairymen say it’s good for and dry heifers.

Some people grind it for rabbits.

Works beautiful for cattle and horses. This mix was originally developed for horses.

Guys who put in the hay after him aren’t getting as good results. They do not produce like we do.

It’s just unreal.

Project Objectives:

I had hoped when I put in the hay,

In fall up in Canada one year, crossed the border and saw a field that looked like you had hauled in a semi of bales and they were every 150 feet apart. How did they produce that much hay and so uniform and beautiful. Pulled in drive and looked at a couple bales. Felt so good and looked so good. Sign gave name. It was a hay company. Wrote down number and gave him a call. Gave him number of Jim Lincox, seed man.

It cost $3400 for 30 acres to put that in. Seed cost.

Jim came down and delivered the seed. The fields that are growing today were nothing but Canadian thistle. Had been cropped with beans and was all weeds, qwack grass, etc.

Took chisel plow and got thistles down. Old timer told him if you get ground smooth enough and cut with sickle and rain running down stem would kill it. Each time thistles got less. Today, there aren’t any thistles on the 500 acres. Never sprayed for it. Has sprayed for grasshoppers. Tries to stay away from commercial fertilizer and sprays.

Got rock picker for a couple hundred bucks. Picked lots of rocks. Pulled roller over it and drilled it. Was hoping to get half of what he saw in field in Canada. Average in his county: Roseau County is 2 ½ tons to the acre average tonnage for hay. That’s what Extension man said at that time.

Wanted to get the average or a little better. Usually you have to fertilizer once a year. I was looking for a way to put in fertilizer that would last every other year or so.

Guy who told him re Canadian thistle told him about turkey manure.

Cost $37 per ton? Just under $40 per ton. It’s expensive to start this way.

What I’ve never tried American alfalfa the same way because couldn’t find anything that was winter hardy enough up here.

This year only a couple of inches of snow. More like a Nebraska winter.

Vernal alfalfa is not winter hardy or flood tolerant whereas our alfalfa from Canada will withstand a lot.

Has sandy loan soil over much of the property.

Kind of will have to play with this but I think we’ve got the basics.

Field preparation: If using turkey manure, cow manure would be nice to try in milder climate.

Had chance to get out of farming but didn’t. Wants to ride this pony to the end, see how it comes out. Likes to harrow crisscross, it kind of invigorates it. Tries to do it once a year or twice. Harrows right after first cutting. When I do that, after first cutting and gets bales off. Fairly severe – throws some dirt. Splits some of the alfalfa crowns – maybe 2 to 3 % increase in growth.

They call it a drag up here. It’s a spring toothed harrow.

I was working with Derek Crompton and David Grafstrom. Neither of them doing it anymore.
Had a couple young kids who helped move the bales and the turkey manure.

Neighbors complained about odor of turkey manure. Had it piled on his land in piles for a couple of years before spreading.

Would I recommend it to anybody? Oh heavens yes! I couldn’t afford to do it all in one year due to cost.


Research results and discussion:

A lot of things they do in Canada work here. This fall was a good season for us. Got some moisture then dry and the hay kept growing upper 60s and 70s. In Oct called Jim Lincox and asked if that was too late. Plants were going to seed. He said they were combining and putting in windrow in Canada. Harvesting some seed and will try to dry it. There’s always some going out the back and reseeds and we’ve got the hay laying there. It will make alright feed for cattle. Do the same things your haybine. You’re reseeding. Pull haybine over fields. Sell hay to cattle feeders, not top quality. Asked Jim if he will pull harrow over it. No time.

Canada seed company in Canada Jim

The sky’s the limit on this thing. Where would you stop with a project like this? I’m more than satisfied. That money was cool – it helps. But that money had no comparison to what you can learn. And it takes a lot of luck too. You’ve got to work for it.

Jerry didn’t have a chance to aerate or harrow either. People say you can’t do this or you can’t do that. But did you try and how hard did you try?

It sure was more than I expected. Produce consistently 4 or 5 ton per acre instead of 2 1/2.

We tried seeding with fertilizing but that doesn’t work. See doesn’t broadcast as far as the manure.

310 diesel tractor is what he mostly runs.

The door to me is wide open to keep experimenting.

Participation Summary
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.