Integrating Cropping and Nutrient Management Systems on Grass-Based Dairies with Manure Slurry Enriched Micro-Site Seeding

2006 Annual Report for LNC04-244

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $137,849.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Timothy Harrigan
Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

Integrating Cropping and Nutrient Management Systems on Grass-Based Dairies with Manure Slurry Enriched Micro-Site Seeding


Manure slurry-enriched micro-site seeding is a new process that combines low-disturbance aeration tillage, manure use and the seeding of forage grasses and legumes in one efficient operation. When manure slurry was applied over aeration slots forage dry matter production improved with no permanent damage to the existing stand. When summer slurry seeding of red clover in a brome grass sod was compared with direct drilling or frost seeding, both the slurry seeded and direct drilled stands were more uniform and higher yielding than the frost seeding in the following year. Orchard grass was slower to establish than red clover.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Grass-based dairy and livestock producers in the Great Lakes region are the intended audience, but the process will benefit producers throughout the North Central states. Specific objective are to: 1) evaluate changes in the species richness and yield of grassland due to low-disturbance, slurry-enriched micro-site seeding, 2) determine a suitable period of time between seeding and the introduction of animals based on the grazing preference of cattle, 3) develop guidelines for on-farm pasture and grassland enrichment with micro-site slurry seeding, and 4) evaluate the economic and environmental impact of micro-site seeding on grass-based dairies in the Great Lakes region. The proposed project offers clear labor efficiencies in combining pasture seeding with the application of manure nutrients.


This project is being conducted at three locations in central Michigan: 1) Triple-H Farms, a MIG dairy owned by Howard Straub, 2) the Anderson Farms, a rotational grazing dairy owned by Jack Anderson, and 3) the dairy farm at Michigan State University. The structure of the project is defined by three sequential activities designed to evaluate: 1) the effect of slurry enriched micro-site seeding on grassland yield, quality, and species richness, 2) the effect of low-disturbance, micro-site seeding on the grazing preference of cattle, and 3) the economic impact of such an integrated cropping and nutrient management system. At MSU crop emergence and growth are being evaluated in large replicated plots in existing pasture. Festulolium and ladino clover were placed in a 3,000 gallon liquid slurry tanker where pto pump bypass flow was used for in-tank agitation and seed dispersal. An AerWay low-disturbance soil aeration tool and SSD slurry applicator mounted on the back of the slurry tank was used to fracture and loosen the soil. The drop tubes on the SSD slurry applicator directed the nutrient and seed enriched slurry to the loosened soil (seeding micro-sites) provided by the soil aeration tool. Plots were harvested for yield and quality analysis in 2006 and will be evaluated in 2007.

The impact of low-disturbance slurry injection on the grazing preference is being evaluated in multiple paddocks on the MSU dairy farms. Manure slurry was applied in July 2005 and cattle grazing location was recorded using a laser range finder with a global positioning system. At the MSU dairy the cattle paddocks were rotated daily and the cattle had ample forage. The cattle avoided grazing where slurry had been applied for at least two full grazing cycles. In on-farm trials, young stock grazed the desirable forage species slurry treated areas in preference to unpalatable species such as Tall Fescue in areas were slurry had not been applied.

A small replicated trial was established at MSU to evaluate slurry seeding as an option for establishing late season grazing crops such as forage rape and forage turnip in wheat stubble as summer seedings. Slurry seedings with 6000 gal/acre of swine manure slurry (6 lb/ac. forage rape or forage turnip) were compared to drilled seedings at the same seeding rate after tilling in 50 lb/acre of actual N as urea. Surface biomass yields in November were about 2.5 tons DM /acre for each crop and there was no difference in yield between the slurry seeding and drilling with tillage plus 50 lb/ac N. Forage turnip root yields were one ton/acre with no difference between seeding methods. This indicates that slurry seeding can be a suitable establishment method for late season grazing crops in small grain stubble.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The development of pasture improvement and renovation systems that reduce tillage intensity, increase the diversity of forage species and make efficient use of manure can protect the environment and improve farm profitability in many ways. Low-disturbance tillage and soil conservation practices that stabilize soil will keep soil nutrients in place and protect water quality. An optimal seed environment provides the right soil temperature and allows seed-to-soil contact for rapid germination and emergence, maintains good soil tilth for root growth and drainage, and conserves moisture for plant use. Our work in Michigan demonstrates a novel rethinking in integrating cropping and livestock systems through the development of a new process –manure slurry-enriched micro-site seeding– whereby aeration tillage, manure application and seeding are done in a single, efficient operation. While work is in progress to quantify the impacts and contributions of this new process, we expect an increase in the profitability of grazing dairy and livestock farms in the Great Lakes region by providing for a more dependable supply of high quality feed, and an increase in the environmental sustainability of grazing dairy and livestock farms through more effective recycling of manure nutrients and providing a continuous dense, vegetative ground cover to prevent nutrient and sediment runoff.


Rich Leep
Crop and Soil Sciences
Plant and Soil Science Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 2696712323
C. Alan Rotz

Agricultural Engineer
Pasture Systems and Watershed Mgmt. Research Unit
University Park, PA
Jack Anderson

Dairy Farmer
6522 W. Colony Rd.
St. Johns, MI 48879
Howard Straub

Dairy Farmer
Essex Center Rd.
St. Johns, MI 48879
Bob Kreft

Dairy Farm Manager
Animal Science Department
1290 Anthony Hall
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5173557473