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

2007 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


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.

The proposed project offers clear labor efficiencies in combining pasture seeding with the application of manure nutrients.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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.


Forage dry matter and quality measurements were completed in large replicated plots where orchard grass (12 lb/ac) and Medium Red Clover (10 lb/ac) were sown in an established brome grass sod using frost, no-till and slurry seeding methods. Frost seedings were done in the spring, and in late August of the same year no-till and slurry seedings were completed. Because combining a liquid manure application with seeding creates a flush of growth that challenges the ability of new seedlings, we suppressed the brome grass in one-half of each plot with Paraquat dichloride to evaluate the effect of competition from the existing stand on seedling emergence and growth. No commercial fertilizer was applied to the non-manured plots.

No-till and slurry seeding of red clover in a brome grass sod was more effective than frost seeding in increasing biomass yield and botanical diversity. A visual rating later in the season showed a more uniform stand of red clover with no-till (90% cover integration) and slurry seeding (80% cover) than with frost seeding (30% cover). The advantage of integrating a legume with the grass was evident in both forage yield and quality. The slurry-seeded orchard grass achieved a 50% cover integration based on the visual rating, but it seemed to replace, rather than supplement the brome grass with no significant gains in forage yield or quality. No-till and slurry seeding of orchard grass in brome grass sod increased botanical diversity but had little effect on biomass yield after the initial N boost. Frost seeding orchard grass had little effect on botanical diversity. The use of a pre-plant burn-down enhanced the inter-seeding of orchard grass, but it did not enhance the stand of red clover, and tended to increase weed biomass.

A field-day was held at the Michigan State University (MSU) farms in July in conjunction with the Michigan Ag Expo, an annual farm show with attendance of 15,000-20,000 visitors. Visitors were allowed to tour the brome grass renovation plots and view a demonstration of the slurry seeding process. Handouts were provided outlining project objectives and preliminary results.

[To see Figures from this report, please contact the NCR-SARE office at]

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The results of our word demonstrates that slurry seeding of forage and cover crops in existing pasture and hay fields is an effective way to improve forage yield and quality, and improve botanical diversity. Pasture improvement and renovation systems that reduce tillage intensity 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 whereby aeration tillage, manure application and seeding are done in a single, efficient operation. We expect to see a measurable increase 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 the environmental sustainability of grazing dairy and livestock farms through more effective recycling of manure nutrients. Society will benefit from water quality protection by 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