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

2008 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. Total dry matter yields over two harvest seasons were significantly greater with no-till and slurry seeding of red clover in an existing brome sod. The greatest increase in yield and quality was in the second year after seeding. Crude protein and net energy (lactation) were significantly greater and acid detergent fibers (ADF) and neutral detergent fibers (NDF) were significantly less in the slurry-seeded and no-till plots. There were significant increases in botanical diversity in the no-till and slurry-seeded crops.

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.


-Forage dry matter and quality measurements were completed in large replicated plots and visual observations of pasture condition following previous slurry seedings were completed.

-Measurement, laboratory and statistical analysis of forage yield and quality was completed. The forage yield and quality results are being integrated in a whole farm model for an economic analysis of the pasture improvement process.

-Guidelines for managing grazing cattle when using manure for a crop nutrient source have been developed.

-Educational meetings were held in two locations to present the results of work to interested farmers and other stakeholders.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The results of our work have shown 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. In addition, slurry seeding of late season grazing crops such as forage turnips, forage rape, oil seed radish and other forages after a small grain offers an excellent opportunity to extend the grazing season beyond traditional limits. Our work demonstrates a novel rethinking in integrating cropping and livestock systems whereby aeration tillage, manure application and seeding are done in a single, efficient operation. This new process provides a new opportunity to protect water quality and cycle manure nutrients by establishing a cover crop on harvested corn silage at the same time manure is applied. This new process will improve 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 will 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