Calibrating Liquid Manure Application Equipment

Types of Liquid Manure Application Equipment

Liquid manure application equipment includes tankers (sometimes called honey-wagons) and hose-drag (also referred to as drag-hose) systems. Depending upon the type of liquid application system being calibrated, calibration may require weighing the tanker, recording the time to empty a load, measuring application spread width and length and/or recording equipment speed. Also, with some calibration methods, determination of manure density is required.

Related: Calibrating solid manure spreaders and irrigation equipment.

Important Factors For Making Calibration Calculations

Normally calibration requirements are specific to the equipment, i.e. one piece of equipment needs only to be calibrated once during the calibration interval, often annually. However, it is a good idea to calibrate equipment that may be used under different conditions. For instance, adding more hose to a hose-drag system when moving from one field to the next can increase friction loss and alter manure flow rates though the applicator. It may also be valuable to calibrate for multiple travel speeds, each representing a different application rate. This allows one to select an application rate that most closely matches the nutrient requirements of individual fields or crops.

It is important to select the calibration procedure that is consistent with your manure analysis. For instance some analysis reports nutrients in a weight per volume measure (e.g. pounds per thousand gallons) while some analysis is provided on a weight per weight basis (e.g. pounds per ton). Calibration of liquid tanker spreaders can be done by weighing a load or knowing the capacity (volume) of the spreader as specified by the manufacturer. Conversion between volume and weight may be done by determining the manure density.

By knowing the spreader capacity, distance traveled to empty the spreader, and width of spread pattern (or distance you move laterally with each pass through the field), a fairly simple estimate of application rate can be made. This should be repeated several times to determine an average application rate each manure source. The speed of the tractor can be varied to adjust the application rate to achieve the planned application rate(s). The general procedure for calibrating a liquid manure tanker spreader is illustrated in the following file Liquid Spreader Calibration.

Hose drag type systems are calibrated by measuring tractor speed, flow rate of the manure through the system and effective width (distance between passes). These factors allow conversion to volume of manure over area applied, e.g. gallons per acre.

Calibration of hose-drag (drag-hose) equipment requires measurement of (a.) tractor speed, (b.) spread width (We in illustration) and (c.) flow through the hose. Photo: Garry Grabow, All Rights Reserved.

Recommended Educational Resources

Author: Garry Grabow, North Carolina State University Reviewers: Marsha Mathews, University of California-Davis, Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska, Doug Beegle, Pennsylvania State University