Overview: Manure Management Equipment for Small Farms

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Why Be Concerned With Manure Management for Small Farms?

Increased local or regional food marketing opportunities have allowed commercial success in livestock and poultry operations with relatively small herds and flocks.  The Census of Agriculture recently reports an increase in the number of small farms, as a proportion of all farms, across much of the U.S.  Small animal feeding operations, less than 300 animal units, are a productive component of the animal ag sector.  Finally, there continues to an interest in the development of hobby farm and equine related properties.  All of these scenarios result in the necessity to manage manure resources, often on small acres, and often in close proximity to a neighbor.  Knowledge about, access to, and acquisition of, appropriate manure handling equipment is a requirement to proper manure and nutrient management on all of these types of commercial or hobby farms and ranches.

What Did We Do?

This overview seeks to provide examples of power equipment and manure handling tools appropriate to smaller operations.  An emphasis is placed on solid manure handling, small acreage land application, and light duty compost production equipment.  Examples of equipment choices and options are based on Internet and literature reviews, as well as personal field experiences.

What Have We Learned?

A balance between size/power, cost, and versatility must be considered when purchasing or leasing equipment for small livestock and poultry operations.  Smaller operations often deal only in solid manure. This can simplify equipment choices to small tractors and skidsteer loaders, which can perform a variety of manure management and compost related tasks.  Tractor size will limit traditional manure spreader options.  However, several manufacturers are now offering light weight, ground drive spreaders, towable by small tractors or even ATVs.  


Thomas M. Bass, Livestock Environment Associate Specialist,  Montana State University tmbass@montana.edu


Mike Westendorf, Rutgers University and Jean Bonhotal, Cornell University


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