Every Cow Poops: The Value of Cow Manure on the Farm

| 2/13/2014 9:01:00 AM

Tags: microdairy, dairy cattle, raising livestock, Vermont, Steve Judge,
Cow manure is a valuable on-farm commodity

Though most farmers use more colorful language, the polite way to say it is that cows "poop and pee." And they poop and pee a lot--once about every 20 minutes.  An 800-pound Jersey cow will make over 100 pounds of manure per day.  For folks who are not familiar with cows, the sight of a cow pooping or peeing can be absolutely shocking.  I took my first trip to a dairy farm when I was three, and I swear I can still remember the first time I saw a cow poop.  

So why is this important?  If you are thinking of milking a few cows and don't have bovine experience, the first thing you are going to have to come to terms with is cow manure. Besides milk, it will be the most valuable thing your cows produce, if you handle it correctly.  Also, a cow's manure is a key indicator of her health and well being.  Most common cow ailments can be identified by the consistency of their manure. So you can't be squeamish.  

Manure closes the loop between good farmers and nature—what we take and what we give back.

Cows Eat Grass Bob White Systems

Cows eat grass and convert it to milk, which we harvest for food.  Manure is the byproduct of the cows' milk production, which we return to the soil as an excellent crop nutrient.  Compared to other "industrial byproducts" manure is better than benign. It is gold.  I can't tell you how many times I have heard dairy farmers comment that fields coated with a fresh layer of manure "smell like money."  An experienced farmer knows that manure will increase crop and milk yields while adding valuable tilth and organic matter to the soils. 

Every winter I pile my manure from my cows on a relatively flat yet well drained area where I compost it. 

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