Tuesday, December 31, 2019
I have about four acres of pasture and for the first time in decades I fed hay to animals on that pasture. Not just a few animals, but about 3500 pounds of animals on-the-hoof per acre. By my count, that is 55,000 pounds of hay or about 7 tons per acre. Most of that mass comes out the back end as shit.
Cow shit still contains energy, protein, potassium, phosphorous, calcium, sodium and a raft of micro-nutrients. It also contains grass and clover seeds as well as weed seeds.
Cow shit moderates the immediate environment. The soil-poop contact area is moister and much richer in nutrients than the soil surface around it. The aversion zone around a pile of cow shit gives various plant seedlings a protected nursery. That has the potential to increase the diversity of plants in the pasture.
A variety of worms, maggots and beetle larvae live in piles of poop. They feed song birds, game birds, domestic birds, shrews, skunks and predatory insects and arthropods.
The insects that reach adulthood feed some of our most graceful and beautiful songbirds: Swallows, Meadow Larks, Purple Martins, Killdee and Bluebirds.
The current "best practice" is to run a drag to shatter and spread the piles of poop. The nutrients cycle more quickly and the aversion area around the pile where cattle will not graze abates more quickly.
I am not going to do that. I will derive more entertainment watching Mother Nature handle it than I would derive economic benefit by following "best practice".
I do have a buffer zone where water runs off my property. It is one last chance to capture any nutrients that washed off before they leave the property. I also took care to move the feeder around to ensure the poop was evenly spread across the four acres.