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Nutrient Cycling Of Integrated Beef Cattle Finishing And Crop Production Systems In The Northern Great Plains

Nutrient Cycling Of Integrated Beef Cattle Finishing And Crop Production Systems In The Northern Great Plains

The Northern Great Plains has seen an increase in building confinement barns for cattle feeding. Many of these barns are hoop or mono-slope buildings featuring openings for ventilation, and solid floors (scraped or bedded manure pack) or slatted floors for manure collection and storage. Many producers are building these barns due to the perceived benefits:

  •         Increased performance because of less exposure to harsh weather
  •         Better control of manure nutrients
  •         Efficient use of space
  •         Improved working conditions
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Hoop barn (left, courtesy of K. Kohl, ISU Extension and Outreach); Monoslope barn (center, courtesy of B. Doran, ISU Extension and Outreach); Slatted floor barn (right – courtesy USDA ARS).

 

 

Many producers own both cattle barns and cropland that manure can be spread on. The increase of these barns has led to new and different management styles regarding manure use, bedding, and general practices. The impact of these new management practices is not yet understood, and there is a need to balance the effects on the community, economic, and environmental scales.

 

 

The overall goal of this project is to study the impacts of beef cattle housing, manure management, and crop production, especially on nitrogen and phosphorus losses to the environment and to find the best strategies for N and P cycling.

In barn storage testing will take place at several barns in Eastern South Dakota. Equipment will be set up to monitor greenhouse gas, and ammonia emissions from bedded manure pack, and deep pit manure storage. Equipment will also be set up to take weather measurements to determine the effects of the environment on gas release and nutrient loss. The effects of added bedding and length of storage will also be determined.

The effects of bedding in manure applied to fields is being tested at three sites located in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Manure with and without bedding collected from nearby barns will be applied to different test plots, as well as commercial fertilizer and control plots. Throughout the growing season soil, gas, and plant samples are taken, tested, and compared against the other plots for yield, soil composition, whole plant composition, greenhouse gas release, and ammonia release which will then be used to determine the effects of the manure application treatments.

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Graphical depiction of the Integrated Farm System Model (available here).

 

The data collected from the project will be used to evaluate the Integrated Farm System Model (developed by the USDA-ARS)for cattle and crop systems for the Northern Great Plains, which can also be able to be used in different regions of the U.S. This model can then help us simultaneously evaluate the performance, environmental impacts, and economics of cattle and crop production systems.

Investigators: Erin Cortus, Shafiqur Rahman, Amitava Chatterjee, Mindy Spiehs, Alan Rotz, David Parker