New equipment geared for liquid manure applications

Ray Mueller

Manitowoc - At a forum on soil health and custom crops, two custom manure applicators who serve farms in east central Wisconsin described some of the practices designed to limit soil disturbance during the process.

Jesse Dvorachek, who is based near Forest Junction in Calumet County, reported that each of his two crews, using a total of 10 to 20 trucks, apply about 200 million gallons of liquid manure per year on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) farms, which have permits governing the application rates.

If Dvorachek could have his way, a process would be found to remove the rainwater and feed leachate that end up in the liquid manure. That would mean a higher concentration of the manure itself, he explained. “You need enough soil to absorb the liquid.”

Several types of equipment are available to reduce the soil disturbance during the typical applications of 8,000, 12,000, or 15,000 gallons per acre, Dvorachek pointed out. Among the company names with such equipment covering spans of 30 to 50 feet are Pottinger, the ETC Soil Warrior from Minnesota, and the Bazooka Farmstar from Iowa.

Because of its cost, an operator to apply at least 75 million gallons a year to justify using the Soil Warrior unit, Dvorachek remarked.

For applying manure into cover crops that are growing, Dvorachek is adding an Aerway unit this year. Even with reduced soil disturbance, he reminded farmers that berms left during the operation will require slower traveling with corn planters the next year.

Disk ripping dominates

At Right Way Applications, based in Manitowoc County and operating in four counties, Brandon Vogel and his business partner Nick Staudinger are equipped to apply liquid manure with drag hoses, in a broadcast manner, or accompanied with disk ripping. The latter accounts for 90 percent of the work, Vogel indicated.

Application rates range up to 18,000 gallons per acre after a corn silage harvest and up to 22,000 gallons with drag hoses, Vogel indicated. He noted, however, that the average application is about 15,000 gallons per acre.

Vogel mentioned a basic fee rate of $280 per hour. Viewed as a per acre cost, he cited averages of $45.85 for up to 12,000 gallons on no-till fields and $55.50 when the manure is incorporated. He noted that the plugging of equipment is sometimes a problem in the no-till settings.

Responding to a question about whether mixing a cover crop seed with the manure application is done, Dvorachek said he hasn't had such a request. Vogel said it was done once but noted he doesn't prefer to do it, in part because of adding to equipment weights that are already pushing roadway limits.

Both men noted that “being watched” by a variety of people – from curious neighbors wanting to learn about what's being done to public officials doing their job in monitoring the practices to folks calling authorities to register concerns – comes with the territory. They prefer those who come to the site to watch what's happening.