The weather. A short application window. The volume you have to handle. When it comes to manure handling, whether you’re a smaller operation milking 50 cows and using a skid steer to load your spreader or a custom operator using a large-wheel loader, everyone faces these same challenges.

Timing and volume

Manure spreading timing can be tricky. For liquid or solid manure spreading, you can’t get in the field until the crops are off. At that time, you want to get the manure spread as quickly as possible so the land can be cultivated as well.

But we all know the weather is the ultimate dictator for your manure-spreading season.

In the southern states, where it doesn’t freeze, there’s a longer season for spreading. Many farmers in the upper Midwest, however, must move quickly to spread before the first freeze, for multiple reasons. Once the ground starts to freeze, applied manure won’t soak in, and nutrient benefits are lost.

Rainfall after the ground is frozen results in manure runoff, potentially polluting water supplies. Many states also have cutoff dates restricting winter spreading. This leaves a relatively short window of opportunity to wait for the crop to come off the field and spread as much manure as possible before it freezes.


Another challenge is the volume of manure handled. Farmers must be able to aptly load the spreader, pull the spreader to the field and then travel across the field, all as quickly as possible, in order to spread more in a day – all while doing it safely.

To aid in these timing and volume challenges, a smaller operation might use a skid steer as part of its manure handling equipment, where a large-wheel loader would be utilized for a larger operation. Telescopic handlers can be used as a loader, while offering the additional versatility of being used to feed the cows, stack bales and efficiently handle ag materials.


Stockpiling during down times or pumping right to the field can be massive time-saving techniques for your manure spreading operation.

Consider stockpiling solid manure near edges of fields where it will be spread. Then, during down times or times with less work, you can move that manure out into the fields quickly, allowing you to make the most of your time. When it comes time to spread, the manure is right there where you want it with no transport necessary.

With liquid manure, some farmers have begun to pump it from where it’s stored in the lagoon to where they want it spread. Say, for example, your field is three miles away and you have to go back to the lagoon to reload your tank each time. That travel becomes nothing but unproductive time.

Consider setting up and pumping to a storage tank in your field, shortening the travel distance back to the field. This process can greatly reduce transport time, with no time wasted on the road.

Advice for improving the job

From a time and efficiency standpoint, manure handling and spreading may seem like an unscientific art. Adjustments can help farmers complete the task more efficiently and effectively.

It’s important to take a look at the steps in your manure-handling process to find opportunities to help you handle and spread material quicker.

Examine the type of equipment used in your spreading operation. For example, a tractor that can reach up to 43 miles per hour on the road allows for quicker travel between loading and spreading locations, quicker pulling of the spreader to the field and, of course, quicker travel across the field than a conventional tractor, all of which means you’re able to spread more loads in a day.

Additionally, having a tractor equipped with air-operated disc brakes on all four wheels with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) can allow for quick and more productive manure spreading while maintaining maximum safety.

Other questions to ask yourself: Could your travel be done more efficiently with a high-speed tractor? If you have a large spreader, are you able to load it quickly whether in the field or at the lagoon? Would you benefit from a larger loader, trading up from a skid steer to a telescopic or even a wheeled loader?

Manure handling is a job that requires long hours during long weeks while the season is available to get the job done. When the crops start coming off the field and before the fields freeze, custom operators will spend 80 to 100 or more hours per week to get the work they have in front of them complete. It’s important to take a look at the steps in your manure-handling process to find opportunities to help you handle and spread material quicker.  end mark

PHOTO: Using the right-sized equipment can help you move manure faster during short application windows. Photo courtesy of JCB.

Ray Bingley