Top o’ the manure morning to ya

Our fields are in the process of being transitioned from hay to soybeans. Earlier this fall, our farmer killed off all of the hay, and at the end of last week, the manure men showed up.

I had an inkling that something might be in the works when on Baxter’s and my morning run on Friday–which takes place entirely before sunrise–a very, very large manure-smelling piece of equipment loomed out of the dark as we entered the big field. Baxter and I  were both a bit disconcerted, as it’s usually just the two of us alone. Once I ascertained that it wasn’t a) coyotes b) a UFO c) poachers, we were able to get on with our run, although Baxter continued to give it the stink eye (pun not intended, but I feel clever now, so I’m leaving it in) as we did our morning perimeter patrol.

Saturday morning, the rumble of machinery signaled that work was underway. Being the weirdo country newbie that I am, I rushed outside with the camera to document the process. I’m not sure that the manure contractors have ever been models before, but they were pretty tolerant of my presence and even took time to answer my questions.

Despite their explanations, I still know very little about manure spreading, so I’ll do my best to explain what I saw.

To start, this is a massive operation. The manure men were independent contractors hired by the farmer who rents our fields. They had traveled 3 hours by tractor that morning to come to our farm. Here’s just some of the equipment that was involved in manurefying our fields.

Equipment for manure spraying

Outside of the frame of this picture is a second tractor, a pick-up truck and another tanker. Each tanker holds 8,000-10,000 gallons of manure. Our front field, which is roughly 6 1/2 acres, took 7-8 truckloads of manure. Holy crap (okay, that pun was intentional).

The trucks were in a regular rotation, going to the veal farm down the road from our place to get filled with manure and then coming back to the farm to deposit their load.

The manure flows from the trucks, I’m assuming through some kind of pump, and then travels in long hoses across the fields to the tractor.

Hose for manure spraying

The big hose connects into smaller hoses on the tractor, which are each attached to a disc. It’s a bit hard to see here, but the rear window on the tractor cab has its own windshield wiper… a necessity for when one of the hoses has a “blow-out.” Ewwwww.

Tractor for manure spraying

Here is the spraying attachment folded up (for scale, the tractor’s tire is as tall as me).

Manure spraying attachment

The discs cut into the ground so that the manure goes right into the dirt, although some of it does pool on top.

Field that's been sprayed with manure

When the field is done, the hose rolls up onto a spool on the front of the tractor.

Manure spraying

Here’s an action shot of the spraying.

Tractor spraying manure

And here’s what our fields look like now. (For contrast here’s a picture from the same angle taken at the start of summer after this year’s first hay harvest.)

Field after spraying with manure

As for what our fields smell like now, well, I have to admit things are a bit stinky around here. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be (perhaps I’m building a bit of an immunity to “country air”). At the same time, I feel like I’m constantly smelling manure. Even when I’m in the house with the windows closed, the smell is still in my nose.

I’ll leave that part of the experience to your imagination.

Does anyone have any wisdom to share about manure spraying? How weird was it that I felt the need to document the whole process? Is anyone else dealing with a malodorous environment? Any idea how long it will take for the smell to fade?

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7 thoughts on “Top o’ the manure morning to ya

  1. Wow. What a process! I didn’t even know it could be sprayed – my experience is limited to those dried up “patties” that lay around in pastures. The field is not quite as pretty as it was in the other picture. Do you know why they’re changing to soybeans?

    • We have a more traditional manure pile too that I use on the gardens. This is my first time going through the spraying process.

      The soybeans are a more valuable crop than hay so it makes economic sense. Our hay was exhausted so we needed to do something. My husband is hoping that the soybeans are more appealing to the local deer population.

  2. Yes, they do that around here too. And it is stinky. I would have to be paid quite a bit to have that job!

    I think it is pretty neat that you asked them questions and documented the process! I am fairly new to farming life myself and I am ALWAYS asking questions!

  3. Aaaaaah shit spreading, as we so eloquently call it in our house. I think in a day or two the smell should dissapate, but I definitely know what you mean…it feels like it permeates everything!

    Soybeans are SO pretty when they’re all lush and green, and they taste good too (edemame!). Soooo dusty when it comes to combining, though. I’m not sure how far away the field is from your house, but if it’s close, keep your windows shut!

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