Integrated crop-livestock operations can result in many soil health benefits while also reducing economic risk. Livestock manure - whether spread by machine or by the animals - adds organic matter to the soil. Livestock can be added to a cropping system by allowing them to graze a cover crop or by rotating fields to perennial forage crops. Deep-rooted perennial forage crops or cover crops improve soil structure (aggregation) and help keep nutrients on the farm.
Producing both crops and livestock on a farm or ranch reduces the need for off-farm inputs. Perennial forage crops and cover crops are fed to the animals, and nutrients are returned to the soil as manure. Incorporation of diverse cover crops and adaptive livestock grazing can result in incremental improvements in soil fertility and biology and significant cost savings from forage production and improved soil fertility.
Manure and compost add organic matter as well as an array of nutrients, but using just compost or manure to meet the nitrogen needs of the crop every year can result in excessive phosphorus levels in the soil – and potential phosphorus loading into surface waters. Combining modest manure or compost additions to meet phosphorus needs with additional nitrogen inputs from legume cover or forage crops in a crop rotation can help balance both nitrogen and phosphorus inputs.
In Indiana, any person that applies, sells, or transports manure from a Combined Feeding Operation (CFO) is required to be certified by the Office of the Indiana State Chemist or trained by certified personnel. Exceptions are made in cases where the total amount of manure is less than 10 cubic yards or 4,000 gallons in a year. In addition, applications of manure produced from any feeding operation (over 10 cubic yards or 4,000 gallons in a year), must meet requirements for setbacks, staging, application monitoring, and record-keeping – as well as restrictions for applications to highly erodible land or frozen/snow-covered land.
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