By Jen Bradley
The custom manure application industry is thriving, with more than 34 firms in the state last year. Six years earlier, in 2006, there were only nine according to the University of Wisconsin-Extension.
These manure specialists apply six billion gallons annually, 50% of the state's manure. Technology is a big part of this business, and one that farmers are finding beneficial through time and cost savings.
"Accurate manure application helps farmers protect their pocketbooks and the environment," says Nick Schneider, Winnebago County agricultural agent. "Progress in manure application technology benefits farmers by improving nutrient crediting which can help reduce purchases of commercial fertilizer."
Dustin Ransom operates T-K Agworks LLC in Darien. He says that variable-rate technology using GPS hardware and software is hot in manure application right now. Ransom explains that when handling liquid manure, keeping the flow steady is easiest by managing a tractor's ground speed. GPS receivers, flow sensors and travel speed sensors feed into iPads in each tractor cab (or remotely) to continually track data.
Ransom explains that with volatile fuel costs, most farmers are looking to technology to manage manure – eliminating overlaps and assuring accurate applications.
T-K has been using GPS technology for 13 years, and Ransom says that it just does a better job of pumping, especially when tractors are put on auto-steer. He explains that the GPS alerts applicators to tank flow rates and also eliminates head pressure, changing speed accordingly. He says that this ever-evolving and growing technology gives the operator real-time information as to the manure hitting the ground, an important number to monitor.
"A couple tenths of a mile difference and 50 gallons of flow per minute can change the application rate by a couple thousand gallons an acre," Ransom says.
T-K Agworks relies on precision application technology to provide its customers a more streamlined, precise method for manure management.