University of Maryland Extension

Spreading Manure? Why Not Calibrate, Too?

Now that it’s spring, many folks are breaking into their manure piles and lagoons and getting ready to apply to the fields. As you prepare to spread manure, you should be taking a look at your nutrient management plan to determine the appropriate application rate.

How do you ensure that the amount you intend to apply is actually being applied to the fields? The answer is by using a spreader that’s been correctly calibrated. Spreaders need to be recalibrated any time changes are made – including changes to the manure itself and changes in terms of how you apply.

Consistency and density of the manure affect how it moves out of the spreader, so recalibrate any time you change bedding (amount or type), make changes to your animals’ feed rations, or begin collecting manure from a new species.

If you make changes to any settings on the spread, or if you change the ground speed at which you apply, you’ll need to recalibrate. It’s also a good idea to recalibrate if it’s been a while since you did it last, just to ensure that the equipment is still functioning the way you think it is.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture requires that operators document each time a spreader calibration is completed. Keep those records with your nutrient management plan as the inspector may ask to see them when auditing your plan. The documentation needs to include the calculations you used to determine the nutrient rate.

The method you’ll use to calibrate your spreader will depend on the type of equipment and the type of manure you are using. We have several publications available that will walk you step-by-step through the process and the calculations. You can access them by visiting the Agricultural Nutrient Management Program website. If you prefer a paper copy, just call our office and ask!

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