Nutritional Strategies to Reduce Nutrient Output in Sheep Manure

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Nutrient Inputs and Outputs to Sheep Production Systems
  3. How Much P Is Being Overfed?
  4. How Much CP Is Being Overfed?
  5. Urea Nitrogen Testing
  6. Nutrient Effects on Manure Application
  7. Conclusion

Introduction

There are a number of environmental consequences associated with improper management of phosphorus (P) and nitrogen (N). As a result, public concerns are pushing the livestock industry to show that they are managing these nutrients appropriately.

One way to improve nutrient management is to look at the feed rations being used. Many producers feed P and N above recommended levels. However, over-supplementing nutrients as a safety factor is simply adding cost to your feed bill and causing potential harm to the environment. The extra nutrients are ending up in the manure and, if continuously and excessively applied on soils, could contaminate surface and ground water.

By better balancing P and N in the ration, many livestock producers have been able to reduce feed costs, as well as minimize land requirements and improve efficiency of manure application by reducing the amount of nutrients that need handling.

Nutrient Inputs and Outputs to Sheep Production Systems

Nutrients are brought on the farm as either fertilizer, commercial feed (such as grain), or dietary mineral supplement and leave the farm as livestock (lamb, milk, cull ewes, replacement females, and manure) and cash crops. With the exception of cash crops, most nutrients remain on the farm.

The objective is to achieve nutrient balance on the farm and in order to do so, the following should be considered (Powell et al., 2001):

  • Number of animals
  • Nutrient excretion in manure
  • Nutrients applied to land
  • Nutrients that leave the farm

How Much P is Being Overfed?

The following table, adapted from data provided by Stratford Agri Analysis and Agri-Food Labs between June 2002 and August 2003, illustrates the average P content in common Ontario feed ingredients.

Ingredient

Average P Content (% DM)

Range P Content (% DM)

Grain Corn

0.28

0.27 - 0.29

Soybeans

0.82

0.72 - 0.89

Mixed Grain

0.45

0.43 - 0.48

Oats

0.44

0.41 - 0.47

Wheat

0.43

0.41 - 0.44

Barley

0.38

0.36 - 0.42

Corn Silage

0.21

0.20 - 0.23

Grass Haylage

0.29

0.28 - 0.31

Legume Haylage

0.31

0.30 - 0.34

Mixed Hay

0.34

0.31 - 0.40

Grass Hay

0.30

0.26 - 0.33

Legume Hay

0.33

0.31 - 0.36

Using the above data as a guide of the nutrient content in feed ingredients, the following tables were constructed to illustrate how much P a producer may be overfeeding above the National Research Council's (NRC) 1985 recommendations.

Sheep Type: Mature Ewe

Stage of Production

Diet

% P in Feed

% P as per NRC

Late gestation with 165% lambing rate

1 lb corn + 3.5 lbs GH

0.30

0.18

1.25 lbs MG + 3.25 lbs GH

0.34

Maintenance

0.2 lbs corn + 3.28 lbs GH1

0.30

0.20

Lactation with twins

2 lbs corn + 0.5 lbs SBM + 3.5 lbs GH

0.34

0.29

2.2 lbs MG + 0.5 lbs SBM + 3.3 lbs GH

0.40

GH = Grass Hay (14.7% CP); GH1 = Grass Hay (11.0% CP); MG = Mixed Grain; SBM = Soybean Meal; CP = crude protein


Sheep Type: Ewe Lamb

Stage of Production

Diet

% P in Feed

% P as per NRC

Early gestation

0.5 lbs corn + 3.9 lbs GH

0.30

0.22

0.7 lbs MG + 3.7 lbs GH

0.32

Late gestation

0.7 lbs corn + 0.1 lbs SBM + 3.6 lbs GH

0.31

0.25

1.1 lbs MG + 0.1 lbs SBM + 3.2 lbs GH

0.35

Lactation with twins

1.8 lbs corn + 3.1 lbs GH

0.35

0.26

The estimated savings for a sheep ration are between $2 and $4 per tonne of concentrate, if no additional P is included in the ration.

How Much CP Is Being Overfed?

The following table, adapted from data provided by Stratford Agri Analysis and Agri-Food Labs between June 2002 and August 2003, illustrates the average CP content in common Ontario feed ingredients.

Ingredient

Average CP content
(% DM)

Range CP content
(% DM)

Grain Corn

9.01

8.67 - 9.58

Soybeans

54.42

40.22 - 57.00

Mixed Grain

13.54

12.35 - 14.35

Oats

11.00

9.99 - 13.39

Wheat

12.45

11.76 - 14.24

Barley

11.50

11.22 - 12.03

Corn Silage

8.41

8.14 - 8.56

Grass Haylage

14.06

11.17 - 16.20

Legume Haylage

18.66

17.79 - 19.99

Mixed Hay

19.49

18.03 - 22.41

Grass Hay

14.75

11.13 - 15.76

Legume Hay

19.99

14.48 - 23.49

Using the above data as a guide of the nutrient content in feed ingredients, the following tables were constructed to illustrate how much CP a producer may be overfeeding above the National Research Council's (NRC) 1985 recommendations.

Sheep Type: Mature Ewe

Stage of production

Diet

% CP in Feed

% CP as per NRC

Late gestation with 165% lambing rate

1 lb corn + 3.5 lbs GH

13.47

10.70

1.25 lbs MG + 3.25 lbs GH

14.41

Maintenance

0.2 lbs corn + 3.28 lbs GH1

10.77

9.40

Lactation with twins

2 lbs corn + 0.5 lbs SBM + 3.5 lbs GH

16.14

15.00

2.2 lbs MG + 0.5 lbs SBM + 3.3 lbs GH

17.61


Sheep Type: Ewe Lamb

Stage of production

Diet

% CP in Feed

% CP as per NRC

Early gestation

0.5 lbs corn + 3.9 lbs GH

14.10

10.60

0.7 lbs MG + 3.7 lbs GH

14.56

Late gestation

0.7 lbs corn + 0.1 lbs SBM + 3.6 lbs GH

14.74

12.80

1.1 lbs MG + 0.1 lbs SBM + 3.2 lbs GH

15.35

Lactation with twins

1.8 lbs corn + 3.1 lbs GH

17.20

13.70

Based on these numbers, a typical farm could be overfeeding as much as 16% for P and 4% for CP. This is why feed and ration evaluation is so important. Analyzing feed ingredients as well as rations routinely allows you and/or your nutritionist to determine the nutrient content of your feed and allows you to adjust the ration, if needed, to assure that it is being fed to meet rather than exceed nutrient requirements. For a list of labs equipped for feed testing, refer to the Fact Sheet titled Nutrient Testing, Order No. 03-007. Consequently, feeding to meet requirements will lower your feed costs and may also give you some additional opportunities to meet the requirements of the Nutrient Management Act.

Urea Nitrogen Testing

Urea nitrogen has been an extremely useful tool in monitoring protein utilization in dairy cattle. Testing urea nitrogen concentration used to require some invasiveness, as a blood sample was needed. However, it is now possible to measure urea nitrogen concentration in the milk. The procedure is very simple, non-invasive, and merely requires a sample of milk.

Currently, 18% of Ontario dairy cattle producers use DHI services to monitor milk urea nitrogen (MUN) regularly. Knowledge of herd MUN levels have assisted some dairy cattle producers in detecting nutritional problems, making more efficient use of dietary protein, reducing feed costs, and preventing unnecessary loss of nitrogen.

However, this is an area where more research is needed, as there are no target MUN concentrations available for sheep. Monitoring urea nitrogen levels in your flock may be something to think about. Perhaps with more interest it would be possible to establish baseline concentrations for a flock to determine the practicality of monitoring MUN on sheep farms.

Nutrient Effects on Manure Application

Under the Nutrient Management Act, some farms may have difficulty finding enough acreage to spread manure. Reducing P and N content in feed rations may help with this problem. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food's Nutrient Management Program, June 30 2003 R1 version, was used to determine the effects of manure P reduction on land base requirement for spreading. The software program was developed to assist farmers interested in preparing a nutrient management strategy and plan (NMS/P). Preparing and following a NMS/P is a requirement for those farms regulated by Ontario's Nutrient Management Act.

Case Study

  • Ottawa Clay Type D soil
  • Solid manure, application in the Spring, 2% slope in land
  • Livestock: total of 100 ewes, rams and unweaned offspring with access to outside
  • Average weight of 175 pounds
  • Crop production: 6.1 tonne corn /ha

Table 1 shows the nutrient content available in the manure, the amount of nutrients to be used by the crop and the land required for spreading manure.

N in Manure (kg/tonne)

Available P2O5 in Manure at Spreading (kg/tonne)

N Used by Crop (kg/ha)

P2O5 Used by Crop (kg/ha)

Hectares Needed (ha)

Application Rate (tonne/ha)

40

90

88

45

5.9

18.9


Table 2 shows how a 20% reduction in manure P (P2O5) excretion can reduce the land required for manure spreading and increase the application rate.

N in Manure (kg/tonne)

Available P2O5 in Manure at Spreading (kg/tonne)

N used by Crop (kg/ha)

P2O5 Used by Crop (kg/ha)

Hectares Needed (ha)

Application Rate (tonne/ha)

52

90

88

45

4.5

25

Because P concentration is lower when less dietary P is fed, you can apply more total tonnes of manure on the same land. Subsequently, reducing P output in manure minimizes the land required for spreading and can improve efficiency of application.

Conclusion

Most grains and forages fed to sheep contain more P and CP than NRC (1985) recommends for the entire ration. But producers are still insisting on feeding nutrients above recommendations, as a safeguard. The excess nutrients are simply ending up in manure, which means higher than necessary feed bills, possible additional landbase requirement and an increased risk of environmental pollution.

Nutrition is the simplest and most effective approach in reducing P losses from livestock operations. By feeding less P and N, nutrient output in manure can be reduced. Consequently, less acreage will be needed to spread manure at a higher application rate. This is a solid benefit for those farms regulated by Ontario's Nutrient Management Act and who are having difficulty managing their nutrients.

National Research Council. 1985. Nutrient Requirements of Sheep, Sixth Revised Edition. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.

Powell, J. M., Wu, Z., and L. D. Satter. 2001. Dairy diet effects on phosphorus cycles of cropland. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 56(1):22-26.


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Jodi Calberry - Program Assistant/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 16 December 2003
Last Reviewed: 10 February 2010