Animals: Soil Amendments and Integrating Livestock

Animals can contribute to the health of our farm through manure and soil amendments which are rich in nutrients and organic matter that improves soil health, increases farm biodiversity, and increase plant fertility.

Different kinds of Soil Amendments that can be used:

  • Compost

  • Manure and Sewage biosolids

  • Crop residue

  • Forages + Pasture

  • Plowdowns/Green Manure Crops

  • Crop Rotation

Integrating Livestock:

  • Apply manure to the land whether from your own livestock or others.

  • Grazing annual crop residue works with an annual row crop system where the grain is harvested and the residues are grazed during the dormant periods in the autumn, winter or dry season.

  • Swath grazing involves annual crops such as barley and triticale, cut in the autumn. They are left in swaths (heaped rows) for grazing, mostly for beef cattle.

  • Grazing annual forages involves livestock grazing on annual or short-season crops which can also function as cover crops. Cool season crops (winter wheat, rye or triticale) can be planted in fall for spring grazing, or planted in the spring (oats, barley, wheat) for late-spring, summer grazing. Brassicas like turnips, kale and legumes like forage peas are often mixed in. Warm-season annual grasses like sorghum, sorghum-sudangrass and millet can be planted in late spring to provide autumn grazing.

  • Grazing perennial forage crops that are part of a crop rotation on integrated crop-livestock farms involves raising forages, usually for two to 10 years, that can be either hayed or grazed.

Tools and Resources

Integrated Crop-Livestock Best Management Practices: What You Need to Know.
10 Tips for Adding Livestock to Your Crop Rotation
This factsheet describes the nature and function of soil organic matter, sources of organic amendments, and best management practices (BMPs) for adding organic amendments to soil.
Adding Soil Organic Amendments
Integrating livestock into the farm operation can make it more sustainable but also makes it more complex. If not implemented in the right way it can also increase environmental problems.
Integrating Crops and Livestock
This resource outlines: What is Composting?; Why Compost; The Essentials of Composting; Site Location; Composting Systems; Definitions; Composting Methods; Vermicomposting; Comparing Composting Methods; Composting Phases; and Monitoring and Record Keeping.
Agricultural Composting Basics
This factsheet outlines the benefits, techniques, options and tips for including a cover crop with manure application.
Cover Crops and Manure Application