Analyzing manure to assist in deciding when and what to feed.

Asked November 17, 2016, 1:38 PM EST

A couple of weeks ago, our cattle's manure was generally very watery. So much so, that the dried manure just blew away. Concerned that they may have parasites and it was time, we gave them an injectable parasite killer. Now we have manure that is taller in height than the norm by about 3 inches.

Question is: What does this type of manure represent in terms of nutrition?

Waller County Texas beef cattle

1 Response

Thanks for your question to extension. It would be helpful to know what kind of pasture the cattle are on (species of grass, height and level of plant maturity). Did you move the cattle to new pasture after treatment for parasites?

In general, manure consistency informs us about the digestability of the cows diet. Green lush forage is usually low in fiber and highly digestable so it makes splats. In some cases the forage may be very high in water content as well making it low in dry matter content (the part with the nutrients). Cattle don't do particularly well on this kind of 'washy' feed.

The second manure form is pancakes. These may rise from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches tall have some form but still fairly soft. these take some form as the fiber content of the feed goes up but is still digestible and usually has adequate levels of protein.

The last form is tall round piles. These are formed when the cow consumes either mature standing forage or hay that is high in fiber. The rumen microbes are capable of breaking down the cellulose and hemi-cellulose that make up a portion of the fiber conponent of the feed when there is adequate rumen degradable protein available for digestion. When the manure is tall and cylidrical in shape, the fiber component is high and protein low. Rate of passage (and intake) goes down. Providing a protein supplement to the cows will increase forage digestability and intake. Cows eat more and get more good out of what they eat.

Hope this help! Let me know on the pasture status questions above and I'll provide some additional comments if needeed.

Kind regards,