1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Manures - Farmyard Dung

(Part 40)


Farmyard Dung

In our remarks on tillage operations and on the succession of crops, we have seen how much the practice of the husbandman is modified by the kinds and amount of manures at his disposal. In describing the crops of the farm and their culture, frequent reference will also necessarily be made to the use of various fertilizing substances; and we shall, therefore, before proceeding to that department of our subject, enumerate and briefly remark on the most important of them. In such an enumeration, the first notice is unquestionably due to farm-yard dung.

This consists of the excrements of cattle, their litter, and the refuse of their fodder; usually first trodden down in successive layers, and partially fermented in the farm-yard and then removed to some convenient place and thrown together in heaps, where, by further fermentation and decay, it is reduced to a dark-colored, moist, homogeneous mass, in which state it is usually applied to the land. It is thus the residuum of the whole products of the farm, minus the exported grain, and that portion of the other crops which, being first assimilated in the bodies of the live stock, is sold in the form of butcher-meat, dairy-produce, or wool. In applying farm-yard dung to land there is thus a retuning to it of what it has previously produced, less the above exceptions, and such waste as may occur during the process of decay by gaseous exhalation or liquid drainage. It is obvious that the value of such dung as a fertilizing agent must depend much on two circumstances, viz., 1st, The nature of the food consumed by the animals whose excrements are mingled with it; and 2d, The success with which waste from drainage and exhalation has been prevented. When cattle used during the winter months to be barely kept alive on straw and water, and were confined in an open yard, which, in addition to its own share of rain, received also the drip from the eaves of the surrounding buildings --- which, after percolating the litter, flowed unchecked into the neighboring ditch – it is needless tro9 say that the dung resulting from such a process was all but worthless. It is much to be regretted that, from the faulty construction of farm-buildings, farmers still find it impossible to guard their dung-stores from injury and waste. When cattle-yards are slightly hollowed towards their centre, and the surrounding eaves are spouted, the litter absorbs the whole of the urine and the rain which falls upon the uncovered area, while the treading of the cattle goes far to prevent undue fermentation and escape of gases. The same remark applies still more strongly to covered boxes, the dung resulting from this mode of housing fattening cattle being of the best quality. In the case of byres and stables it is certainly desirable to have a covered depot, into which the litter and solid excrements may be wheeled daily, and to have the urine conveyed by proper drains and distributed over this mass of solid matter. As there is usually more liquid than these can at once absorb, it is well to have a tank at the lowest p[art of this depot in which to store the surplus, that it may from time to time be returned upon the adjoining mass, or conveyed to heaps in the fields. Advantage is usually taken of frosty weather to cart out to the fallow division of the farm the dung that has accumulated in yards and boxes. It is formed into large square heaps about four feet deep, in situations most convenient for ready application to the land when the season for sowing the crops arrives. It is desirable to prepare a site for these heaps by caring together and spreading down a quality of earth (or peat, when that can be got), for the purpose of absorbing the ooze from the fermenting mass laid upon it. As the beginning of winter, the loaded dung-carts are driven on to the heaps, and their content are spread evenly over it. Layer above layer, both to equalize the quality of dung-heap as a whole, and, by the compression thus applied, to prevent a too rapid fermentation. When the heap has attained the requisite bulk, a covering of earth or peat is spread over it to keep it moist and to prevent the escape of it ammonia. When this home-made manure was the only kind stately at the command of the farmer, it was considered necessary, and we believe truly, to have it in an advanced state of decomposition before applying it to a turnip crop. There was a waste of manure by this practice, but unless it was in a state of supply instant nourishment and stimulus to the young turnip plants, the crop was certain to be deficient one. The application, along with farm-yard dung, of guano, super-phosphate of lime, and other portable manures, quite does away with the necessity of having the former much rotted. These concentrated manures stimulate the growth of the plants during their early stage, and put them in the best condition for making gradual use of the slowly dissolving dung. Excessive decomposition of farm-yard is now therefore avoided, and pains rather bestowed to improve its quality by protecting it from the weather, and retaining its ammonia and natural juice. The cheapest, and perhaps also the best, way of doing this is to cart the dung direct from the cattle-yard to the fields, and at once to plough it in.

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