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The Proof is in the Poop Pudding

By   /  August 25, 2014  /  4 Comments

Want to know how much your cattle are gaining per day without weighing them? Here’s how looking at their manure will give you a pretty good idea.

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Here is a lesson in bovine scatology. You can tell a lot about animal performance from observing the
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About the author

Jim Gerrish is the author of "Management-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of Grass Farming" and "Kick the Hay Habit: A Practical Guide to Year-around Grazing" and is a popular speaker at conferences around the world. His company, American GrazingLands Services LLC is dedicated to improving the health and sustainable productivity of grazing lands around the world through the use of Management-intensive Grazing practices. They work with small farms, large ranches, government agencies and NGO's to promote economically and environmentally sustainable grazing operations and believe healthy farms and ranches are the basis of healthy communities and healthy consumers. Visit their website to find out more about their consulting services and grazing management tools, including electric fencing, stock water systems, forage seed, and other management tools.


  1. Jim Gerrish says:

    Adding grain into the diet as is commonly done in dairy production substantially changes the digestion process and the manure output comparison between desirable manure from a grain-fed and pasture-fed animal are quite different. Supplementing with grain reduces fiber digestion in the rumen, hence the manure from a grain supplemented dairy cow is going contain a higher percentage of undigested fiber resulting in a stiffer, taller standing manure pile.

    Dairy cows that have been selected for very high milk production are much more sensitive to the protein:energy ratio than are beef cattle.Yes, the ration was designed to optimize protein:energy balance, but it comes at the cost of reduced forage digestion. With beef cattle on pasture, we rely on the existing protein and energy components and are hoping to maximize fiber digestion, thus higher performance results in manure with lower levels of undigested fiber passing through the nonsupplemented cow.

    The first photo I showed would probably be considered a 2 in the Hutjens system. This consistency of manure does not run as a #1 would.

  2. Kristin says:

    This is not what I have been taught. Here’s what I understand to be good quality manure:


    The top picture in Mr. Gerrish posted looks like a score of 1 on the Hay & Forage article.

    I know one is on beef & one on dairy but I would think we’d be looking for similar shapes & textures.

  3. Steve Washburn says:

    Don’t forget to look for dung beetles as an indicator of good biological actviity in the soil.

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