Hello everybody! We were busy picking up branches and cleaning our yard this past week in observance of Earth Day, April 22nd.
During the last couple of weeks, Dad and I hauled over 500 tons of compost and manure over our fields. While Dad and I spread manure on my cornfield on Friday and Saturday, I was thinking of how manure was spread many years ago. I did a little research and would like to share it with you.
Before the 1880's, manure was loaded in a wagon. Ox and mules pulled the wagon through the field while the farmer threw the manure out with a pitchfork or shovel. The apron was invented during the 1880's. This mechanism brought manure to the rear of the spreader. Aprons use to be driven by the wheels of the spreader. These original aprons did not work well, and broke a lot. A farmer from Ohio solved the problem. When manure is pushed to the rear of a spreader, it expands. He changed the dimensions of the spreader box. The box of the manure spreader has to be wider in the rear than the front. This simple change eliminated most of the broken apron problems.
Aprons are still used on some spreaders today, but are driven by either tractor PTO (Power Take Off), or hydraulic.
The beater was invented about the same time as the apron. Beaters not only spread the manure, but also cut it up into finer pieces. Many spreaders have either one or two beaters, but some do have three. Beaters were made in many different shapes and sizes. Some even have chains instead of metal fins.
End gates were not used until hydraulic systems were common on farm tractors. End gates kept the manure in the box while traveling to the field. They were invented mainly for liquid manure. Today, end gates are in all manure spreaders that have box designs and unload from the rear.
Manure spreaders have been improved over the years. They have also increased in the size. Spreaders really got large in size after hydraulic loaders were invented in the 1940's. Before then, farmers had to load their spreader by hand. This kept the height of the box to the level that one could reach with a shovel or fork. One of our spreaders can hold about 7 tons of manure full. It would take a long time for me to load that by hand! And it would be tough to throw the material so high off the ground.
Dad can remember every manure spreader he owned during his years of farming. He purchased his first one from his dad, my grandfather. That was a three beater PTO New Idea box spreader. He has bought 7 spreaders during his 31 years of farming.
Farm Fact: Manure management is very important on all livestock farms. Farmers need a plan for their manure. Fields cannot have too much manure applied, or it can become very overloaded in nutrients. This can cause water and air pollution. Having a proper balance of livestock and crop acres and using care in applying the manure protect the environment.