Applying Manure with A Drag Line System

Leon Ressler, PennState Extension

Drag line manure application is attracting farmers attention in Pennsylvania. Numerous advantages can be found when compared to hauling manure in tankers.

Drag line combined with manure incorporation toolbar. Photo: Leon Ressler

Applying manure with a drag line system is getting a lot of interest from farmers in Pennsylvania these days. In response to the demand, a number of custom manure haulers have invested in this equipment making this practice available in many areas. With the cool wet weather delaying field work this spring and creating wetter than desired soil conditions, this may be a good season to try drag line manure application.

One of the major benefits of drag line use is the removal of a heavy manure tanker from the system. While many tankers have floatation tires, the weight of that equipment definitely is a compaction risk. In many seasons, periods of wet weather forces application at times when soil conditions are not ideal therefore increasing the risk of compaction. Using a drag line for manure application reduces that risk.



Custom operators pump manure up to three miles from the manure storage. Photo: Leon Ressler

Efficiency of application is another advantage to the drag line system. Many operators have enough hose to pump manure as far as 3 miles from the manure storage. A large pump at the storage is usually controlled by the operator in the application rig. Being able to pump manure over that distance enables the application unit to keep applying for long periods of time. This eliminates all the time in running a long distance back to the storage to refill the tank after each load. So, the amount of manure that can be applied in a short weather window is increased.

An additional advantage of not running back to the storage after each load is road safety. This is especially important in the more congested traffic areas which includes much of Pennsylvania’s agricultural areas. This also eliminates the time lost in slow traffic congestion.

Typically, there are two kinds of application units used with a drag line. One option is a tool bar with multiple splatter plates. This allows for typical surface application.

Surface application of manure on a rye cover crop using a drag line system. Photo; Leon Ressler



Today there is a growing interest in manure incorporation as well. Many years of surface application can cause a build-up of very high phosphorus levels in the top inch or two of soil. This can lead to increased runoff of manure in surface waters. Today’s incorporation equipment enables injection of manure a few inches below the surface with very minimal soil disturbance. This captures most of the conservation benefits of no-till while reducing the environmental concerns caused by the build-up of phosphorus at the soil surface. The drag line system can easily be combined with an injection unit delivering the benefits of both systems to the farmer.


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