A chart from Progressive Dairyman outlines how manure consistency changes throughout stages of life and lactation:
The 5 levels of manure:
- Liquid/diarrhea. Comes out sounding like she’s peeing. Often cow will act irritated or kick at her stomach.
- Runny but has a little form. This loose manure may normally occur when a cow goes out on spring pasture or after calving.
- The ideal score – forms a soft cow pie that is about 2 inches tall, has rings with a dip in the middle. Makes a plop sound.
- Thicker than stage 3, stacks taller. May be normal for dry cows and heifers/steers. Can be caused by insufficient water or low-quality diet.
- Constipation. This manure forms balls like a sheep or goat rather than a soft patty. Low-quality (straw) diet, dehydration, or blockage can cause this type of manure.
Possible changes to make to each level of manure:
- Attempt to feed cow stemmy or fibrous feeds such as oat hay, barley hay, straw, etc. Check for other symptoms of disease (Johnes, etc.). Consult with vet if cow is very sick. Discuss with vet about temporary use of banamine to slow digestive system and reduce pain.
- Monitor cow. If on fresh pasture, feed cow hay each morning before putting on pasture – or – limit time on pasture until rumen has adapted. This manure is ok for a fresh cow for a day or two after calving (hormones, calving process, etc. can temporarily cause loose manure), but watch close to make sure it does not continue.
- Keep up the good work!
- Check water sources to make sure water is clean and fresh and easily accessible. If a calf, consider an extra feeding or adjusting feeding to provide adequate moisture intake in diet. For dry cows, monitor and feed soaked beet pulp for a week or two before calving to help loosen stool. Firm manure is potentially dangerous for a transition cow – she needs to have her digestive system running properly once she starts making milk.
- Observe cow for potential disease. Check water sources. Adjust diet by adding in some low-fiber foods (make changes slowly!).