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View Manure as an Asset, Not a Liability

As fertilizer prices rise, manure values are going along for the ride, says Paul T. Kivlin, University of Wisconsin (UW) Extension nutrient management specialist, UW River Falls. Perceptions of manure are also continuing to evolve as values increase. “Once valued as a fertilizer, manure may be viewed more as a byproduct of livestock production. In truth, manure is not a liability, it is an asset,” Kivlin says. “Just in the last two years, we have seen a 150% increase in nitrogen prices, a 170% increase in phosphorus prices, and a 240% increase in potassium prices,” he continues. “At the same time, it has become very important for us to value manure appropriately and not just view it from a regulatory standpoint.”

Kivlin reminds producers that manure nutrients offer important benefits. Phosphorus, for example is needed for good plant growth. “Some folks are so afraid of phosphorus because of the regulatory issues that come with it,” he states. “We have to handle phosphorus correctly, but we need it for good crop production. Manure is a fantastic product when we look at providing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to our plants and it also offers sulfur and boron, for example, and is an abundant source of organic matter.”

Producers need to take a similar approach to utilizing manure nutrients as they would if they were buying commercial fertilizer, according to Kivlin. “Nutrient management planning consists of taking a look at four key management numbers,” he explains. “(Those numbers include) what your crops need, what your manure supply is, what your legume crop supply is and what, if any, additional fertilizer is needed.”

Producers should ask how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium can be obtained from the manure they have. There are two ways of obtaining that information. Book values are available for a number of animal species. The values are averages that have been compiled based on research and laboratory analyses. Laboratory analysis of the specific manure sample is the other method of determining value, according to Kivlin.

Whether book value of manure or actual laboratory analysis is used depends on the type of operation, manure storage method and animal species. When dairy barns are being cleaned and manure is being hauled every day for example, Kivlin advises producers to use book values. “About 50% of the nitrogen is in feces, and the other 50% of the nitrogen is in the urine, while most of the phosphorus is in the feces, and most of the potassium is in the urine. This can make it hard to get a representative sample,” he explains.

He tells most producers who have liquid manure handling systems or stacked manure systems to have samples analyzed in a laboratory. “With liquid systems, you can have a lot of variation in terms of agitation,” he explains. “It is often recommended that you take three samples, one at the beginning third, middle and end when emptying the pit.”

Kivlin offers these four manure marketing considerations:

  1. Agitate aggressively – good agitation helps produce a consistent product.
  2. Analyze the product – provide a laboratory analysis for your customer so he knows the nutrient value of that product.
  3. Apply accurately – this is especially true for dairies or other livestock producers who may be moving manure to a cash grain operation that might not have a manure spreader and may be using the livestock producer’s spreader. “It is important to calibrate the manure spreader,” Kivlin says. “A 20-ton/acre application rate may be equivalent to applying $222/acre in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium values, whereas, a 60-ton/acre application rate may be equivalent to $666/acre. The application rate is really key when you are figuring out what you can get out of this valuable resource.”
  4. Practice environmental awareness - know the setbacks and phosphorus restrictions.

“Remember, the value of manure to folks who aren’t used to manure usually shows up in how the crops do the following growing season after application,” Kivlin concludes.

Composting Beef Manure Reduces Antibiotic Levels

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pilot study found that composting beef cattle manure can reduce antibiotic concentrations in the manure by more than 99%. Osman Arikan, a visiting scientist from Istanbul Technical University, and ARS microbiologists Patricia Millner and Walter Mulbry, Beltsville, MD, evaluated varying levels of manure management, including plain manure piles and manure piles with straw added. They found adding straw to manure piles tends to result in higher temperatures that speed up the process of degrading both antibiotics and pathogens.

Previous scientific studies have shown between 20 to 75% of antibiotics administered to animals can be excreted via urine and feces. The amount of antibiotic excreted varies depending on the antibiotic and type of animal. Arikan, Millner and Mulbry researched the effectiveness of a series of minimal–management options for on-farm composting to reduce concentrations of oxytetracycline and chlorotetracycline.

When manure-only piles were incubated at ambient temperatures over a 28-day period, concentrations of oxytetracycline and chlorotetracycline decreased by 75% and 90% respectively. By comparison, manure piles that had been amended with straw tended to experience a 91% decrease in oxytetracycline and 99% reduction in chlorotetracycline concentrations over the 28-day incubation period. The researchers say although manure piles amended with straw attained higher temperatures and more rapid decreases in antibiotic concentrations, there is currently no compelling justification for producers to expend additional resources needed to achieve the more rapid rates of antibiotic removal. They also stress it is important to manage manure piles carefully and consistently to make sure all parts of the pile are treated in order to reduce pathogens. Learn more about the project online.

New Resource Calculates Swine Manure Value

A new University of Minnesota publication, The “Other Fertilizer” The Economic Value of Swine Finishing Manure, is designed to help pork producers calculate the value of manure as a fertilizer replacement. The publication features a spreadsheet tool for determining manure’s nutrient value. It also offers information on maximizing manure utilization, features data showing the economic response from using manure, and includes observations regarding the influence of dry matter on manure’s nutrient value.
Publication authors collected three years worth of data from Minnesota swine farms.

For ordering information, contact the Minnesota Pork Board office at 800-537-7675 or email [email protected]. Please include a mailing address and the title of the publication when making a request. The publication can be downloaded as a PDF from the Minnesota Pork Board web site.

Bioenergy Research Targets Manure

Livestock manure could someday provide a value-added bioenergy fuel for on-farm heating and power, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists. ARS researchers are studying how to use a technique called wet gasification to convert wet manure slurry into energy-rich gases while producing relatively clean water. The team developed a cost-benefit model of a wet gasification technology patented by the U.S. Department of Energy to calculate estimated returns. They concluded that liquid swine wastes can generate a net energy potential comparable to brown coal.

The ARS researchers are also investigating methods for producing a type of charcoal, or biochar, called “green coal” from manure. Green coal can be burned on-farm for energy or transported offsite to coal plants for fuel. It can also be added to the soil, a practice that would reduce greenhouse gases by permanently sequestering carbon in the soil in the form of the green coal.

More information is available about this research in the October 2008 issue of Agricultural Research magazine online.

Publications Help Prepare for Safe, Accurate Application

Iowa State University Extension offers several publications to help prepare for safe and successful manure application. Two publications offer tips on calibrating equipment. Calibrating Liquid Tank Manure Applicators - PM 1948 is available from the Extension online store. A second publication for solid manure spreaders entitled, Calibration and Uniformity of Solid Manure Spreaders - PM 1941 is also available online. Both publications can also be ordered from Iowa Extension offices.

Producers can use two additional publications as guides when reviewing emergency action plans in order to prepare for any accidental manure spills or leaks. The resources provide tips for reviewing the plan with family members and employees. The guides tell producers to make sure that everyone involved in the livestock operation knows where to find a copy of the plan, how to implement the plan, and how to report spills if needed. Learn more from Emergency Action Plans - PM 1859, available online. The Iowa Pork Producers Association’s Emergency Action Planning guide is available on the web.

Nutrient Management Initiative to Expand in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture recently announced that the Nutrient Management Initiative (NMI) program will be expanded to 49 Minnesota counties in 2009. The expansion includes the southern half of Minnesota including MN USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) areas: 4, 5, 6, & 7 and any cropland located within a designated vulnerable Source Water Protection Areas in Minnesota.

The NMI program provides a framework for farmers to evaluate their own nutrient management practices compared with nutrient rate guidance promoted by the USDA-NRCS. Results will assist the USDA-NRCS in assessing their nutrient management guidance on a regional scale.

Farmers receive $1,200 for providing data and completing the program requirements. Participants are required to work with a certified crop adviser. The certified crop adviser assists with site design, and validates cropping information and yield results. The farmer’s normal application rate and a rate promoted by the USDA-NRCS are each replicated three times allowing for comparisons of crop yield and economic outcomes. Nitrogen rates must maintain at least a 30-lb. rate difference between comparisons. Results from the program are presented to the farmer in an economic analysis report based on their actual nutrient costs and crop yields.

Funding for the program is through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and administered by the Minnesota USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Minnesota Department of Agriculture assists through promotion, data collection, and compilation of data for the program.

Participant’s identity is kept confidential. Cropping information, yield results, and economic analysis are for educational purposes. By evaluating data from multiple growers in south-central Minnesota under varying weather conditions, the impact of these demonstrations becomes more valuable and therefore, more effective. Farmers working with certified crop advisers will provide valuable data over a large geographical area to evaluate current NRCS nutrient guidance.

Farmers enrolling in the program must sign up through their county USDA-NRCS Office. Farmers must sign an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contract along with a signed Producer Agreement. The Producer Agreement includes an Anticipated Nutrient Application form that is reviewed to insure the site is established properly.

North Central Soil Fertility Conference Slated for Nov. 12-13

The 38th North Central Extension-Industry Soil Fertility Conference will be held in Des Moines, IA on November 12 and 13. The feature presentations at this conference include: World fertilizer supply/demand situation; Impact of biofuel crops on U.S. agriculture; Biomass removal: Effects on soil nutrients and productivity; Strategies for development and management of nutrient-use-efficient crops; Protocols/programs for conducting on-farm research/discovery; and Biochars and soil productivity. There will also be numerous state research reports and posters. Conference attendees will be able to interact with soil fertility specialists from numerous universities and industry. CCA credits will be available.

For more information visit

Oct. 17 Webcast Highlights Manure Application Benefits

Experts will take a look at beneficial impacts of manure application on soil and water quality during an Oct. 17 eXtension Webcast. The Webcast will address the impacts manure application can have on runoff and soil erosion, water-holding capacity of soils and the need for irrigation. Speakers will also discuss the liming effect some poultry manures can have, in addition to carbon mineralization and salt accumulation. An organic farm systems perspective will also be examined. Presenters include Mark Risse, University of Georgia, Ann Maria Fortuna, Craig Cogger and Andy Bary all from Washington State University.

The Webcast seminars are held on the third Friday of each month at 2:30 p.m. (eastern), 1:30 p.m. (central) Seminars are hosted by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center from Kansas State University, which is a part of the eXtension educational partnership. The center has a monthly newsletter, available via online subscriptions. All information, including archived monthly Webcasts, can be found at under the resource area "animal manure management."

USDA Forecasts Grain Stocks Up, Prices Down

USDA’s October Crop Production and World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates, released Friday morning, reported higher corn yield and production estimates, and slightly lower soybean yields but, due to a projected increase in harvested soybean acres, higher soybean production. Both of those estimates – plus, no doubt, some concern about the impact of current macroeconomic issues – resulted in significant reductions of USDA’s price forecasts for 2008-2009. See Table 1 for the key numbers from the report as well as pre-report estimates published by DowJones.

Corn supplies were increased due to an upward adjustment of 49 million bushels in beginning inventories (based on September’s Grain Stocks report), and an estimated yield of 154 bushels per acre, 1.7 bushels higher than the September estimate and 2.9 bushels per acre higher than last year.

Corn Harvest Far Off Pace
Anecdotal evidence indicates very good corn yields in areas which have begun harvested. But Monday’s Crop Progress report indicates that harvest, at just 14% of acres, is FAR behind both last year (39%) and the average of the past five years (30%). Further, the western Corn Belt that accounts for a huge portion of the crop, and saw the most difficult planting conditions, is farther behind than other areas.

The yields that I have heard came from Illinois and Indiana, and I know that the crops in Illinois could hardly have looked better at any time during this growing season – so I would expect excellent yields from those acres. USDA reported only 3% of Iowa acres harvested as of last Sunday, and my driving over the past week would confirm that. And the number of green leaves I saw in cornfields would also confirm USDA’s estimate that only 66% of Iowa corn acres were mature last Sunday. This harvest is going to take awhile.

USDA Cuts Ethanol Use
USDA also reduced projected ethanol usage and other food, seed and industrial usage, but raised feed usage by 150 million bushels. That increase makes sense in light of the September Hogs and Pigs Report. The HUGE 8-11% reductions of broiler egg sets seen in recent weeks will reduce feed needs some but USDA, in my opinion, still had it too low in September so the increase is, I think, a proper change. It may still not be enough but it is an improvement.

Corn Carryover Gets Boost
The net effect was to increase projected carryover by 136 million bushels to 1.154 million bushels. But that is still 29% lower than last year and makes the 2009 crop very, very critical. In spite of lower carryover, USDA’s price forecasts were reduced by $0.80/bushel to reflect lower futures prices. The weekly chart for corn futures and the daily chart for December futures appear in Figures 1 and 2, respectively. The weekly chart has now covered a gap at $4.19, but has left two gaps during this leg downward with the highest being at $6.08. That will serve as a technical objective after this market makes a bottom.

Huge Feed-Buying Opportunity Exists
The daily chart all show some signs of bottoming after this huge sell-off. I think the price decline has been driven by fear of a global demand decline and the liquidation of long positions by many funds and speculators. I also think this is a HUGE buying opportunity! Ethanol plants can still pay $5 and more for corn and OPEC announced yesterday that they were considering an oil output reduction aimed at stemming the decline in oil prices. How many readers ever thought they would get the chance to buy corn and soybean meal at a level that would allow production costs in the low $70s/cwt carcass weight through 2009? I doubt there are many provided they answer honestly! Don’t miss this chance to manage costs.

Broilers’ Decline is Pork’s Gain
Some help may be on the way from the broiler business. Figure 3 shows an updated version of my weekly broiler egg set chart and features the two largest year-over-year declines on record. The 11.5% decline for the week of Oct. 4 is far and away the biggest ever, and suggests much smaller chick placements in November and lower production as early as late December. Broiler companies cannot place a chick without setting an egg. That reduction of supply is critical for pork due to the close competitive relationship that has developed between the two meats over the past few years. For better or worse, we are an “Other White Meat.” This could be one of those better times.

Click to view graphs.

Steve R. Meyer, Ph.D.
Paragon Economics, Inc.
e-mail: [email protected]

COOL Creates Accountability

Pork producers must account for every load of hogs they sell under the mandatory country-of-origin (MCOOL) labeling regulations that became effective on Sept. 30.

“The COOL rule has been in the works for years,” reports Steve Larsen, director of pork safety for the National Pork Board. “It was in the 2002 Farm Bill and it’s finally time to implement it. It will not affect all producers, but it will affect most.”

COOL directly affects retailers and packers, but to comply, they need producer participation. “You don’t only have to sell market hogs to have a responsibility under COOL regulations,” continues Larsen. “If you sell weaned pigs for another producer to finish, you have a responsibility. You must provide your customers with a declaration of origin – also known as a producer affidavit – of those pigs. If you are the buyer, you must request the document because you will be asked for the information when it’s your time to sell the animals.”

Larsen says producers should check with suppliers regarding their responsibility under COOL. “My best advice to producers is: ask your customer, be it a packer, a locker or another producer, if you need any documentation to accompany your pigs as a result of COOL coming into effect.”

The Pork Checkoff has developed a Web page dedicated to COOL. The site provides producers with more details on COOL, including exceptions to the rule, sample affidavits from industry customers and answers to frequently asked questions. To access the Web site, click on the “For Producers” tab and navigate to the page labeled “COOL.” For more information, contact Steve Larsen, [email protected], 515-223-2754.