June 23rd 2014

The Value of Animal Manure: Helping Grow Your Bottom Line 

As the sizes of livestock operations grow, so does interest in viewing manure less as waste to be disposed of and more as a commercial fertilizer replacement and source of added revenue. Because manure is composed of essential nutrients similar to those found in commercial fertilizers, using manure as a substitute allows us to put a value on this byproduct. 

Nutrients Found in Manure

Manure is composed of nutrients, including nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which make it an excellent fertilizer. In addition to these elements, manure also contains essential micronutrients. The content of these nutrients and micronutrients found in manure fluctuates based on the source, moisture content, storage, and handling methods.

Nitrogen is the primary nutrient of concern for most crops. Manure’s nitrogen content varies depending on a number of factors, including the type of animal and feed ration. The manure with the highest nitrogen content is poultry manure, with hog, steer, sheep, dairy, and horse manure following it.

Moisture content is also important to consider. Nutrient concentration is different in fresh manure from that in air-dried manure. 

Manure as a Source of Organic Matter

Manure has become widely recognized as a practical source of organic nutrients, but it also supplies important organic matter to soil. This organic matter improves soil structure, increases soil’s ability to hold moisture, decreases erosion, improves aeration, and has a beneficial effect on microorganisms found in the soil.

Protecting Nutrients Found in Manure

When exposed to certain elements, nutrients and organic matter found in manure will begin to diminish. For example, when manure is exposed to rain, nitrates begin to leach out, phosphorous and potassium can be washed away, and organic matter begins to rot. In addition to weather elements, research shows that manure will lose about one-third of its fertilizer value in three months, half in six months, and even more as time goes on.

A few steps can be taken to reduce this nutrient and value loss:

·            Use sufficient bedding to absorb liquid waste.

·            Store manure in well-packed, straight-sided piles.

·            Store manure in a watertight structure with overhead protection, or let manure accumulate in stables until it can be spread directly on fields.

·            Add phosphate to manure piles to keep nitrogen from escaping.


The Value of Manure

Component Pricing

Component pricing is the most common method of valuing manure as a fertilizer, which is done by sampling and testing the manure to determine the nutrient content. Once tested, the results are analyzed to determine the value based on commercial fertilizer prices. It is important to note that the price of commercial fertilizers also fluctuates depending on material type, time of year applied, and method of application.

The Value of Manure - Bulk Commodity Pricing

Another way to calculate the price of manure is to price it as a bulk commodity. If living in an area that has an abundant supply and limited demand, the price will be decreased. On the contrary, if demand exceeds supply, the price will increase until it balances out with the demand.

Utilizing Manure Versus Commercial Fertilizer

Certain characteristics of manure may reduce its value relative to that of commercial fertilizers. For example, manure can be a less dependable source of nitrogen. Manure is also a less balanced fertilizer, meaning that it may meet crop needs for one nutrient, but provide too much or too little of another.

However, manure also has benefits over commercial fertilizer, including a slower release time and the organic material that improves soil quality.

MMP360TM Application Can Help You

MMP360TM application can assist you in calculating

·            the number of acres required for land application,

·            the amount of manure that needs to be applied to each acre based on your operation’s output, and

·            the RUSLE2 and P-Index for each field that manure is applied to.


Register today for free to run your personal analyses and complete MMP forms required by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.