It’s all about quality, not quantity, when you’re marketing hog manure to crop producers.

“I encourage producers to understand what the buyer wants,” says Ray Massey, assistant professor, University of Missouri. “Many times pork producers assume that since you have a load of manure containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, that anyone will want it.”

The reality is that a crop producer can get those nutrients from other sources, especially commercial fertilizers. The key is to show potential buyers the value of what you have to offer. For example, manure’s organic materials are something they can’t get from commercial fertilizer. Also, nitrogen in manure has an organic component that will release slowly over time. This will make the nitrogen available later in the crop year when it’s still needed. 

Manure’s strong points are its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. You have to point this out to crop producers. Other benefits, such as micronutrients and organic matter may or may not be important to a potential buyer. These are case-by-case issues. 

The best way to prove manure’s nutrient content is to show a potential buyer a detailed analysis conducted by a certified laboratory. (See sidebar for a link to a list of such labs.) It’s good to have data for five years or more to prove the consistency of the manure product.                   

Once you have the analysis, you can determine the manure’s value. But is your hog manure worth even the cheapest ammonia nitrogen? Massey suggests that you start with the amount it would cost a crop producer to fertilize his land with commercial products. If he buys ammonia nitrogen or urea, determine the maximum price he will pay. Most likely, you will have to negotiate down from there because you have to take into account soil compaction, weed seeds and volatilization with manure application, notes Massey.

“The manure’s value is the average fertility cost to grow an acre of whatever crop you’re putting it on,” he adds. “For example, the value is higher for an acre of corn than an acre of soybeans because corn has a nitrogen need and soybeans don’t need it.” (For more information on valuing manure, see “Spreading the Wealth” in the September 2006 issue of Pork.)

Keep in mind, one drawback of applying manure is that it’s more time-consuming than using commercial fertilizer. It requires actually about twice as much time. This means you’ll have to work closely with the crop producer to determine the best application time on their land. (See sidebar for tips on being a responsible seller.)

Consider a variety of crop options. For instance, Massey says that you may benefit by selling manure to a wheat producer versus a corn producer, if that’s an option in your area. It would allow you to apply manure during a dry period in August before the producer plants wheat in October. Plus, the wheat crop will be able to utilize all of the manure’s available nitrogen.

Conversely, manure is typically applied to corn ground in late fall to early winter (November and December). In this case, Massey explains, you will lose some of the nitrogen because it will volatilize over time and it won’t all be available to spring-planted crops. You may have put down 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre, but may only have 100 pounds available. Therefore, the crop producer may still need to apply starter nitrogen to the spring crops.

An important tactic to remember is to price manure by the acre, not by the gallon. You have to look at it from the buyer’s standpoint. He’s more interested in the nutrient availability to the crops, not helping you dispose of 6,000 gallons of hog manure.

Because it’s viewed as a fertilizer substitute, pricing manure in dollars per acre puts it in a unit that can be compared to other fertilizers. “Assuming that all of the crop’s fertilizer needs will be met, the value per acre will be constant between different manure types, only the application rates will differ,” notes Massey.

The bottom line when you market manure, it comes down to quality. You have to prove to a crop producer that your product is better for his crops than the commercial product he can buy from a local dealer.            


MARKETING:

Take Pride in the Process

As you work to sell your hog manure, there are some steps you need to take to illustrate to the crop producer that he made a wise decision. Ray Massey, associate professor, University of Missouri, provides this advice.

  • Be sure that there is no manure spillage as you travel down the road. If there is, clean it up quickly and thoroughly.
  • Apply the manure when you are able to minimize the amount of soil compaction to the field.
  • Minimize the time required to apply manure by using multiple applicators or piping systems, if possible.
  • Minimize odor by injecting manure into the soil. This also conserves nitrogen, which increases the manure’s value. Injection may increase the time required to apply manure, and it may disrupt no-till systems. However, there are injection shanks designed for use in no-till systems that only minimally disturb the soil surface.
  • Foreign matter causes more of a problem with dry manures, but ensure that semen pipettes and needles never get thrown into the pit. Take precautions to keep all foreign material out of the manure storage. Not only is it smart, but it will make it easier to convince potential crop producers to accept your hog manure as a quality product.

RESOURCES:

Service Providers

f you’re planning to sell your hog manure to a crop producer, you’ll need to have the manure analyzed. Here are two resources that provide lists of soil- and manure-testing laboratories from across the country.

You can access the lists at http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/immag/splabssma.html and at http://outreach.missouri.edu/mommag/labs.html.

Manure Resources

The University of Nebraska has a few resources that can help you determine the value of manure. The first is NebGuide G1519, “Calculating the Value of Manure for Crop Production.” You can access this four-page guide at http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/epublic/live/g1519/build/g1519.pdf.

There’s also a Manure Value Calculator at http://cnmp.unl.edu/cnmpsoftware2.html, along with links to other manure-management tools.

Another resource to check out is the new national Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center Web site. The center hosts monthly live Web cast seminars (viewable from your computer) on animal manure-management issues. Go to http://lpe.unl.edu to check out the seminar line up, look up other resources and to sign up for a monthly newsletter.