Putting a value on hog manure is no easy task. The tough part for you as a pork producer is to think like a crop producer, who values manure by the acre, instead of by the gallon or ton. Then you can start putting numbers to it.

Contracts between pork and crop producers for manure nutrients are becoming more common, especially with new national environmental regulations on the horizon (see sidebar). Some crop producers land-apply the manure themselves, while others hire a custom applicator. The agreements come in various forms of formality as well – from a handshake to a written contract.

Either way, every agreement is unique, explains Leonard Meador, environmental management specialist, Rossville, Ind. Contracts are often set up under the following criteria: by the acre, phosphorus only, cost of application rebate, trade manure for grain or by the amount of dry compost product.

He explains, “If a pork producer doesn’t have enough land to apply the hog manure from his operation, he may work with a grain producer. Or if he has neighbors that grow grains that he doesn’t, he may be able to sell the manure at its nutrient value.”

That brings us back to the value equation. Let’s take a look at some producer examples to help you determine hog manure’s nutrient value.

In rare cases, some pork producers are fortunate enough to have the land base to utilize their operation’s hog manure. Take John Kellogg, Yorkville, Ill., who has 600 acres of corn and soybeans on which to spread the manure from his 1,400-sow operation.

Kellogg acknowledges that there are some differences in the nutrient content of the manure from his gestation, nursery and finishing buildings. Meador says a common scenario is:

  • Nitrogen: 50 percent in liquid, 50 percent in solids
  • Phosphorus: 5 percent in liquid, 95 percent in solids
  • Potassium: 85 percent in liquid, 15 percent in solids

Keep in mind, these figures are just estimates. Various management factors affect the final result.

To make sure he was applying the proper amount of nutrients, Kellogg worked with a county Extension agent to develop a manure management plan. He started by collecting manure samples from each of his deep pits during the agitation process.

After receiving the test results and estimating potential crop yields, Kellogg determined that 3,000 gallons of manure per acre per year would meet all of his crops’ nutrient needs, except for nitrogen. Normal procedure is to apply 6,000 gallons per acre every other year.

Previously, Kellogg would apply 150 to 175 pounds of anhydrous ammonia per acre to supplement the crops’ nitrogen needs. Now that he uses hog manure to provide crop nutrients, he has cut nitrogen applications to 100 pounds per acre. He uses the equation of one pound of nitrogen per acre per bushel. Every 6,000 gallons of hog manure provides the crops with 75 pounds of nitrogen, thus reducing his need for purchasing a commercial product.

Kellogg’s preference is to land-apply manure in the fall. However, storage capacity dictates pits must be emptied twice a year. Spring application is on frozen ground, if possible, to reduce compaction.

“We’ve been believers in the value of manure, and concerned about the environment for many years,” adds Kellogg. “We feel comfortable that we have a good plan at this farm and it’s the best way to use manure’s nutrients.”

Other producers need to find outside parties that are interested in the manure. Illini Swine, for example, works with two local crop producers, Paul Dreska and Ron Klock. This Kingston, Ill., pork operation agrees to pump the manure to a tanker, then it’s the responsibility of each crop producer to haul and land-apply the manure or hire a custom applicator.

Klock and Dreska both believe they’re benefiting from the arrangement. Klock has worked with Illini Swine for five years, while Dreska began about a year ago.

“We provide the crop producer with analysis for N, P and K, then the producer places a value on the manure based on his land and crop needs,” says Mike Woltmann, production coordinator for Illini Swine. The company’s agreements with both crop producers provides Illini Swine with the land needed to apply the manure, plus they save money by not having to pay labor and equipment costs.

Klock has used a two-year rotation of corn and soybeans, but plans to try a three-year rotation of corn/ corn/soybeans beginning this spring. Since using manure nutrients instead of strictly commercial fertilizers, he says most crop yields have improved on his 1,000-plus acre operation.

There’s even a difference in the crop. “If you have two fields of corn side by side, you see a richer, darker color on the corn grown in the field using hog manure because it can hold the nitrogen longer,” says Klock.

He stresses that it’s important for the pork producer and the crop producer to work with professionals to have proper soil and manure tests to ensure the right amount of nutrients are land-applied.

In the end, he likes it because: “It locks in and reduces costs because I’m fertilizing for more than one year’s rotation.”

Dreska also is pleased with his crop performance, but notes that he is using a combination of hog manure and fertilizer because he can’t get enough manure for his 950 acres of corn and soybeans.

“The first year I used hog manure I added some nitrogen because the experts told me that I was going to need more nitrogen,” explains Dreska. That’s because not all of the hog manure nutrients are available to the crops during the first year. It usually takes a three-year period to get the full value of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. That’s why it’s important to determine the manure’s nutrient content every time it’s applied.

“The value of manure is not the sum of its nutrient value,” says Ray Massey, crop economist, University of Missouri.

Dreska does supplement the hog manure with commercial nitrogen on his corn crop, but not on the soybeans because he feels there will be enough leftover.

He soil tests every four years. He also checks each building’s manure going onto the field. He knows that manure from buildings with wet/dry feeders will provide 15 more units of nitrogen, 11 more units of phosphorus and 11 more units of potasium per 1,000 gallons of manure, than manure from buildings with standard feeders.

“I multiply those values with what commercial fertilizer costs per unit to come up with a manure nutrient value,” says Dreska.

Then he determines the amount by his yield goals and crop needs. In 2000, for manure from buildings with standard feeders, nitrogen cost $12.20 per 1,000 gallons, phosphorus cost $6.70 and potassium cost $2.93. Dreska notes that prices in 2001 were lower, but he doesn’t have final figures yet. “I don’t want manure nutrients to cost more than commercial fertilizer,” he adds.

It’s a win/win situation for everyone, says Klock and Dreska, including their commercial applicator, John Stewart, owner of Stewart’s Spreading, Sheridan, Ill.

Stewart says the crop producers he works with pay between $30 to $70 per acre for the hog manure to be hauled and land-applied. The cost depends on the number of acres and hauling distance.

The rate also depends on the type of feeders used in the pork facility. For manure taken from a building using wet/dry feeders, a typical rate is 4,000 gallons per acre. For a building using standard feeders and nipple waterers, the rate is 6,000 gallons per acre because of the additional water.

Illini Swine uses both wet/dry and standard feeders in their buildings. “The manure in its buildings with the wet/dry feeders is almost 1.5 times more concentrated in nutrient density because there’s not as much water added to the pits,” says Woltmann.

Stewart uses four flotation trucks that can haul 5,000 gallons each. He broadcasts all of the manure on top of the field, leaving it to the crop producer to incorporate it into the soil. He hauls most of the manure in the fall after harvest, but is starting to do more winter hauling so that crop producers can limit soil compaction problems.

Stewart has heard from his clients that using hog manure instead of commercial fertilizers (mostly nitrogen) has increased yields by as much as 40 bushels per acre.

“John (Stewart) offers a professional service the same as a commercial fertilizer dealer,” notes Klock. That professionalism is important. Klock also works with an agronomist to know how much manure to apply on each field.

In addition to the crop needs and costs, these crop producers like using hog manure because of its tilth-building capacity. Hog manure adds structure to the soil that increases its water-holding capacity.

“It’s extremely difficult to put a dollar value on the organic nutrients in soil,” says Jerry Hatfield, laboratory director, National Soil Tilth Lab, Ames, Iowa. “Any time you add organic carbon back into the soil, you’re improving the entire system.”

No question, hog manure does offer value to crops. The big question is to determine what it’s worth and to whom. "Manure nutrients can boost crop production,” says Massey. “If both pork and crop producers look at manure as a viable alternative to commercial fertilizer, there’s the potential to reap a lot of value from it.”

Greg Vincent writes for Dealer&Applicator magazine

CNMPs Change Business as Usual
Now and in the future, fertilizer companies and livestock recipients are going to have to work together closely, especially with the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Confined Animal Feeding Operation Regulations on the horizon, says Leonard Meador, environmental management consultant, Rossville, Ind.

As part of those regulations, pork producers will have to submit a Certified Nutrient Management Plan. This means that all nutrients must be fully accounted for, whether they come from manure, fertilizer or a combination of both. Meador says that an acreage’s prior crop, livestock manure addition, commercial fertilizer addition and resident nutrients in the soil must all be considered to determine the next crop’s total nutrient needs. It will be to your benefit to get a handle on all four of those factors.

The majority of CNMP’s will be phosphorus-based, which will require more land than nitrogen-based plans. This will be site specific, depending on the soil and manure tests, but Meador estimates that the phosphorus base will require between 10 percent to 50 percent more land than now used.

As for records, CNMP’s will require that you know what the nutrients are, where they were applied, the amount applied and the crop uptake. This will force you to keep better records of crop yields whether it involves your crop or someone else’s.

One of the big questions surrounding CNMP’s is who will be certified to write the plans. The Natural Resources and Conservation Service is working on establishing training programs to certify individuals to write these plans. It’s still an unknown as to who will be eligible for certification and whether it will take more than one person to write, review and certify a producer’s CNMP. State NRCS officials have national guidelines to use for setting up programs, but each state will in fact have its own program.

Resources

  • Leonard Meador, environmental management consultant,(765) 379-9021; e-mail, meadorle@starband.net.
  • Ray Massey, crop economist, University of Missouri Commercial Agriculture Program, (573) 884-7788; e-mail, masseyr@missouri.edu.
  • Jerry Hatfield, laboratory director, National Soil Tilth Laboratory, (515) 294-5723; e-mail, hatfield@nstl.gov.
  • Mike Woltmann, production coordinator, Illini Swine, (815) 784-6521; e-mail, mikewolt@tbcnet.com.
  • John Stewart, owner, Stewart Spreading, (815) 695-1460.
  • Ron Klock, crop producer, (815) 522-7737; e-mail, klocktrio@tbcnet.com.
  • Paul Dreska, crop producer, (815) 522-6247.
  • John Kellogg, pork/crop producer, (630) 554-3606; e-mail, kelloggfarms@msn.com.
  • State Extension offices.
  • State Natural Resource and Conservation Service offices.
  • State pork producer association.
  • State corn growers association.
  • State soybean growers association.