Records, not herd size, define the cost of developing a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.
The pork industry has a history of being pro-active with environmental issues. This includes having a voice in helping create the federal Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation regulations.

While these rules require CAFOs to develop and implement a nutrient management plan, one way to fulfill this requirement is with a CNMP. Plus, you will need a CNMP to apply for federal financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

To help you with the process, the National Pork Board established a checkoff-funded pilot project to provide a curriculum for planning and developing a CNMP.

Forty-four pork producers from seven states participated in the program. NPB contracted with Environmental Management Solutions who used retired Natural Resource and Conservation Service employees as developers since they already had a background in creating conservation plans.

One goal of the pilot project was to get a handle on the costs to develop a CNMP. However, there’s no easy answer. Several factors determine the actual cost, says Earl Dotson, EMS president/chief executive officer, who contracted with NPB to coordinate the program. Still, operation size didn’t play a big role, but several other factors did:

1. Type of operation. A farrow-to-finish unit will likely be more expensive than others because of the manure-storage capacity required.

2. Number of acres you spread manure on.

3. Number of fields you spread manure on.

4. Type of crop rotation.

5. Number of head.

6. Number of buildings.

7. Manure storage type.

8. Do you have an up-to-date conservation plan?

9. Do you have current soil data, stored electronically to use with different software programs.

Those variables are what factor into the costs of consulting with a planner, professional engineer and agronomist, along with costs for soil and manure tests.

Based upon his professional experience, manure management specialist Leonard Meador, Rossville, Ind., outlines the fees you can expect to pay for these services:

  • Professional engineer: $75 to $110 per hour.
  • Crop consultant: $45 to $75 per hour.
  • Coordinator: $30 to $50 per hour.
  • Manure testing: $20 to $80 per sample.
  • Soil testing: $14 to $35 per sample.

The pilot program illustrates the variability in pork operations. Of the 42 producers involved, the least number of hours required to create a CNMP was 44 hours, while the most was 282 hours.

According to Carrie Tengman, NPB environmental services’ director, the operation with the least amount of hours only planted one crop, had excellent records, and the producer had an up-to-date NRCS conservation plan.

In contrast, the operation logging the longest hours used more than 1000 acres to spread manure; had a complex crop rotation; had only fair records – they weren’t as up-to-date as they could have been, particularly in terms of soil and manure analysis.

Falling in the middle with 126 hours was producer John Korslund, Eagle Grove, Iowa. His operation includes a 700-sow unit and gilt developer on one site, along with two, 1,200-head finishers on two separate sites. He has two other finisher sites with a total capacity of 1,000 head. He utilizes about 550 acres for his manure application.

The Iowa Pork Producers Association contacted Korslund to participate in the pilot project. Korslund says the invitation was appealing because there was no cost involved for participants, and he needed to have a manure management plan in place to comply with Iowa and federal laws.

“I was interested in finding out what holes I had in my operation,” he says. “It was an opportunity to be ahead of the curve.”

For Korslund, the process wasn’t too difficult since he already had a lot of the records in place. He had already paid for soil tests, and he has a custom applicator do manure sampling.

Overall, he estimates the CNMP took 15 hours of his time, including meetings and walk-throughs with the planners. However, the planning team creating the CNMP used the other 111 hours.

Along with minor modifications, the team came up with four significant recommendations for Korslund:

1. Put phytase into the hog rations to reduce phosphorus excretions. This process improves the manure’s nutrient balance, which is better for land manure application.

2. Formalize an Emergency Action Plan.

3. Put a cover on the mortality compost pile.

4. Use the primary and secondary lagoons differently. For instance, it was suggested to use an irrigation gun or a pivot to cut costs when spreading liquid manure from the secondary lagoon because it’s so diluted.

This step would let Korslund spread more gallons in the spring and fall instead of hauling it in tanks, which is more expensive.            

“If I implement these recommendations, I should earn a net return from the reduced hauling costs and by using phytase. These things will help me be more efficient with my manure land application,” he adds. “It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money if you’re intelligent about implementing the recommendations.”

Overall, Tengman and Dotson contend the pilot program provides the industry with valuable information on CNMPs. Let’s take a look at what the pilot program has uncovered:

  • Most producers don’t understand nor are they prepared to create a CNMP.
  • Producers need additional education and information on CNMP development.
  • They don’t understand what a CNMP is or what it’s supposed to accomplish.
  • Producers don’t think there’s much difference between a CNMP and a nutrient-management plan.
  • Instead of designing a plan specific to the producer, some consultants want to develop a generic plan and give it to a producer.
  • There’s added value for the producer to have his or her own consultants available to provide information during the CNMP development.
  • There are huge variations in CNMP expectations from both producers and consultants.
  • Consultants have little knowledge of software or expertise required to develop a CNMP. NPB officials recommend that your consultants use one of two manure-management planning software programs:
  • Purdue Manure Management Planner, found at
  • No one has given much thought to the post-development stage of a CNMP. Specially, how to implement, document and verify the process.

Tengman says NPB plans to work on a follow-up program for those producers with CNMPs.

The pilot projects also showed areas where producers need to make improvements. These include:

  • Better documentation of all production-related records.
  • Draw up applicable plans – such as those for operation and maintenance; emergency action; and animal mortality management.
  • Improve lagoon maintenance, fencing and warning signs.     
  • Producers need to learn to properly calibrate their equipment. Plus, Dotson believes equipment dealers should make manure applicators easier to calibrate.

In addition, producers should install and properly maintain safety shut-off valves and flow meters.

  • Institute a water-quality testing program for the following: surface water entering and leaving the farm; well-water; and visually monitor tile-drained field areas.
  • Test soil for the nutrients applied to the fields, and document yields for the crop produced. Many producers don’t account for the commercial fertilizer applied to fields, which results in over-application of nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium.
  • Test manure; have complete records for each containment; and maintain pumping records.
  • Implement a nutrient-management plan.

Remember, the costs of a CNMP will vary for every producer. It’s not the herd size that matters, it’s your preparation that counts.

After going through the CNMP process, Korslund offers this advice to other producers. “Don’t duck your head in the sand. Get your soil and manure analysis done. You have to deal with whatever situation you’re in, and you have to do it right.” 

Laying the Groundwork
The preparation process is the most time-consuming part of the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Program process. The more information you have in hand, the quicker and cheaper the process will be.

National Pork Board officials recommend having these items available for your first farm visit with the CNMP team:

  • Conservation plan and supporting plan maps for all land involved in manure application.
  • Soil test results.
  • Animal type, number and average weight involved.
  • Cropping and yield histories.
  • Crop rotation.
  • Type and quantity of bedding used.
  • Amount of wastewater produced and stored.
  • Manure analysis for each storage containment.
  • Water quality tests involving these systems:
  • Monitoring
  • Drinking
  • Irrigation
  • Manure application history.
  • Emergency response plan.
  • Animal mortality disposal plan.
  • Safety plan.
  • Operation and maintenance plan.
  • Nutrient-management plan.
  • Form A from the On-Farm Assessment and Environment Review program.

In addition, you’ll need the following items from your case file at the local Natural Resources and Conservation Service:

  • Conservation plan and supporting plan maps for land used in the manure application process.
  • Soil-loss calculations.
  • Phosphorus assessment results.
  • Engineering design drawings and “as built” documentation for buildings and manure storage facilities.
  • Soil maps.
  • Nitrogen Leaching Index – soil driven.

For more information about the CNMP curriculum or CNMPs in general, contact Carrie Tengman, with NPB, at (515) 223-2600 or e-mail her at