Hog manure is a resource, not a waste product. To maximize value and to satisfy the public, you have to have a plan.

Do you have a “waste mentality” when it comes to hog manure? If so, you have to rethink your position.

Manure is an asset in many ways. By utilizing it properly, it will recondition and provide vital nutrients to the soil. If you raise crops, it can save you money by reducing or eliminating commercial fertilizer purchases. You may even be able to make some money by selling it to a local grain farmer.

According to Michael McNeill, agronomist with AG Advisory Ltd., in Algona, Iowa, commercial fertilizer costs an average of $45 to $60 per acre. Conversely, manure costs 0.6 cents at a rate of 5,000 gallons per acre. If you figure it costs $20 per acre to apply the manure, you’re saving about $25 to $40 an acre by using available manure instead of a commercial fertilizer.

Most important though, strict regulations are being imposed on manure storage and disposal. Complicating matters, each state as well as some counties and townships have different regulations.

To stay ahead of the game or at least keep pace, you’re going to have to set up a manure management plan for your operation. It doesn’t take a lot of time, and it’s well worth the cost. Besides, you probably already have most of the information you need to get started.

Setting up a manure management plan requires three preparation steps: identify, quantify and land apply, says Leonard Meador, manure management consultant from Animal Environment Specialists in Rossville, Ind. Here’s how he lays out a plan:

1. Identify the type of manure. That means the kind of storage facility you’re using and if there’s a treatment or additive program in place.

2. Quantify individual and total nutrient levels in the manure.

3. Apply the manure to land by determining the crop base, application methods and geography.

If you’re thinking about setting up a plan, it’s best to work with an expert in this area, such as a private consultant, extension agricultural engineer or Natural Resources and Conservation Service technician. Depending on who you work with, it can cost between $100 to $2,500 to set up a manure management plan.

Carrie Tengman, environmental resources manager for Farmland Industries, suggests gathering the following information to start the process: soil maps, aerial maps, crop yield records, plat maps, manure analysis, crop plans, conservation plans, construction records, design plans, size of your operation and storage capacity.

Much of this data will clue you into the soil’s ability to retain the manure nutrients. For instance, sandy soil has a lower capability of holding nutrients than clay-type soil.

“A manure management plan is a learning tool,” Tengman explains. “It educates you and will help you educate the community if you’re ever questioned. It shows you’re being proactive.”

Let’s take a look at Meador’s 10-step manure management plan. He has designed this to work in most states. Although there may be some slight differences, it’s similar to other plans from various sources.

Overview and summary of the operation

  • This includes identifying the owner of the property; a description of the property; type of operation, such as farrow-to-finish or finish only; size of operation and manure storage capacity.

General information

  • Amount of manure produced annually, including waste water.
  • Acreage required to accommodate the annual manure production.
  • Identify possible manure application site or sites.
  • Application equipment to be used.

Annual application planner

  • A work sheet outlining planned and actual steps including crop, total acres, yield goal, nitrogen needs and number of nitrogen credits available, total nitrogen to be applied to each field, total overall nitrogen to be applied, application rate (gallons per acre), and gallons of manure applied per field.

Manure test results

  • Copies of lab reports that show such things as the pH, total solids, total nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, sodium, zinc and other compounds.
  • Rate planning work sheets: This looks at a five-year average of the pounds of nutrients to be produced in the manure. You also need to show your proven yields by using the area’s average, crop insurance records or elevator weight tickets.

Application records

This involves application logs: where and when the manure was applied, by whom, the method, how much, and the soil moisture. You also need to know weather conditions during application. You need to record this data for each day that you apply manure.

  • Manure nutrient valuation report.
  • Annual application volume report.
  • Lease agreements for manure application sites. These site agreements must be recorded at your county courthouse. Each year that you make changes from your original plan, you must file an amendment before applying any manure.

Field maps

Plat maps of application field locations.

  • Individual field maps.
  • Soil survey maps.
  • Soil test and fertility report

Copies of soil-testing lab reports showing the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium available in the soil. These are the main components analyzed, but you may want to test for copper and zinc as well.

  • Crop fertility recommendations.
  • Field cropping records
  • Prior fertilization history.
  • Crop yield history.
  • Historical planting and harvesting dates.
  • Pest management history.

Manure spill recovery plans and reports

Forms for custom applicators.

  • Manure spill recovery protocols, such as an emergency plan for shutting off the pumping equipment, building a sandbag dike to divert spills from waterways and roadways; cleaning up the spill with a vacuum tank; using absorbent pads to stop leaks in the dike and building a larger dike if necessary.

    Then in planning for after the spill is contained, outline your cleanup measures for breaking down the dike, drying out sandbags, and repairing or discarding damaged equipment.

  • Manure spill event reports. Your report should include the spill reporter’s name; the date, time and location of the spill; pumping volume per minute; approximate amount of the spill; application rate and method; manure source; affected landowners; how the spill occurred; what measures were taken to clean up the spill; and recommendations to prevent future spills.

Manure storage maintenance and management protocols

Inspection and maintenance protocols for manure storage and containment facilities.

  • Best management practices for your fields to assure you will attain your crop yield goals.
  • Inspection and repair reports.

You may have these records in your head, but you need to write them down. “It’s not that you are doing anything wrong, but this will help you do a better job of managing your operation,” says Tengman.

“My focus is to move nutrients from the sow to the soil but do it in an economic and ecologically efficient manner,” Meador says about putting a plan together.

“Once you know what’s in the manure, you can measure it and get site specific based on the soil’s needs, McNeill adds. “When you do that, the environment wins. You won’t overapply manure.”

He points out that nutrients in manure are mostly organic, making them readily available to plants. “Manure has more micronutrients available that you can’t get in a commercial fertilizer,” he explains. “Therefore, you usually get a better response from the crops.”

Managing hog manure isn’t difficult, but you do need to have a plan in place. By properly managing and effectively applying manure, it becomes an asset rather than a liability.

Taking A Proactive Approach
Instead of waiting for the state to dictate what to do, the folks at Maschhoff Pork Farm decided to take a proactive approach to manure management. “We put together a plan last fall,” says Julie Maschhoff, who deals with environmental compliance for the family’s Carlysle, Ill., 7,600-sow, farrow-to-finish operation.

The Maschhoffs combined all of their soil maps and manure-spreading files. It took Julie two weeks to review more than five years of records.

“We know we are saving money by having a better handle on our nitrogen application,” she explains. “The manure management plan also helps us track our phosphorous more closely, which is a limiting factor today.”

Maschhoff estimates they save about $23 per acre by applying manure instead of purchasing commercial fertilizer. By using a dilute product from a lagoon, there’s more hauling involved which does increase labor. Lagoons allow the Maschhoffs to use the nutrients for irrigation, but the added volume can be a hassle.

Maschhoffs Pork Farm has 4,400 sows and 1,400 acres of crop land. Another 3,200 sows tied to the operation are located on contract farms throughout southern Illinois.

The Maschhoffs inject liquid manure every spring and fall on their own crop ground. They also irrigate 450 acres with water from some of their lagoons. They use a towed hose and have tanks with knives to incorporate the manure into the ground immediately.

A consultant analyzed their crops during the last five years. He helped the Maschhoffs track and predict anticipated nutrient uptake by future crops.

They’ve also had soil testing done for at least 15 years, so there aren’t any big surprises. “Soil testing is one of the best investments you can make,” she says. “It tells how to apply manure to maximize productivity per acre.”

Most of their buildings are remodeled from deep pits into rechargeable shallow pits. Buildings built this year and in the future will have a 9-foot deep pit.  Storing manure in pits is an offshoot of the management plan. She notes that the public seems to have an automatic perception of odors when there’s a lagoon. If they can’t see the stored manure, the perception may not be as bad.

Another plus of the plan is that it made the Maschhoffs more conscious of their overall operation maintenance. They do weekly, monthly and annual checks of all aspects of the facilities, lagoons and surrounding areas.

One challenge is to find more grain farmers to use pig manure on their fields. The family is looking into building a manure separator to produce dry-matter fertilizer. Since it’s practically odor-free, it may be more appealing to grain farmers than liquid manure.

Borrowing money is another reason Maschhoff cites for having a manure management plan in place. “Most lenders demand the information,” she notes. “It ensures that the property is marketable and shows them you’re being proactive in utilizing your resources efficiently.”

Key To Future Growth

Lynch Livestock of Waucoma, Iowa, is continuing to grow in many ways. Besides the 2,500-sow, farrow-to-finish hog operation, the corporation consists of 35 hog buying stations, a trucking division, feed mill, a truck and tire repair shop and cropland in the northeastern part of the state.

With growth of hog units comes lots of questions from neighbors about odors. To combat those concerns, Ken Hemesath, building site manager for Lynch Livestock, helped coordinate a manure management plan.

Saving money and reducing odors are two of the big reasons for the plan, which has been in effect since 1995. “We incorporate the manure into the ground,” he explains. “It reduces odors and the chance for runoff.”

As part of the plan, Hemesath says, Lynch Livestock has agreements with land owners for manure application on about 40 sites per year. Each site has up to 1,000 acres available. His goal is to spread sufficient amounts of manure on each site so that he only has to apply it on a site every other year.

“The agreement gives us the right to come on to the property before a crop is planted or just after harvest to apply manure,” Hemesath explains. If the field conditions are too wet, they won’t apply the manure until the fields dry out. With wet fields, you also run the risk of compacting the soil.

Hemesath arranges for a commercial applicator to haul and apply manure once a year, usually in the fall. According to the agreement, the manure has to be injected. Hemesath notes there are three reasons for this.

1. To be neighbor friendly.

2. To take measures to prevent any chance of runoff.

3. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources gives credit for about 95 percent of the nitrogen in the manure if you incorporate it into the soil.

The application rate is 4,700 to 4,900 gallons of manure per acre the first year. For subsequent years, the Iowa DNR gives credit for the organic and ammonia nitrogen, thus continually reducing total nitrogen needed.

Here’s an example. Hemesath says you can reduce your application rate by 1 pound of nitrogen per bushel of soybeans,  going from a soybean to corn rotation. This reduces the application rate by 50 pounds. Hemesath estimates he saves $35 per acre by using manure instead of commercial fertilizer, based on nitrogen alone.

Also in accordance with the application agreement, manure cannot be injected within 300 feet of a residence.

“We’ve always tried to do things a little better, but because of the spotlight the pork industry is in, we have to do things better,” he concludes.

Tracking Your Manure Application

This worksheet is just an example to how to keep track of your manure application information. Just fill in the totals from each field and you’ll be able to see where you need to make adjustments from year to year. This should be a mandatory part of your manure management plan.

Site ID Crop Acres Yield Goal (Busels per acre) N Needs (Acre) N Credits Pounds Total N to be applied per field (pounds) Total N to be applied per field (pounds) Manure rate (gallons per acre) Manure amount per field (gallons)
10 Corn 75.3 140.2 168.24 0 168.24 12,668 4,775 359,593
20 Corn 75.3 140.2 168.24 0 168.24 12,668 4,775 359,593
30 Beans 37 45.7 173.66 0 173.66 6.425 4,929 182,385
4-A Corn 20 140.2 168.24 0 168.24 3,365 4,775 95,510

Source: Leonard Meador, Animal Environment Specialists, Rossville, Ind.