Manure Manager

In the news: January February 2009

January 30, 2009  by Manure Manager

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska
Cooperative Extension Association recently presented annual awards to a
number of Extension faculty and staff.

University of Nebraska Extension presents awards
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension and the Nebraska Cooperative Extension Association recently presented annual awards to a number of Extension faculty and staff.

Raymond Ward of Ward Laboratories Inc. received the Outstanding Service by an Individual Award in honor of his 20 years of service to Nebraska agriculture through his business, which analyzes feed, crops, soil and manure. Ward helps producers, consultants and extension troubleshoot production problems and recently has teamed with extension and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to promote soil improvement through the use of reduced tillage.

How predictable is nitrogen from manure?
How much nitrogen is the corn crop getting from fall-applied manure? That question was tested in on-farm trials conducted by the University of Minnesota in co-operation with 13 farm operators.


It turns out that with liquid swine or dairy manure, the question is easier to answer if the manure was injected than if it was broadcast and later incorporated. Nitrogen availability as measured by corn yield response to manure rate was much closer to published University predictions (University of Minnesota Extension Bulletin 03553 – Manure Management in Minnesota) for injected than for broadcast-incorporated manure on an individual field basis.

Research scientist Michael Russelle indicated that the greater variability for broadcast-incorporated manure was likely due to ammonia losses from manure that were higher or lower than average due to weather conditions (rainfall, temperature, and windspeed) after application and before incorporation. The conclusion is that direct injection by knives or sweeps is recommended to get the best and most predictable value from manure nitrogen.

Results from the field trials are described in a new Extension publication – Nitrogen Availability from Liquid Swine and Dairy Manure: Results of On-Farm Trials in Minnesota – available in print and online ( ). The publication includes methods, results and conclusions from the trials regarding nitrogen availability, as well as three stand-alone single-page fact sheets that summarize the results from the yield trials, compare small-plot versus large-strip-plot results, and present results of the use of chlorophyll meters in determining needs for additional nitrogen when manure was the primary nitrogen source.

ORMI announces supply agreement
Organic Resource Management Inc. (ORMI) recently announced it has signed an exclusive, 20-year agreement to supply organic residuals to a farm-based anaerobic digester at Donnandale Farms Inc., located north of Belleville at Stirling, Ont.

This is the third Ontario farm-based anaerobic digester to contract with ORMI to receive off-farm organic residuals for conversion into energy.

During the term of the agreement ORMI will deliver a minimum of 5,000 cubic meters per year of organic residuals.

“It’s like ordering high quality feed for my cows, only ORMI feeds my anaerobic digester,” said Mark Donnan, who with his wife Jane and three sons (Tyler and his wife Heidi, Aaron and Eric), his father Keith and his brother Shawn plus Shawn’s wife Sandra and their children, Jessica and Jacob, are the fifth generation operating Donnandale since 1914.

The digester is scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2009. Once fully functional, the digester is expected to generate about 500 kilwatts, 24 hours per day, seven days per week – enough energy to supply roughly 400 households. Donnandale will be energy self-sufficient and sell electricity to the distribution grid.

The Donnan anaerobic digester will be integrated into their 670 animal unit dairy farm operation. The organic residual feedstock will generate in excess of 75 per cent of the energy produced.

Poultry litter valuable source of nitrogen, phosphorus
The high cost of fertilizer nutrients is convincing some producers to go to the birds – poultry, that is. More specifically, they are turning to poultry litter.

Poultry litter can provide a significant and important supply of nutrients for crop production in areas where a supply of litter is available, says Doug Shoup, Kansas State University Research and Extension southeast crops and soils specialist.

“Although Kansas is not a major producer of poultry, there is an abundant supply of litter from the nearby states of Arkansas and Oklahoma, which rank among the largest producers of poultry in the U.S.,” Shoup said.

Poultry litter can serve as an excellent complement to commercial nitrogen fertilizer but should not be seen as a complete replacement, says Dorivar Ruiz Diaz, Kansas State Research and Extension nutrient management specialist.

“Poultry litter has a high phosphorus concentration relative to nitrogen,” he says. “Poultry litter application rates should be based on phosphorus levels, not nitrogen levels, to avoid potential water contamination problems.”

Applications in excess of agronomic needs can lead to high concentrations of phosphorus in surface runoff, leading in turn, to potential contamination of surface water bodies, says Bill Hargrove, director of the Kansas Center for Agricultural Resources and the Environment (KCARE). High nutrient loading into lakes contributes to unwanted algal blooms and eutrophication, he adds.

When storing litter, producers should place piles in areas farthest from ditches, waterways, and streams to minimize the potential for runoff into surface waters. Incorporation of litter immediately after application will reduce the potential for volatilization losses and potential loss caused by water runoff in case of a rainfall event.

Nutrient concentration in poultry litter can be highly variable and depends mainly upon production conditions, and storage and handling methods. Therefore, laboratory analysis is the best way to determine the level of nitrogen and phosphorus in the litter, says Ruiz Diaz.

Nitrogen and phosphorus crop availability shortly after application is a common question. “Field and laboratory studies suggest that the fraction of total nitrogen that becomes plant available the first year of application is approximately 45 to 55 percent, depending upon components in the litter, and the method of handling and application,” he says.

Phosphorus availability from poultry litter is considered similar to commercial fertilizers, therefore supplemental phosphorus fertilization after application of poultry litter is unnecessary when litter application rates provide sufficient amounts of phosphorus.

“However, it is important to remember that supplemental nitrogen may be required when application rates are based on the phosphorus content of the litter,” says Ruiz Diaz.

More information is available in the K State Extension publication MF-2562 – Estimating Manure Nutrient Availability – at .

Updated spreadsheet provides manure values
What’s manure worth?

Answering that question can be complicated since many variables will greatly influence manure value in different situations. However, with increasing commercial fertilizer costs, the need and interest in valuing manure as a fertilizer replacement is high. Crop and livestock producers, and their consultants, are seeking appropriate values for manure sales situations and livestock cash-flow analysis.

A spreadsheet tool – MANURWKST.XLS – written to determine manure value, has recently been redesigned to be more user-friendly for novice users. Bill Lazarus, University of Minnesota Extension agricultural economist, Will Meland, applied economics department, University of Minnesota, and Bob Koehler, former educator with University of Minnesota Extension, have added features that will simplify input and allow for economic comparisons of manure application options.

Many questions regarding manure value that are influenced by commercial fertilizer prices, field selection and crop need, application rate, application method, application cost, manure nutrient content and other management decisions can be answered specific to individual situations by the spreadsheet.

In addition to the manure value calculations an FAQ section can help to answer common manure value questions and assists the user in using the spreadsheet to deal with their questions.

MANURWKST.XLS, a downloadable spreadsheet (1.05 MB) is available at .

The new version was sponsored by and will be distributed to producers and agricultural professionals as part of a Manure Economics Extension program from University of Minnesota Extension and the Water Resources Center beginning this winter. Contact Les Everett at or 612-625-6751 for more information on this series of workshops.


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