Manure Manager

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New report released on swine manure management


June 1, 2009
By manure manager

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The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) recently released an in depth examination of how
manure management practices have evolved in the U.S. hog industry from
1998 through to 2004.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released an in depth examination of how manure management practices have evolved in the U.S. hog industry from 1998 through to 2004.

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In Duplin County, North Carolina, a full-scale wastewater treatment system (foreground) that replaced a swine lagoon. Photo courtesy of USDA-ARS


 

According to the 23-page report, written by Nigel Key, William D. McBride and Marc Ribaudo with ERS, “The changing structure of hog farms is altering manure management practices as larger operations seek to manage nutrients on a limited cropland base.” The report, entitled “Changes in Manure Management in the Hog Sector: 1998-2004,” suggests that increased regulation of the Clean Water Act and state legislation plus more local conflicts involving odor issues are also forcing producers to change their management practices.

“Over 1998 to 2004, the total number of U.S. hog operations fell by about 40 percent, and the average inventory grew from 2,589 to 4,646 head per farm,” the report states. “Data from hog producer surveys administered in 1998 and 2004 indicate that large hog producers (1,000 animal units or more) are altering their manure management practices to mitigate the environmental effects of increased concentration. In particular, the largest farms removed more manure from their operations (especially by giving it away for free) and applied less commercial fertilizer to crops receiving manure in 2004 than in 1998. Also, in accordance with Environmental Protection Act (EPA) regulations, large hog operations conducted more nutrient testing of manure, increased the use of microbial phytase in feed (which reduces nutrients in manure), and increasingly followed comprehensive nutrient management plans.”

The report also states there’s been:

  • a decline in the spreading of solid manure and liquid manure without physically injecting it into the soil;
  • a decline in the quantity of manure applied per acre;
  • a decline in the nutrients excreted per animal due to an increase in feed efficiency; and
  • an increase in the share of farms removing manure from their operation.

“The increasing concentration of hog production on large operations is expected to continue, meaning that manure management will continue to be an important issue to the hog industry and to others concerned with its environmental impact,” the report concludes. “Results of this research imply that hog producers have responded to policy incentives, both positive and negative, designed to address the manure management issue. The findings also suggest that there still is significant room for reducing the environmental impact of manure through improved management. For example, hog operations, on average, apply manure to less than 30 percent of available crop acreage. Policy incentives, along with technological innovation, are likely to play an important role in the future of hog manure management and its environmental impact.”

The study used information from surveys of U.S. hog producers conducted in 1998 and 2004 as part of USDA’s annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS). The detailed surveys covered a cross-section of U.S. hog operations and collected information on production costs, business arrangements, production facilities and practices, and farm operator and financial characteristics. The surveys also provided information about manure storage and handling, fertilizer use, manure application techniques, Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) payments, the use of comprehensive nutrient management plans, and manure application rates. The data allowed the authors to document the current state of manure management and track producers’ responses to existing and anticipated manure-related regulations. Data from the surveys was analyzed by farm size according to the number of animal units (1,000 pounds of live animal weight) produced.

Visit www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib50 to access a copy of the full report.