Category Archives: Manure

01Dec/17
Value of beef open lot manure assuming crop benefits from potassium supplementation and 5% increase in yield. Estimated manure value is $28/ton.

What is the Economic Value of Manure?

Manure has value.  That value may result from improvements in soil quality, increases in yield, and replacement of commercial nutrient required for crop production.   Previous articles on manure’s value have focused on its soil health,  environmental benefits, and tools for estimating manure’s value. This article will focus on the economic benefits of manure. Key take home messages include:

  1. Targeting fields requiring supplemental phosphorus (P) produces the largest economic value from manure.
  2. Targeting fields requiring supplemental potassium (K) significantly increase manure’s value.
  3. Additional value result from manure nitrogen (N) and micro-nutrients as well as from yield increases.  However, these benefits are typically less important than P and K.

The assumptions used for this analysis are found at the end of this article ([i]).

Phosphorus Value

The nutrient replacement value of beef open lot manure is approximately $14/ton when surface applied.

Figure 1: The nutrient replacement value of beef open lot manure is approximately $14/ton* when surface applied. *This assumes supplemental K is not needed and no yield increase results. Additional assumptions found at the end of this article.

Manure is a supplemental source of P, organic-N, ammonium-N, and micro-nutrients commonly required by many fields.  Cropland receiving surface applied manure (not incorporated) benefits from both the organic-N and P.  The value of the nutrients in beef feedlot manure is heavily influenced by the value of the P and to a lesser extent the organic-N (see Figure 1 and assumptions for all figures presented. All assumptions are found at end of article ([i]).  Because feedlot manures and many solid manures contains little ammonium-N, incorporation to conserve N would produce little additional value.  Similar graphics for other animal species are found in Figure 4.

For many liquid and slurry manures, immediate incorporation of manure is important for gaining value from their significant ammonium-N content. Figure 2 illustrates the value of incorporating swine finishing barn manure.  Approximately one-third of its value results from the ammonium-N conserved by direct injection.

The nutrient replacement value of swine finisher manure is approximately $37/1,000 gallons when injected.

Figure 2: The nutrient replacement value of swine finisher manure is approximately $37/1,000 gallons* when injected. *This assumes supplemental K is not needed and no yield increase results. Additional assumptions found at the end of this article.

Note the importance of P to achieving value from both of these manures.  Half or more of each manure’s value will only be realized by applying manure to fields requiring P supplementation (typically, fields with Bray soil P levels below 30 ppm).  Thus, farmers wanting to gain the greatest value from manure should target those fields with low soil P levels. A 25 ton load of feedlot manure has a fertility value of $350.  However, 2/3 of this value will not be realized if applied to a field with high soil P levels.

Potassium Value

To further enhance the value of manure, targeting those fields that have a K requirement offers additional value.  Soil tests for highly productive fields are increasingly identifying a need for K supplementation.  Manures are an excellent source of K.  For the beef feedlot manure example shared in Figure 1, the manure’s value has almost doubled by applying it to a field with a K requirement (Figure 3).

Yield Response

Value of beef open lot manure assuming crop benefits from potassium supplementation and 5% increase in yield. Estimated manure value is $28/ton.

Figure 3: Value of beef open lot manure assuming crop benefits from potassium supplementation and 5% increase in yield. Estimated manure value is $28/ton.

Economic value can also be gained from a yield response due to manure.  Such yield responses can be a result of improved soil structure and greater drought tolerance of the soils receiving manure or from the increased biological activity in the soil producing a number of benefits such as greater nutrient availability to the plant. A recent worldwide literature review of 159 research comparisons of the nutrient replacement value of manure observed an average yield increase of 4.4%. Adding a 5% yield increase to a 200 bushel/acre corn crop will produce some additional value.  However, note that this yield boost does not compare with the value of the P and K in manure (Figure 3).

Keys to Manure Value

Key to gaining the economic value from manure nutrients is the rate at which manure is applied. To receive the returns shown in this articles graphics, the following practices must be followed:

  1. Manure should be applied at a rate that does not exceed the crop N requirements for a single year.  Excess manure N application is likely to be leach beyond the root zone and be lost. See Determining Crop Available Nutrients from Manure for more information.
  2. Manure applied at rates near the crops N requirement typically over apply P and K.  However, these nutrients will continue to be available to crops in future years.  To gain the manure’s P and K value, target those fields requiring supplemental P and K (see Nutrient Requirements for Agronomic Crops in Nebraska or your state specific recommendations).  In addition, avoid re-applying manure to the same field until soil testing suggests need for supplemental P and K.

Accessing the economic value of manure begins by targeting fields low in P and K.  Similar benefits are observed for other manures as illustrated in Figure 4.

Low and high economic value estimate of different animal manures based upon nutrient replacement value for manure N, P and micro-nutrients (column1) and additional value assuming benefit from manure K and crop yield increase of 5% (column 2).

Figure 4: Low and high economic value estimate of different animal manures based upon nutrient replacement value for manure N, P and micro-nutrients (column1) and additional value assuming benefit from manure K and crop yield increase of 5% (column 2).


[i] Assumptions for graphs: Price of nutrients was assumed to be $0.35/lb. N, $0.40/lb. P2O5, $0.35/lb. K­2O, $0.35/lb. sulfur, $2.90/lb. zinc.  For some figures a yield increase of 5% was assumed and allocated to a manure application rate designed to meet 75% of N requirement of a 200 bushel/acre corn crop (e.g. 19 ton of feedlot manure/acre). Corn was valued at $3.50/bushel.

[ii] How Does Recycling of Livestock Manure in Agroecosystems Affect Crop Productivity, Reactive Nitrogen Losses, and Soil Carbon Balance? Environ. Sci. Technol., 2017, 51 (13), pp 7450–7457.


Author: Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska – Lincoln

Reviewers: Charles Shapiro, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Mary Berg, North Dakota State University

01Nov/17
Photo of rainfall simulation study

Setbacks Reduce the Concentration of Manure Constituents in Runoff

What setback distance is required to reduce the concentration of manure constituents in runoff to background values? John E. Gilley, Aaron J. Sindelar, and Bryan L. Woodbury, researchers with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service, examined the effects of setback distance on concentrations of selected constituents in runoff following land application of beef cattle manure to a site in Southeast Nebraska (Figure 1).  Continue reading

03Oct/17
photo of sand recovery system in Iowa

Can application of sand laden manure impact soil texture?

What does soil texture have to do with manure? Sand bedding has become a popular choice at many dairies due to the cow comfort and health benefits it offers. A question raised at manure application time is how does sand in the manure impact the health of my soils? While using sand laden manure as a fertilizer source does add sand to the soil, the change is small and would take about 100 years for a silt loam soil to see a change in soil texture. Continue reading

01Sep/17

The Soil Health Institute and the Water-Soil Health Connection

The Soil Health Institute (SHI) was created in 2015 to “Safeguard and enhance the vitality and productivity of soil through scientific research and advancement.” As the independent, non-profit organization charged with coordinating and supporting soil stewardship and advancing soil health, the SHI is focused on fundamental, translational, and applied research and ensuring its adoption. Enhancing soil health allows us to improve water quality, increase drought resilience, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve farm economies, provide pollinator habitat, and better positions us to feed the nine billion people expected by 2050. Continue reading

01Aug/17
A recently added aggregate of livestock manure (left) versus a heavy soil aggregate of poor structure on the right.

Soil Organic Matter and Its Benefits

Soils of Northern Great Plains are relatively young (11000 to 14000 years old) and have some of the highest organic matter levels (4 to 7%) of all mineral soils in the United States (Overstreet and DeJong-Huges, 2009). However, continuous cropping, poor management practices and loss of topsoil have adversely affected the soil organic matter levels. Continue reading

03Jul/17
soil with earth worm

Manure Impact on Soil Aggregation

If manure increases formation of larger (macro) and more stable soil aggregates, several benefits may result for fields fertilized by manure compared to commercial fertilizer including:

  • Reduced runoff and soil erosion;
  • Increased water infiltration into the soil possibly leading to greater drought tolerance; and
  • Partial offsetting of higher soil P levels resulting from manure application and limiting P loss to local surface water.

Continue reading

01May/17

Manure and Soil Health Presentations Bring Experts, Give Voice to Wondering Minds

Farmers and ranchers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of soil quality/health to the productivity and sustainability of their agricultural system. Research and field observations have demonstrated that carefully managed manure applications can contribute to improved soil quality with limited environmental and social risks. However, a comprehensive assemblage of outputs and conclusions from research studies, field trials, soil labs databases, and other sources has never been developed. Continue reading

10Apr/17
fertilizer treatments

Utilizing composted beef feedlot manure in cropping systems

In 1987, a long-term cropping systems study started at the NDSU Carrington Research Extension Center.  Three sets of 4-year crop rotations are replicated three times each year. The ninth cycle ended in 2016.  This article will discuss some of the effects of using composted beef manure on soil properties and selected crop yields Continue reading

06Feb/17

Manure and Soil Health: What is the State of the Science?

Manure and Soil Health: What is the State of the Science? Can manure be both an economic ‘Win’ and an environmental ‘Win’?  What fields provide the best opportunity for Win/Win? What exactly are the environmental and soil health wins associated with manure? Can we test soils so that we better understand the value of manure nutrients and carbon?  What are the biological processes in a soil system that benefit from organic fertilizers?  These and other questions are the topics a new working group addressing Manure and Soil Health (MaSH) plan to address.

Continue reading