Manure Management

The Do’s and Dont’s

the Do’s

Manure Application

Manure is the constant byproduct of every producer operation. Continuing to be constantly aware of your manure disposal and application procedures can help to avoid last minute emergencies from popping up and leading to costly, short-term solutions.
Developing a couple of steady habits can ensure the smooth operation of your facility:

  1. Monitor pit levels and project pit full dates. Having a pit reach its capacity before plans have been made for pumping can lead to a lot of extra work that is costly and time- consuming at the last minute.
  2. Monitor water use and limit waste. Excess water use can lead to premature pit full dates. Monitoring water use gives you an early warning that the pits may be filling more quickly than planned.

Work with a Knowledgeable Agronomist

Agronomists’ advice can make a difference in getting the most value out of organic fertilizer application. Some effective ways to take advantage of this relationship are:

  1. Follow your nutrient management plan Plans are only useful when executed. This will provide a consistency that will make all other parts of your operation run more smoothly.
  2. Be sure to maximize the number of acres covered with manure. Over application can lead to nutrient loss that is vital to yields where the manure is being applied.

Work with a Reliable Manure Applicator

The applicators you work with reflect the responsibility of your operation. Making sure the applicators are consistent and reliable can eliminate headaches developing. If self- applying, make sure handling equipment is serviced, calibrated and ready before season.

Keep Records

While it may seem tedious, consistent record keeping is important to improve the performance of your operation. Not only for maintaining consistency when reporting data to the state, but it is also the best reference for finding efficiency issues that can be investigated to save your operation time and money.


Keeping a comparison of the yields of manure acres to commercially fertilized fields can give insight into how your nutrient management plan is working and help you develop ideas to modify your plan if necessary. Learn from each season and make the best decisions for your operation. While the process is generally similar from barn to barn, each site has nuances specific to that site alone.


Safety at every stage of the operation is one of the most crucial elements of the day-to-day work that can effect your ability to accomplish your development goals. Some areas that deserve particular attention are:

  1. On roads – paying attention when operating on or near public roadways not only assures the safety of you and your employees, but also solidifies the community trust in your operation. It only takes one incident to develop mistrust and can take years to repair the reputational damage that an accident can cause.
  2. While agitating pits – While agitation is necessary to produce the most homogenized crop fertilizer, the process can also be among the most dangerous an operation undertakes. The following procedures can minimize the health risks to both humans and animals.
    • Stay out of the room being agitated.
    • Make sure all employees and family members are removed from the area and do not enter during the process.
    • Use lock-out tags for communication.
    • Set ventilation at maximum levels.
    • Make sure the manure pit isn’t foaming.
    • Always wear proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
    • Near PTO’s and handling equipment- Improper use of power take-off devices and other heavy equipment can lead to serious injury or death. Regular training of employees and a commitment to safe operation procedures can immensely reduce the risk of equipment hazards.

the Dont’s

Make a Mess

Public perception is very important to how your operation fits into the community. Keeping roadways clear, having neat and tidy pump sites, and keeping fields clear of garbage and decaying supplies and equipment greatly improves that perception and can increase community participation and cooperation for the future of your operation. Also, be reactive and transparent about any spills. No industry is without incident, so making sure the public is aware there is no deception and that you are making every effort to clean up after any incident is essential.


Environmental damage is the easiest way to develop mistrust within the communities that you operate. A couple of simple best management practices can ensure not only a minimization of negative environmental impact, but also shore up community confidence:

  1. Have calculated rates and adhere to them. Make sure the due diligence you’ve already performed isn’t considered as an after-thought and make following your calculated rates a priority.
  2. Make sure manure is not “running down the hill” or into a waterway. Ensure the application acres have sufficient buffer zones adjacent to waterways to keep our vital water resources usable not only for the health of the humans that enjoy them, but also the aquatic life that make up the vital ecosystems that make your region unique.

Underestimate the Value of Manure

Organic fertilizer (Manure) is a natural, renewable source of nutrients vital to the productivity of the agricultural crop industry. All industry has waste by-products, but yours has the distinction that most of that waste is a commodity that adds value down the food production chain. A little bit goes a long way, and ensuring the maximum benefit of the organic fertilizer that you produce is used efficiently, respectfully, and responsibly will not only assure economic success, but also show the importance of your operation for the community and its members.

Article By: Marty Rost
Environmental Management