Optimizing Your Manure’s Value

Rost_MartyBy: Marty Rost

The average person won’t think twice about what lies beneath a hog barn, but anyone in agriculture see’s dollar signs.  As we all know, manure is a valuable fertilizer for crops.  In fact, many hog producers got into the business for that very reason – to save money on commercial fertilizers.  Although I don’t think manure should be the lone reason to get into the hog business (you have to have a passion to care for the animals), but it is undeniably a benefit.

Given manures high value, it’s a topic worth discussing.  Here is a basic overview of what you can do to get the most out of your manure.

1. Get Manure Samples Tested:

All manure has different nutrient levels.  Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK) levels change.  It can be from a diet change, water usage or a number of other factors.  Regardless, it changes.  Get your manure tested every season.  Why take the risk of putting on too much or worse yet, too little manure (NPK).

2. Get Soil Samples Tested:

If you are applying manure to your own ground, make sure you are feeding your crops the nutrients they need.  Your fields have different nutrient needs.  Your crops require a certain level of NPK.  If there is not enough NPK in the soil from year to year and you mine your soil, you will, over time, “wear out” your land.  Along with that, although manure is a very valuable fertilizer for your soil, depending on the manure, it may not provide ALL the nutrients it needs.  I recommend working with a crop consultant to determine what those levels are, and how to supplement your manure accordingly.  Their advice isn’t free, but your crop yield is worth the investment.

3. Keep Records:

Are you tired of all these “desk” ag workers telling you to keep records?  Me too!  But there is a method to the madness.  Not only does the Department of Natural Resources require it for barns over a certain size (depends on state), but it allows you to compare nutrient levels in your manure over the years and modify your application rates based on trends.  It also helps you better forecast any commercial fertilizer needs you may have for next year.

Some of you may be thinking “check, check, and check,” as you read this article – and that’s great!  But if you have a hog facility and feel like you could be getting more juice out of the lemon (manure that is), don’t hesitate to contact me  or Pipestone Veterinary Services at 507.825.4211 or mrost@pipevet.com if you have any questions, or schedule an appointment with a local agronomist.

To review Marty’s Manure Pumping Safety tips from last year, click here.