AgDM newsletter article, March 2007

Value of manure nutrients

Kelvin Leibold Tom Olsenby Kelvin Leibold, 641-648-4850,, and Tom Olsen,, Farm Management Specialists

The change in the size of livestock operations has resulted in increased interest in valuing manure and using it as a crop nutrient. Manure, especially deep pit liquid hog manure, is widely accepted as a viable source of organic nutrients. Its use as a fertilizer replacement has increased the interest in putting a value on the use of manure. In part, this interest has supported the growth of the livestock industry in recent years.

Component pricing

The most common method of valuing fertilizer is component pricing. The manure is sampled and tested to determine the nutrient content. Then this analysis is used to determine the value based on commercial fertilizer prices. There can be a considerable range in the projected prices of commercial fertilizer nutrients, depending on material type (dry, liquid, or gas), method of application, and the time of year applied. In addition, the manure would contain other components such as sulfur, iron and organic matter. This method does not take into account nitrogen losses and crop utilization.

Manure nutrient value versus a commercial fertilizer budget

Manure is a fertility package. The nutrient components as applied will not be in the same proportion as a commercial fertilizer recommendation. Value adjustments may need to be made to account for these differences. Some manure components that are in excess of crop needs may be discounted. Consideration also should be given to shortages (especially P and K) if they need to be supplemented commercially.

Bulk commodity market price

Another method used to price manure is to price it as a bulk commodity where you have sellers and buyers. If you are in an area that has an abundance of supply and limited demand, the price will be driven down. If demand outstrips supply, the price will be bid up until it balances out with the demand. The nutrients will have a different value depending on the location and local situation. Transportation and distribution costs become a factor in what the value is worth and how much the buyer can negotiate the price. If there is an over abundance of manure in one area and the livestock producers are faced with high transportation costs to move it out of the area, they may be willing to reduce the price in order to avoid significant transportation costs.


Some of the concerns with using manure as a source of crop nutrients are soil compaction from application, uniformity of the product, uniformity of application, fixed analysis, impact on planting date, increased weed pressure, or increased disease pressure. The “net present value” of applying phosphorus and potassium on very high testing soils may not equal the cost of the freight. Manure is not always a uniform product. Even from year to year there are differences in manure nutrient analyses because of changing swine diets that include phytase, dried distillers grains and synthetic amino acids. Manure from these rations tends to have lower nutrient analysis, making it less valuable per gallon. This also increases the cost of application per unit of fertilizer, and this highlights the importance of having and using a good manure analysis program.


Manure has a lot of valuable nutrients. It can be very cost effective to haul manure to where it is needed. A producer needs to know the quantity of manure available, the nutrient analysis of the manure, the crop needs, the current soil test results, and the handling and application costs. The use of manure may result in increased or decreased yields when compared to traditional fertilizers, depending on a number of reasons. Crop producers need to predict how well they can manage manure as a fertilizer source and what the overall impact will be over a number of years. If they can do this, they will be better able to determine the value of the manure in their farming operations.

For information on compliance regulations and application agreements, visit the Manure Management Action Group website:

A Manure Calculator spreadsheet from the Ag Decision Maker web site can assist in calculating the value of manure. This spreadsheet is available at:

For more information on valuing manure, see the full version of this article in the Ag Decision Maker Information File Value of Manure Nutrients.


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