What’s manure worth?

Livestock producers are increasingly facing uncertain markets and narrow margins. This has pushed growers to look at all aspects of their operations to try to maximize their resources, including the use of manure. Manure can supply nutrients for crops, which offsets the need to buy commercial fertilizers. Therefore, farmers are interested in determining its value.

Determining the economic value of the nutrients in livestock manure can be tricky. Nutrients in commercial fertilizer are immediately available for plant growth. You can also order them in mixes with the perfect ratio of nutrients needed for your crop. With manure, the nutrients are not necessarily immediately available and may take several years to fully release. While that can be beneficial over the long-term, it requires more planning. Additionally, you do not get the perfect ratio of nutrients needed for your crop, meaning you are likely to over- or under-apply some nutrients.  But there are advantages to using manure. Manure supplies micronutrients and organic matter, which help keep the soil healthy when applied at appropriate rates.

The manure value calculator helps determine the value of manure, based on crop nutrient needs for a specific field and crop rotation, fertilizer prices, manure hauling costs, manure type and application method. It may be useful for the following:

  • compare alternative manure application rates and methods

  • assist with management of current livestock and crop operations

  • estimate the value of manure that may be transferred or sold from one producer to another

  • help with budgeting new facilities

  • evaluate contract production by estimating the effect of manure and manure management on cash flow

Melissa Wilson, Extension manure management specialist

Reviewed in 2018

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