U-M Extension Offers New Web-Based Calculator To Determine Manure's Value

Tool will help both livestock and crop farmers in estimating manure's value.

Published on: Mar 7, 2012

A new web-based tool developed by Bill Lazarus, University of Minnesota Extension economist and professor in the Department of Applied Economics, is now available.

The web-based calculator may be used to compare the economic value of manure from alternative manure application rates and methods. The value is based on crop nutrient needs for a specific field and crop rotation, fertilizer prices, manure hauling costs, manure type and application method.

In addition to assisting with management of current livestock and crop operations, the calculator can be useful in budgeting new facilities or evaluation of contract production through estimating the effect of manure and manure management on cash flow. The calculations can also assist crop and livestock producer estimate the value of manure that may be transferred or sold from one entity to another.

Livestock producers face uncertain markets and narrow margins. This situation motivates growers to optimize production methods, utilizing all resources including manure. Plus, increasing commercial fertilizer prices has heightened interest in livestock manure use and has significantly increased the value of manure as a nutrient source.

In recent years, more producers have been considering the contribution of manure value to cash flow in livestock operation budgets, and seeking an appropriate market value in exchange situations between livestock producers and crop producers. More crop producers also appear to be seeking manure as a major nutrient source, either by purchasing from a livestock producer or by adding livestock to their operations, particularly swine finishing.

Determining the economic value of the nutrients in livestock manure can be tricky. Nutrients in commercial fertilizer are acquired by paying for the nutrients and a small application charge. With manure, you, "acquire" nutrients by paying for the cost of application, even if you already have ownership of the manure in a storage structure.

Additionally, commercial fertilizer supplies the amount and ratio of nutrients you need or ordered. With manure, you get the amount and ratio of nutrients that it contains, which complicates the determination of a value. Even when a rate that supplies the correct amount of nitrogen is applied, the amount of phosphorous and potash applied may not match what you would have purchased commercially, and amounts applied above crop need probably have no value. In the past, manure application costs often exceeded the value of the nutrients applied. Now, in many situations, the nutrient value in the manure exceeds the cost of application.

The web-based calculator is available at http://z.umn.edu/manurevalue. For more information about manure economics, please visit: http://z.umn.edu/manureworth.

Funding for the development of this tool was provided by Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program from the Environmental Protection Agency.

-By Bill Lazarus, University of Minnesota Extension economist; Jose Hernandez, Extension educator; and Les Everett, Water Resources Center education coordinator.