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Hog manure value grows

Agriculture.com Staff 09/09/2009 @ 8:10am

Hog manure is a valuable resource for pork producers, either as a lower-cost substitute for commercial fertilizers or as a commodity to sell.

Jerry Hatfield, lab director for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Soil Tilth Laboratory on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, says an estimated 9% of Iowa's 13.7 million corn acres receive manure as a nutrient source.

"Manure is great crop fertilizer," says Hatfield, who has researched manure as a fertilizer for years. "In its organic form, manure acts like a slow-release fertilizer during the year."

Manure can supply crop nutrients, he continues, and increase the water-holding capacity of soil.

It can have environmental drawbacks, however, Hatfield says. "If manure is not applied correctly, it can run off the field, which is no different than commercial fertilizers. Over-application of manure can build up the phosphorus level in soils and then, if we have erosion events, will cause water-quality problems. Spills of manure into streams can cause ammonia problems as well."

Hatfield points to Christensen Farms, a large hog contracting operation based in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, as one of the best in use of manure.

Christensen Farms has eight agronomists and two agronomy technicians on staff, says Mike Evans, the business's agronomy manager.

"Our hog sites are really mini fertilizer sites," says Evans. "We provide sound advice to our farmer-cooperators to make sure they are placing the manure agronomically and environmentally correctly so they get the best bang for their buck."

Christensen samples manure coming out of its hog buildings and works with 60 applicators who must attend spring meetings covering changes in state laws on manure application. Farmer-cooperators pay Christensen for the manure, and Christensen gets a place to put it.

"Manure's a valuable resource as a fertilizer; we treat it like gold," he says. "We also treat the environment like gold. Environmental safeguards are followed so there are no preventable spills."

Hog manure is a valuable resource for pork producers, either as a lower-cost substitute for commercial fertilizers or as a commodity to sell.

One of Christensen's cooperators is Carl Stevens, who manages several farms near Iowa Falls, where Christensen has hog operations and a feed mill. Stevens, an officer of the Hardin County Savings Bank, manages 3,000 acres for Greenbelt Realty.

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