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What's manure worth?

Agriculture.com Staff 03/13/2007 @ 7:46am

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.

Limitations
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.

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