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Home Feed & Nutrition Optimizing Manure as a Nutrient Source

Optimizing Manure as a Nutrient Source

Pig farmers have always been committed to safeguarding and nurturing natural resources now and for future generations. One of the many ways pig farmers manage natural resources on the farm is through nutrient application plans. This includes deciding whether to use manure, commercial fertilizer or a combination of these tools.

Sustainability means doing what’s right for people, pigs, and the planet by following the long-standing We CareSM ethical principles. One key area of sustainability is protecting the environment.

National Pork Board is now offering free On-Farm Sustainability Reports to help pig farmers recognize key sustainability metrics on their operation and make informed decisions.

The report includes information such as manure data with application and agronomic rates, water data on both quality and amount used and community outreach including donations and service hours.

Dale Stevermer is a pork producer who owns and operates Trails End Farm, a diversified crop and wean-to-finish farm in Easton, Minn. He requested an On-Farm Sustainability Report and used it to refine his nutrient management plan.

“It is a good estimator of annual soil loss and the practices you do to retain nutrients. It also benchmarks you against national and state data so you can see where your farm compares,” Stevermer said.

Manure Management Strategies Can Save Crop Farmers Money

Marguerite Tan, director of environmental programs for NPB, said now is a good time to consider other options if it is hard to find commercial fertilizer due to supply chain disruptions.

“We encourage producers to review their existing manure management plans to compare the cost of commercial fertilizer to the hauling time and fuel costs of applying manure on more acres,” said Tan.

Stevermer said he’s able to produce a great crop using detailed grid sampling and manure application.

“It is a balancing act of availability of commercial fertilizer, but also, what can I logistically or financially handle for spreading the manure,” he said.

Save on Nutrients with Swine Manure

According to the Sustainable Environmental Consultants (SEC), swine manure applied at 4,000 gallons per acre has an average nutrient savings (N, P, K) of $120 per acre. 

SEC also conducted a comparison of USDA data in Illinois from Fall 2020 to Fall 2021. The results show significant increases in fertilizer year over year.

↑ 97%Anhydrous bulk price increase

↑ 111%Urea bulk price increase

↑ 102%Liquid bulk price increase

↑ 98%MAP bulk price increase

↑ 121%Potash bulk price increase

Source: Sustainable Environmental Consultants

Swine Manure Application Improves Soil Health and Reduces Nitrogen Loss

Swine manure can reduce phosphorus loss if there is a runoff event shortly after application, such as heavy rain1, by up to 46%. It also reduces the nitrogen loss by 4% versus fields fertilized by commercial products1. This makes it an economical and sustainable option for farmers.

Manure application improves soil physical properties and the health of the soil, which improves the soil structure. Soils with good structure are less likely to experience runoff and erosion.2

Stevermer says manure feeds the population of microbiomes in the soil and bolsters the population, and its robustness, to meet the needs of cash crops during that season. He explains, “before we had yield monitors, you could tell where you applied manure and where you didn’t, simply based on how well the hopper and the combine filled up.”

On-Farm Sustainability Reports Help Build Trust and Protect Freedom to Operate

The new On-Farm Sustainability Reports help confirm management decisions for producers while showing proof of the industry’s commitment to continuous improvement. Building consumer trust will help protect pig farmers’ freedom to operate and contribute to the industry’s long-term economic viability.

“Industry-wide, we will continue to face pressures on environmental stewardship of air, soil and water,” Stevermer said. “To defend our ability to operate, we need current, real-life numbers and to be advocates and educators. We need baseline numbers so we can strive for continuous improvement; and that is what the industry has built itself on throughout the past 50-60 years.”

NPB is partnering with third-party expert Sustainable Environmental Consultants (SEC), to make data collection and aggregation quick and efficient.

“I can see producers doing a direct comparison between commercial fertilizer and manure, and have separate reports for both, to quickly see the benefits of each. Additional precision data will also help with this comparison,” Stevermer says.

Tell Your Farm’s Sustainability Story

Request a customized On-Farm Sustainability Report today to help measure and document continuous improvement efforts for your operation and for the U.S. pork industry as a whole.

1. Iowa State University
2. Gilley and Risse, 2000; Wortmann and Walters, 2006
3. MWPS-18-Manure Characteristics
4. USDA AMS IL Production Cost Reports from Oct 8, 2020 and Oct 7, 2021

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