Understanding the Real Value of Livestock Manure
by David Widman, ProfitProAG Consultant
The growing trend of using livestock manure as a crop nutrient source has many producers re-evaluating their soil fertility programs.
A few basic questions to get started in evaluating livestock manure include:
· Why is livestock manure more valuable in comparison to commercial fertilizer?
· How important is manure management in retaining nutrients for crop production?
· What benefits are available from bioaugmenting manure?
· What methods are available now to improve manure management?
The main benefit of livestock manure is twofold. First, manure is the byproduct of nutrient transfer from the plant to the livestock as feed. This is a natural source of many nutrients that are unavailable in commercial fertilizer. Secondly, and very important to understand, the biology in the manure is the best nutrient transfer system available as it is very compatible with the soil biology. Producers must consider all the nutrients and biology in livestock manure when developing a monetary value for the manure as these are important sources of plant nutrients that are unavailable in processed commercial fertilizer. Prior and current agriculture production practices have depleted both the soil nutrients and soil biology to levels that are now allowing crop diseases to be more prevalent than in the past because plants are unable to develop an immunity to fight these diseases. Livestock manure, when managed correctly, can jump start the process of soil health recovery by providing the variety of nutrients and biology needed in the soil.
Manure management is a difficult process as many factors, both positive and negative, influence the storage of manure and the way in which manure breaks down. Feeding practices have a large and direct influence. Unnatural feed sources such as byproducts from commodity processing like DDGs, wheat middlings and bakery goods have various pH levels that are different from natural feeds like whole grains and forages. This variation affects the pH in the digestive system as well as the manure. For efficient microbial manure breakdown, the pH needs to have a range of 6.5-7.5. Water pH for livestock should also be checked, as this, like feed, will affect the manure pH. Antibiotics, disinfectants and other chemicals also affect the biology by either killing the biology or limiting how they work in the breakdown process. Nutrient volatilization and leaching of nutrients from manure can be reduced considerably by bioaugmenting the manure. The best nutrient transfer from livestock manure breakdown is through the biology that retains the nutrients in their bodies and then becomes part of the soil ecosystem.
Bioaugmented manure benefits include increased yields from five to 15 percent, improved soil health as both organic matter and biology are added and, as soils become more balanced, less weed and insect pressure. Commercial fertilizer use declines as well, which can save up to as much as $100.00 per acre. Cover crops with bioaugmented manure application increase nutrient retention, provide the soil microbes food via plant root exudates and reduce erosion from wind and water.
For improved management of livestock manure, ProfitProAG offers live culture microbes that breakdown the manure while locking up the nutrients for liquid storage systems. Dry organic products are also available to spread over the livestock bedding to capture the nutrients, which introduces the biology to start and enhance the manure breakdown process. All are organic certifiable, user friendly and increase the value of the livestock manure by retaining more nutrients to transfer to the soil. For more information and to have a trained representative help you with your manure management, call ProfitProAG at 1-888-875-2425.