Optimizing Manure as a Nutrient Source

Nov 23, 2021

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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.

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.”

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