Manure from confinement livestock units

Last Thursday and Friday I attended the Minnkota Agri Builders Conference in Sioux Falls. This multi-state group has been meeting for over 20 years under the guidance of Dr Larry Jacobson from the University of Minnesota and Dr Steve Pohl from South Dakota State University. Once a year this group of ag builders meets to discuss issues associated with livestock housing and to occasionally tour selected livestock facilities.

Much of the emphasis this year was on confinement beef units. A producer from Laverne, MN talked about his experiences with fully slatted beef finishing facilities versus deep bedded finishing facilities. His comments were interesting in that they mirrored many of the comments and decisions pork producers have been making in regard to confinement facilities.

This producer favored deep pit facilities because of the fertilizer value of the manure and the labor associated with manure management. Similar to pork producers with hoop finishers, deep bedded confinement facilities require massive amounts of bedding and time – time to harvest and store bedding, time to add bedding to the facility and time to remove the bedding. This large time investment is a clear limit to the size of these facilities just as it proved to be a limit to hoop finishers for pork producers.

While the producer was discussing the fertilizer value of his confinement beef unit I took the time to do some rough calculations on deep pit wean-finish manure values. When I estimated the value of the nitrogen in the manure, I assumed injection (or incorporation within 24 hrs of surface application) and 80-90% retention of the nitrogen after land application. I charged $0.015/gal for custom application of the manure.

With this as a background, the net value of the manure from a typical grow-finish facility in the upper Midwest is running around $15+ per pig space based on current fertilizer prices. The value is slightly less for wean-finish facilities since there is less manure per pig space per year.

For a 2400 head grow-finish facility this becomes $36,000 in NPK that doesn’t have to be purchased as fertilizer. In addition, there is value in the sulfur, zinc, other micronutrients and organic matter in the manure. This illustrates one of the many reasons there continues to be interest in the cornbelt in construction of swine facilities.

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