August 2005 // Volume 43 // Number 4 // Research in Brief // 4RIB5

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Manure Use Planning: An Evaluation of a Producer Training Program

A training program for producers in manure use planning was evaluated. The potential for runoff nutrient loss to surface water can reduced and the value of manure increased through better planning of manure use. Training was conducted throughout Nebraska in 2002 and 2003. Livestock producers who attended evaluated the event at the end of the last class. The need for and impact of the training was greater for continuing operational and maintenance skills of manure utilization that are regularly needed for strategic planning skills. We recommend that training focus primarily on operational and maintenance skills.

Charles S. Wortmann
Nutrient Management Specialist
Lincoln, Nebraska

Richard K. Koelsch
Biosystems Engineer
Lincoln, Nebraska

Charles A. Shapiro
Soils Specialist
Norfolk, Nebraska

Richard L. Deloughery
Water Quality Educator
Norfolk, Nebraska

David Tarkalson
Soils Specialist
North Platte, Nebraska

University of Nebraska


Many animal-feeding operations (AFOs) above 300 animal units throughout the United States must have a permit to operate a livestock waste control facility. In Nebraska, producers need to comply with Nebraska Title 130, "Rules and Regulations Pertaining to Livestock Waste Control" (NDEQ, 2000). In applying for the permit, a manure utilization plan must be submitted that typically involves manure application on agricultural land.

The manure utilization plan must give estimates of the annual amounts of manure nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) produced, N losses during storage, and N remaining in the field after land application. Manure P produced and manure N remaining after application losses are used in estimating land required for manure application. Annual manure applications cannot exceed the "agronomic rates for nitrogen" (NDEQ, 2000). If sufficient land is not available to receive the manure, the AFO must have manure application agreements with other landowners, arrangements to sell the manure, or arrangements for alternative use of the manure. The plan must also address:

  • Manure and soil testing,
  • Calibration of application equipment, and
  • Response to emergencies.

The plan must contain inventories of manure application equipment and of land available for application, with maps of application areas. The producer needs to keep annual records for 5 years on:

  • The determination of manure application rates,
  • Soil and manure analyses,
  • Manure and fertilizer application, and
  • A cropping season summary.

The development and implementation of these plans require that producers understand the concepts underlying these plans and that they master certain procedures and skills needed for implementation.


The University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension implemented a program to enhance the capacity for AFOs to safeguard water quality while improving agronomic efficiency in the utilization of manure. Specifically, the program focused on AFO capacity for the development and implementation of manure nutrient utilization plans. Planning tools were developed, including:

  • Spreadsheet programs for estimating land requirement (Nutrient Inventory), farm nutrient use efficiency (Whole Farm Nutrient Balance), and manure application rates (Manure Use Plan) developed by Koelsch (2002), and

  • A manure land application workbook (Koelsch, Shapiro, & DeLoughery, 2003; Shapiro DeLoughery, Koelsch, Kucera, & Wortmann, 2003).

Twenty-two Extension specialists and educators located throughout Nebraska formed five regional teams to provide training and technical support for producers.

Nine training events were conducted in 2002 and 2003 to enable producers to better understand the concepts underlying manure use planning and to enhance their skills in developing and implementing the plans. Each training event consisted of three afternoon meetings spaced 1 week apart. Each session lasted for 3 hours, giving a total of 9 hours for instruction and practical exercises. The three-meeting arrangement allowed producers the opportunity to apply the concepts and tools in planning for their AFO before moving on to other subject matter. The intended learning outcomes were to gain the understanding and skills to:

  • Calculate manure N and P available after storage losses,
  • Estimate total land requirements for manure application,
  • Calculate manure N available to the crop,
  • Calculate crop N need,
  • Develop a nutrient management plan,
  • Write an annual manure application plan,
  • Identify key records needed to maintain a permit, and
  • Prepare maps of the application fields that show setbacks and environmentally sensitive areas.

The expectation was that upon completion of the training, most participating producers would understand the primary requirements for preparing a permit application or recognize the expectations for implementing an existing permit.

Participants were asked to complete questionnaires at the end of the training to evaluate the achievement of the learning outcomes. The questionnaires were modified in 2003 but with some overlap with the 2002 questionnaires. Completed questionnaires were submitted by 143 of 161 participants.


Characteristics of the Animal Feeding Operations

Most of the respondents (54%) fed beef cattle, another 37% had swine operations, while the remainder had dairy or poultry operations (Table 1). This follows the type of manure applied by 2002 respondents, with:

  • 52% spreading solid manure from box type spreaders, generally scraped from feedlots,
  • 25% applying slurries or liquids with tank spreaders, and
  • 13% applying effluent through sprinkler irrigation systems.

The average estimated land area used for application of manure was 1054 acres per AFO and often inadequate to avoid excessive soil P build-up.

Table 1.
Characteristics of the Animal Feeding Operations Represented 1

Livestock Type

Number of Responses, 2003

Mean One-Time Capacity of Animal Feeding Operation

Beef cattle



Mature dairy cows



Replacement dairy cows



Swine (feeders, finishers, breeding)



Nursery pigs



Poultry - turkeys




Mean land area used for manure application


1054 acres

Waste Control Facility Permit Status (Percent of Respondents)




Have permit



Permit pending



Do not have



Participants that farm



Number of producer participants (total)



1 Information collected at the beginning of the training event.
2 Some producers did not respond to this question and some operations had two livestock types.

Most AFOs (79%) represented in these training events already had a permit to operate a livestock waste control facility. Some of the AFOs were exempted from permitting, so lack of a permit did not indicate non-compliance with regulations.

At the beginning of the 2002 training events, the participants were asked about their practices. Their responses indicated more use of best management practices than is typical for AFOs (Table 2). For example, Richert, Tokach, Goodband, and Nelssen (1995) found that only 10.6% of Kansas swine producers tested manure for N and P, compared to the 73% reported in Table 2. However, use of best management practices may have been over-estimated as indicated by subsequent responses, where 53% admitted that they did not have a good estimate of their manure application rates, and 56 and 72%, respectively, did not have an estimate of the amount of N and P supplied to their crops from manure.

Table 2.
Use of Best Management Practices Prior to Training (44 to 45 Responses, 2002) 1

Use of Specific Practices

Yes (%)

Do you calibrate your manure application equipment?


Have you analyzed manure in the last 3 years?


Do you calculate a N or P rate for manure application?


Do you deep sample for soil nitrate credit?


Do you sample for soil P credit?


Do you consider soil P levels when choosing manure application sites?


Do you incorporate manure within 24 hours of application?


Do you maintain a written plan for manure application?


Do you maintain a record of past manure applications?


Do you use soil conservation measures at manure application sites?


1 Information collected at the beginning of the training event.

Achievement of Learning Outcomes

At the end of the third training session, participants were asked if they could complete individual components of a manure utilization plan, maintain the necessary records, and prepare a complete land application plan as required for compliance with Nebraska Title 130 regulations for manure application. Most participants reported that they could perform the tasks needed to prepare and implement an annual manure use plan (Table 3). Some said they would need assistance, and less than 10% reported that they had not mastered the required skills.

Highest rated was the ability to prepare the maps of manure application fields as required in the permit application. The ability to estimate land required for manure application was also rated high. More felt that they needed assistance with components of annual planning of manure use, such as calculation of N credit from manure, identification of key records which must be kept, and development of an annual nutrient management activities plan. Most assistance would be needed to develop the manure use component of a permit application. The ability to develop this application may be less needed than the operation and maintenance skills required routinely because many of the AFOs already have a permit or seek technical assistance to develop a permit application.

Table 3.
Ability to Accomplish Critical Tasks Related to the Learning Goals (2002 & 2003) 1

Specific Task or Skill: Can You . . .


Yes (%)

Yes, with Help (%)

Estimate total land requirements for manure?




Prepare maps for a permit application?




Calculate nitrogen credit from manure?




Calculate nitrogen needed by a crop?




Identify key records for maintaining a permit?




Develop a nutrient management activities plan?




Prepare the manure use component of a permit application?




1 Information collected at the end of the training event.

Producer Intent to Use Planning Tools

Participants were asked if they could perform four tasks related to the development and implementation of manure utilization plans (Table 4). Not all reported that they would use the workbooks for various tasks, but 73% of the respondents said they would use the workbooks to identify records that must be kept, and 64% said they would use the forms to develop a nutrient management activities plan. Approximately half said they would use workbook forms for the other six tasks.

Table 4.
Intent to Use planning Tools in Developing and Implementing Their Manure Utilization Plan 1

Tools and Tasks

Percent of Respondents

Use workbook forms to develop a nutrient management activities plan?


Use workbook to identify record that must be kept?


Use workbook for other tasks (mean of six tasks)?


Use spreadsheet programs in manure use planning?


1 Information collected at the end of the training event.

The workshop training placed much emphasis on the use of spreadsheet programs to complete long term and annual planning activities. Producer estimation of their skills was high for determining land requirements, N credits and crop N requirements, and moderate for preparing the action plan. Most (61%) said they would use the spreadsheet tools in planning for manure use.

Producer Intent to Change Management Practices

Many of the producers thought that some of their current practices were adequate, but there was general recognition of a need for some changes in management practices (Table 5).

  • 63 and 66%, respectively, felt their soil conservation practices and use of setbacks were adequate, while 32 and 31% planned to make changes.
  • Many had calibrated application equipment, but 57% said they would begin or improve on calibration.
  • Between 45 and 55% said they would improve on determination of manure nutrient content, application of manure to crop needs, and record keeping.
  • There was relatively less interest in monitoring of crop N status where they rely on manure to supply much of the N, but 44% said they plan to improve or begin in-season N monitoring.
Table 5.
Producer Intent to Modify Manure Management Practices 1

Management Practice

Already Doing

Plan to Modify

Plan to Begin

Percent of Respondents

Regularly calibrate application equipment




Conduct manure nutrient analyses annually




Apply manure according to crop nutrient needs




Maintain records on manure application




Avoid applications within 30' of surface waters




Monitor crop N status




Use appropriate soil conservation measures on manure application sites




1 Information collected at the end of the training event.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Most producers achieved the understanding and skills necessary to develop and implement a manure utilization plan and stated their intent to use the workbook and spreadsheet tools for annual planning and record keeping purposes. Thirty-two to 57% of participants stated their intent to improve seven manure management practices.

The need for and impact of the training was found to be greater for the continuing operational and maintenance skills of manure utilization than for skills required to develop a strategic plan as required for obtaining a permit to operate a livestock waste control facility. This is understandable because most operations already had a permit and permit application is done infrequently and then often with the assistance of a consultant. The operational and maintenance skills, on the other hand, are needed continuously to develop and implement annual plans and to otherwise comply with the regulations. It is recommended that future training focus on knowledge and skill needs for annual operation and maintenance of the facility and manure nutrient utilization, with training addressing permit application and strategic planning to fewer producers. This recommendation is likely to be applicable in many parts of the U.S.


University of Nebraska Extension Journal Series no. 1013


Koelsch, R. Spreadsheets on the Web. Retrieved March 1, 2004, from

Koelsch, R., Shapiro, C., & DeLoughery, R. (2003). Nebraska's CNMP: Manure Application Workbook. EC03-720, University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension.

NDEQ (2000). Nebraska Title 130, Rules and regulations pertaining to livestock waste control". Retrieved March 1, 2004, from

Richert, B., Tokach, M., Goodband, R. & Nelssen, J. (1995). Assessing producer awareness of the impact of swine production on the environment. Journal of Extension [On-line], 33(4). Available at:

Shapiro, C., DeLoughery, R., Koelsch, R., Kucera, M. & Wortmann, C. (2003). Use of computer spreadsheets and paper-based workbooks to teach Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning. In Proc. of the 9th International Symposium of Animal, Agricultural and Food Processing Wastes. 12-15 Oct., 2003, Raleigh, NC.