Factors Affecting Manure Transfers in the Midwest

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With livestock operations becoming larger and more specialized, and a requirement for phosphorus based application, there is a need for farmers to transfer manure off their farm in order for manure to be applied at agronomic rates.  

A survey of livestock farmers in Iowa and Missouri was conducted in the spring of 2006.  It was a random sample stratified by livestock type and farm sales.  The major types of livestock were dairy cows, beef cattle on feed, beef cows, swine 55lbs or less, swine more than 55lbs, broilers, and turkeys.  This survey examined manure management practices in general and also included questions regarding the sale and transfer of manure.  For this analysis, farmers with pasture-only operations were excluded which left 921 observations. 

Over 81% of turkey farmers and over 57% of broiler operations provide manure to other farmers.   Farmers providing turkey manure are also the most likely to receive money for the manure with 83% being paid for the manure versus 82% of the broiler operations.  Turkey and broiler litter is also transported the furthest (13.7 and 14.8 miles on average, respectively).  Turkey manure also sold for the highest price. 

A probit regression analysis was conducted to determine the factors that affect whether or not a farmer provides animal manure to others.  Younger farmers were significantly more likely to provide manure but education level had no significant effect.  The more wheat or pasture a farm had, the less likely they were to provide manure.  The percent of land rented had no effect.  Increases in livestock numbers for all types except beef and swine less than 55 pounds increased the likelihood of providing manure, as expected.  Whether they used a commercial fertilizer on their manured fields had no relationship to whether they provided manure to others.


One proposed solution to excess nutrients on some livestock farms is movement to other farms with nutrient deficits (Ribaudo, et al.).  Our study examined the feasibility of this solution.  Our specific objectives included: 1) Identify the factors that most heavily influence which farmers sell or give their excess manure to other farmers, 2) Estimate typical hauling distances for manure from different livestock types and 3) Examine the prices that farmers are being paid for different types of livestock manure. 

What Did We Do?

A survey was sent out to over 3,000 randomly selected livestock farmers in Missouri and Iowa in March and April of 2006.

Methodology for the survey process followed Dillman’s model  (Dillman).  We initially sent out the survey to a test group of 100 farmers.  We then sent out the first wave of the final survey with a cover letter, a postage paid return envelope, and a form to fill out to enter into a drawing to win a $200 gift certificate. A reminder postcard was sent, followed two weeks later by a second wave of the complete package, again asking them to participate.

Probit regression analysis was used to identify factors affecting whether manure was provided to others. 

What Have We Learned?

Summary statistics showed that 1) Turkey farmers were most likely to provide manure, 2) Over 80 percent of broiler and turkey farmers that provided manure were paid for it, 3) Broiler farmers were the most likely to hire a custom applicator, and 4) 45.69 percent of farmers providing manure to others said that manure was tested before it was applied.

With all other variables in the regression held constant, farmers were significantly more likely to provide manure if: they were younger, the farm was an AFO or CAFO, they had more animal units or fewer farmed acres, they didn’t apply fertilizer to their manured fields, they had broilers or turkeys rather than swine, they say the smell of manure bothers them and, they agree that properly managing manure improves water quality.  However, cropping system or concern for water quality had no effect.

Research needs to find economically feasible ways for farmers to transport their excess manure off of their farm, especially for less dry types of manure, such as that from dairy cattle or swine.

Future Plans

A publication including some of these results, plus a study on the factors affecting manure testing of material transferred off the farm has been published.  Future research involves looking at the factors affecting the value of manure purchased by corn farmers using the USDA ARMS dataset (see presentation by McCann at this conference). 


Laura McCann, Associate Professor, Univ. of Missouri, McCannL@missouri.edu

Jessica Amidei (first author, now Allspach), Callao, Missouri

Haluk Gedikoglu, Assistant Professor, Lincoln University

Robert Broz, Extension Assistant Professor, University of Missouri

John Lory , Extension Associate Professor, University of Missouri

Ray Massey, Extension Professor, University of Missouri

Additional Information

Ali, S., L. McCann, and Jessica Allspach. 2012. “Manure Transfers in the Midwest and Factors Affecting Adoption of Manure Testing”.  Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics 44:3 (November 2012) pp. 533-548.


This work was partially funded through USDA Water Quality 406 Grant 2005-51130-02365 and we express our sincere thanks.


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