Costs of Manure Application and Transport

When talking about the value of manure, costs are reported in terms of dollars. While reporting in terms of dollars is usually helpful, it is not the only metric for discussing costs. Any resource that is required to accomplish a task can be considered a cost. With this in mind, this page will discuss the cost of manure distribution in terms of dollars and time. The limiting resource, dollar cost or hours required, determines how manure is distributed. Hours could be converted to dollars but that would possibly obscure the management of these costs.

Factors Influencing Cost of Manure Management

The three major activities that influence the cost of manure management are loading, transporting and land applying. Each activity can require its own specialized equipment and can constrain the use of the manure. For example, except for an external manure storage structure, loading is best done when animals are not present and thus limited to those time periods. Transportation can be time consuming depending on the distance traveled and the amount of water hauled in the manure. Land applying requires proper soil and plant conditions and specialized equipment.

Livestock manure is either liquid, slurry or solid. Different types of manure will have different impacts on the cost of distribution. For example, solid manure can usually be hauled farther for less money because less water is being transported. Liquid manure, because of its high water content, can’t be transported as far but low cost irrigation systems can be used to distribute it relatively inexpensively. This page will address each manure type separately. Because the dollar cost of managing manure is so dependent on location, type of livestock, form of manure, availability of land, etc. No dollar estimate will be given in this page. The quickest way to get a cost estimate would be to contact a custom manure hauler and ask the price charged for different services.

The table below summarizes the relative costs of manure application and distribution. When reading it, compare the costs within a column, rather than within a row. In other words, use it to compare the cost of loading, transportation, or land application for each type of manure. The more dollar signs ($) a manure type has, the more expensive it is relative to the other types of manure. Click on a type of manure in this table to be taken to a description of why different manures will have different costs.

Summary of Manure Application and Distribution Costs
Manure Type Loading Transportation Land Application
Solid Manure      
Fresh $$ $$ $$$
Stockpiled $$$ $$ $$$
Slurry Manure      
Tanker $ $$$$ $$$
Dragline hose $ $$$ $$
Liquid Manure      
Dragline hose $ $$$ $$
Irrigation system $ $ $

Custom application

Because much of the equipment used in manure application is unique to manure application, many livestock producers choose to not own the equipment but rather hire custom operators to handle their manure. Custom operators can lower the cost of manure management, relative to owner operated equipment, by spreading the cost of expensive equipment over more units. Many custom operators can also apply the manure more quickly due to experience and because they have larger equipment or multiple pieces of equipment. Because they work for many livestock producers, they may not be able to apply an individual’s manure at opportune times. This uncertainty of when the manure will be applied is a cost that needs to be taken into account. Contracting Certified Manure Haulers contains instructions for comparing custom hauling with producer hauling of manure.

Livestock manures are an excellent source of organic nutrients. However, they are generally more expensive to transport and land apply than more concentrated commercial fertilizers. The cost of manure transport and distribution are critical to understand and manage in order to derive maximum value from manure. A research project completed in the late 1990’s includes this information. The actual costs presented may no longer be relevant but the conclusions are still valid.

A spreadsheet to estimate the cost of hauling various types of manure can be obtained at University of Missouri.

Related Web Pages

Authors: Ray Massey, University of Missouri and Josh B. Payne, Oklahoma State University

Costs of Slurry Manure Application and Transport

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Livestock such as dairy and swine often have slurry type manure. The manure is liquid but does not flow easily. It is either stored directly below the animal pens, or scraped or pumped periodically into a holding pen outside of the building.

Loading Slurry Manure

Loading slurry manure is accomplished with a pump powered by a tractor or stationary engine. The slurry can be loaded into tractor-pulled or truck-mounted tankers, or pumped through a hose attached to a tractor that applies it as it is being pumped from the pit. The cost of loading slurry is usually low because the pump can do it quickly and the volume per animal is not usually high.

Slurry Manure Transport

Transportation of slurry by tanker can be expensive because a lot of water is being transported and the same equipment that is hauling the slurry is usually land applying the slurry. When tankers are used, the number of hours spent transporting the slurry is frequently the limiting cost. The land may become unavailable to receive the slurry, due to crop planting times or soil conditions, before all of the slurry can be land applied. Often, the distance transported is limited so that the time constraints can be met.

If the slurry is pumped through a hose to the field, the transport time is negligible. As the slurry is pumped, it is simultaneously injected or surface applied to the land. The important cost becomes the cost of purchasing pipe and hose that is sufficient for this method of land application.

Land Application of Slurry Manure

The cost of land application of slurry varies with the type of equipment used. Tankers can be expensive to own unless they are used for many animals on many acres. There is a definite economy of scale with tankers. Additionally, the tankers usually require fairly large tractors or trucks. If the livestock owner does not have a cropping enterprise that requires the large tractor, ownership of the tractor for manure distribution alone becomes expensive.

Tankers are economical for large-scale operations with slurry manure.

When slurries are applied via hoses (called dragline hoses), a tractor pulled distributor is used to move the hose around the field so that the slurry is evenly distributed. The cost of the equipment can be very expensive, but the amount of time is decreased considerably compared to using tankers because most of the time is spent in applying the slurry. Very little time is spent getting into and out of the field, as is the case when using tankers.

Authors: Ray Massey, University of Missouri and Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University

Costs of Solid Manure Application and Transport

Poultry litter and beef feedlot manure are the most common types of “solid” manure. Separated solids from dairies can also be a source of solid manure. Solid manures must be scraped off the floor of the pen or house where the animals were raised. Scraping and loading onto trucks usually is done with a front end loader. If the manure is not land applied at the time the pens are cleaned, the manure can be stockpiled until needed. Poultry litter, in particular, when stockpiled is stored in covered sheds. The cost of the storage shed is an additional cost to manure loading.

Transport Costs of Solid Manure

As previously mentioned, solid manures are the least expensive to transport because most of the bulk transported is dry organic matter containing fertilizer nutrients (N, P and K). Water has little value in manure and adds a lot of weight that costs money to transport. Often, the manure is loaded into transport trucks that haul it to the receiving field, where it is unloaded and then loaded into an application truck.

Land application of solid manure. CC 2.5 Charles Fulhage or Joe Harner

Land Application of Solid Manure

Land application of dry manures is done with a flail type spreader. The manure, as it comes out of the truck-mounted or tractor-pulled spreader box, is flailed out in small pieces onto the surface of the soil. The spreader box is usually a specialized piece of equipment that can be expensive unless it is used to spread a lot of manure on many acres. If the manure needs to be incorporated into the soil, the cost of disking the manure into the soil could also be considered a cost of manure management.

Transportation Cost Assistance

To encourage appropriate use of the nutrients in manure, several government programs subsidize manure management costs. These programs can help reduce transportation costs, increasing manure value as it is more fully utilized as a soil amendment/fertilizer where it is most needed.

Examples of assistance include:

  • subsidy programs in Oklahoma and Arkansas that assist in moving poultry litter from nutrient sensitive watersheds to nutrient deficient areas;
  • loan guarantees to producers purchasing appropriate manure transportation equipment in Missouri;
  • USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that cost shares on certain manure investments depending on the priorities of each individual state.

Potential applicants for assistance programs could contact their local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office and state Departments of Agriculture or Environental Quality.

Authors: Ray Massey, University of Missouri and Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University

Page reviewers: Alan Lauver, NRCS and Chandra Theegal, Lousiana State University

Costs of Liquid Manure Application and Transport

Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center:

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What Systems Produce Liquid Manure?

Liquid manures are most common with pork production where the manure is flushed from the building and stored outside in lagoons. Liquid manures are mostly water with some organic matter and nutrients suspended in the water. Most of the organic matter decomposes in the lagoons and is not removed.

Options to Haul and Apply Liquid Manure

While some livestock producers haul liquid manure in tankers, it is usually considered cost prohibitive. The amount of water is so great that the hours spent distributing it and the resulting dollar cost exceeds the value of the manure supplied nutrients when using tankers.

Liquid manure is usually pumped through pipes and hoses to the land that will be accepting the manure. This means that loading costs and transportation costs are relatively low. Once the manure is at the field, it can be applied with a tractor that pulls the dragline hose through the field or via an irrigation system. The irrigation system can be a stationary sprinkler or a single big gun sprinkler that must be moved periodically by the operator.

Liquid manure can be land applied with a dragline hose.

Other options include, a big gun sprinkler or a center pivot irrigation system that move automatically through the field. The center pivot irrigation system is usually too expensive to own just for liquid manure distribution; it is usually part of an irrigation system that also pumps clean water. The stationary and big gun sprinklers are inexpensive and easy to use.

Authors: Ray Massey, University of Missouri and Josh Payne, Oklahoma State University

Thermal Manure-to-Energy Systems for Farms: Technical and Environmental Feasibility

Results of performance evaluations, including technical and environmental feasibility are presented, along with results from field trials where ash and biochars were compared side-by-side in row crop and vegetable production with commercial fertilizer and untreated poultry litter.This presentation was originally broadcast on September 18, 2015. More… Continue reading “Thermal Manure-to-Energy Systems for Farms: Technical and Environmental Feasibility”

Linking Feed Management to Whole Farm Nutrient Management

Nutrients in feed is the primary source of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium that is imported to livestock and poultry farms. This webcast highlights a decision aid tool that follows the nutrients in feed all the way to the land application of manure for crop production. This presentation was originally broadcast on October 17, 2014. More… Continue reading “Linking Feed Management to Whole Farm Nutrient Management”

Live from the National Poultry Waste Symposium

The webcast series went on the road to the National Poultry Waste Management Symposium in Greensboro, NC. We asked four of the presenters at the conference to give a shortened version of their talk and then engaged them in a roundtable discussion about environmental issues facing the poultry industry with questions submitted from the live audience as well as the “virtual” one. Originally broadcast October 26, 2010. More… Continue reading “Live from the National Poultry Waste Symposium”