Manure Management 101 Curriculum Materials

For anyone involved in animal agriculture, manure will be an important issue. In the past few years, the perception of manure has gone from a “waste” product to a valuable fertilizer and potential source of renewable energy. These materials cover the basics of manure production, manure storage options, and manure uses.

Farmers, Ranchers, Ag Professionals

A self-study module will be released soon. This module will provide a certificate upon successful completion that can be submitted for continuing education requirements.

Teachers, Educators, Extension

Educators are welcome to use the following materials (download entire module in a single .zip file; 7 MB) in their classrooms and educational programs. Also check out more modules from this project.

Instruction Guide (Lesson Plan): includes links to additional information, connections to national agriculture education standards (AFNR Career Content Cluster Standards), application to Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects, sample quiz/review questions, and enrichment activities.

Presentation: 38 slides, Annotated, .pptx format (a preview is embedded at the bottom of the page)

Activity/Exercise: 3 exercises, docx. format Download

Preview Presentation Slides


Authors: Angie Rieck-Hintz, Iowa State University

Reviewers: Rachel Klein, Iowa State University and Ann Ronning, Montana State University

Building Environmental Leaders in Animal Agriculture (BELAA) is a collaborative effort of the National Young Farmers Educational Association, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Montana State University. It was funded by the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA) under award #2009-49400-05871. This project would not be possible without the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center the National eXtension Initiative, National Association of County Ag Agents (NACAA), National Association of Agriculture Education (NAAE), Farm Credit Services of America, American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS), and Montana FFA Association.

Technologies for Mitigating Air Emissions From Manure Storage

Reprinted, with permission, from the proceedings of: Mitigating Air Emissions From Animal Feeding Operations Conference.

The proceedings, “Mitigating Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations”, with expanded versions of these summaries can be purchased through the Midwest Plan Service.

Air Mitigation Technologies for Manure Storage

Animal Waste Management Software Training Video

Design of manure storage and treatment facilities requires an understanding of the operations involved in food animal production and engineering design principles. It also requires access to manure production data, climate data, as well as reporting and presentation software to put it all together. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service created the Animal Waste Management computer program to bring all of these features together.

This software has been used by consultants and government technical service providers for a number of years in designing storage and treatment facilities for animal production operations all over the country. The 2008 EPA CAFO rules cite this tool as part of the procedure to determine if a facility will discharge animal waste.

Watch the Video


Just as no engineering design software is simply plug and play, this software tool requires an understanding of the operations involved as well as experience with using the tool itself, its features and its limitations. This training video describes the basic features of how to use the software, from download to final design. Here you will learn about each screen of the tool and how each component contributes to the facility design. You’ll also learn about the data needs of the software and how to edit the native data set used by the NRCS developers of the tool.


John Classen, North Carolina State University

Earthen Manure Containment Structures

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Siting an Earthen Manure Storage Structure

Because earthen manure and process generated wastewater storage structures are generally less expensive to build than above-ground metal or concrete tanks or below-ground concrete tanks, most operators choose earthen storage construction (ponds) where possible. To minimize potential for surface and ground water contamination, storage structures are located at least 150 feet from any uphill well, 500 feet from other wells, and 50 feet from the manure production/collection area (typically, animal housing). Check state and/or local regulations for specific setback distances for manure collection and storage structures in your area.

For gravity transfer of collected manure wastes to storage pond and possible settling basin use, sewer lines are generally installed on 1% slopes and sized for flow velocities greater than 2 feet per second. A waste storage pond should not be located in a flood plain nor should the bottom of the pond be constructed to a depth below the underground water table unless curtain drains or interception drains are installed around the perimeter of the pond at least 1 foot below the pond bottom.

Standards for Earthen Manure Storage Structures

Properly designed, installed and operated according to accepted engineering standards defined by USDA-NRCS and ASABE publications listed below under “Recommended Reading on Earthen Manure Containment Structures”, earthen manure structures should pose little risk to water quality.

Geology and Soils

Geologic conditions and treatments are determined from county soil surveys and performance of other waste storage ponds in the area and an on-site inspection. A backhoe under the direction of an experienced engineer, geologist, or soil scientist is one of the best subsurface soil investigation tools available.

An on-site subsurface soils investigation determines if the planned manure storage site has shallow soil over coarse sand and gravel, creviced limestone, or permeable bedrock. If any of these conditions exist, construction procedures and materials to prevent seepage to ground water, such as clay liners, geotextile or fabric liners, or concrete, are used.

As part of the animal waste management technical assistance program, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) currently offers on-site soils and geologic investigation assistance for animal waste management structures. NRCS should be contacted for assistance. Corrective treatments at some locations could be so costly that aboveground storage may be required or a waste management system at the site may be totally impractical. This could force moving an existing animal facility to a more suitable location and should definitely be a significant part of the site investigation process for new animal facility installations.

Related Web Pages

Recommended Reading on Earthen Manure Containment Structures

Page Managers: Ted Tyson, Auburn University, and Saqib Mukhtar, Texas A&M University, .

Research Summary: Evaluation of a Synthetic Tube Dewatering System for Animal Waste Pollution Control

Research Purpose

The objective of this field study was to evaluate the performance of a Geotube® dewatering system under field conditions by quantifying the mass removal efficiency of solids, nutrients, and metals from well-mixed dairy-lagoon slurry dewatered by this system.


A Geotube dewatering system was set-up to treat the lagoon slurry mix from the primary lagoon of a 2000-head lactating cow open-lot dairy (Fig. 1). After two synthetic tubes were filled to a height of approximately 1.5 m with the slurry mixture (Fig. 1), the pumping of effluent ceased and tubes were left to dewater for six months. During the pumping of slurry mix into tubes, both alum and polymer were added.

Slurry samples were collected before pumping it into the system (hereafter influent, IF), after mixing it with alum and polymer (hereafter IFCM), and effluent (hereafter EF) samples were collected as it ‘drained’ out of the system. Additionally, residual solids (RS) samples were also collected after both tubes had dewatered for six months. Samples were analyzed for solids, nutrients and metals following EPA and standard analytical methods.

Figure 1. Geotube® dewatering system: before (L) and after (R) filling with effluent.


Geotube dewatering system before filling Geotube dewatering system filled



What We Have Learned

This system effectively removed high percentage of total phosphorus (TP), 97% (Fig. 2) and soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), 88% (Fig. 3), well above 50% reduction goal set by the phosphorus Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for the North Bosque River in east central Texas.

Geotube® also successfully filtered solids (95%) from the lagoon slurry. This system was less effective in removing K (<50%) (Fig. 3), since K is highly soluble.

Geotube® dewatering system successfully reduced Ca, Mn, Fe, and Cu concentration by 91, 60, 99, and 99%, respectively (Fig. 3). However, this system was not highly effective in removing Na (<26%) from dairy lagoon slurry (IF).

Figure 2. Average total phosphorus (TP) concentration at different sampling date


Figure 3. Average soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP) concentration at different sampling date.


Figure 4. Average % reduction (Rd) and separation efficiency (SE) of effluent constituents using Geotube® dewatering system.

Why is This Important?

Water quality degradation due to phosphorus (P) contribution as a non-point source (NPS) pollutant from effluent and manure applied to waste application fields (WAFs) is a major concern in the Bosque River watershed in east central Texas. Geotube® dewatering system can be used as one of the best management pactices to minimize pollution from dairy effluent to be applied to field, but it must address the disposal of solids and costs.

For More Information

Contact or (979)458-1019. For more information, refer to the following publication.

Mukhtar, S., L. A. Lazenby, S. Rahman. 2007. Evaluation of a synthetic tube dewatering system for animal waste pollution control. Applied Engineering in Agriculture 23(5): 669-675

Authors: Saqib Mukhtar and Shafiqur Rahman, Texas A&M University

This report was prepared for the 2008 annual meeting of the regional research committee, S-1032 “Animal Manure and Waste Utilization, Treatment and Nuisance Avoidance for a Sustainable Agriculture”. This report is not peer-reviewed and the author has sole responsibility for the content.

Record Keeping and Inspections for Animal Feeding Operations

Animal feeding operations are the most likely type of animal agriculture operations to be subject to rules and regulations. Most of these center around the manure handling and storage practices and equipment. Record keeping and inspections are the cornerstone of compliance efforts by livestock and poultry producers.


Record keeping and inspections are inextricably linked through the permit and nutrient management plan. In large part, only records can show an inspector that the operation is following its nutrient management plan (NMP) and permit requirements. Physical evidence of compliance or violations may only play a small part in many cases.

The NMP is only a plan and describes many issues in general terms, however records allow the producer to manage very specifically and document that the intent of the NMP has been followed. Record keeping also allows you to document small changes in implementation of the NMP that could be the result of unseasonable weather and other unexpected influences.

When all is said and done, an operation with well organized and complete records that document compliance with the permit and NMP, and where there is no physical evidence of an un-permitted discharge should pass an inspection with flying colors.

Required Records

Record keeping requirements can vary by state; however, it will be very likely that permitted operations will at a minimum be required to maintain: a basic NMP, with supporting materials and records on how the plan was followed. A CAFO, covered by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit (even if administered by a state) has very prescriptive record keeping requirements. The EPA CAFO brochure titled, “What Are the Federal Record-Keeping and Reporting Requirements” outlines these requirements, however the final word on what is required will be described in the permit.

General records include: manure generation and inventory; manure and waste water transfers; manure storage inspections; storage capacity and levels; amounts and dates of any discharges; and mortality management. The remaining records are linked to land application and determination of rates. They include: Manure and wastewater analysis; soil tests; crop yield expectations; rate calculation method (nutrient budgets); actual application locations, date and amounts; weather conditions; and equipment inspections and calibrations.

The LPES Curriculum includes an excellent fact sheet on record keeping titled, What Records Must I Maintain for Land Application?, fact sheet #26.

Annual Report

The records described in the previous paragraph may be reviewed during an inspection. However, many of them will also be summarized and reported to EPA or the state permitting authority on an annual basis (CAFO Reports). The same EPA brochure explains these requirements. Briefly, they include: animal inventory; annual manure production; annual manure export; acres of land applied to and acres of land included in the NMP; documentation of any discharges; and is there a valid NMP for the operation.

Other Record Keeping Benefits

Records have many other benefits beyond simply complying with the permit and validating the NMP. Records can assist in making important business decisions that impact the bottom line. New levels of efficiency can be attained by examining records such as yields, soil tests and manure and fertilizer usage. Finally, they offer a reduction in liability for producers. In the event of an accusation of environmental mismanagement, records help defend practices and document responsibility.


Historically inspections have primarily been complaint driven. However, all NPDES permitted farms will be inspected by a regulatory agency at a routine interval (typically once a year); depending on the state, smaller AFOs may be included in a routine inspection schedule as well. Inspectors are looking for compliance with the permit and associated nutrient management plan, and that required management practices are documented. They will also look for any signs that indicate a discharge has occurred.

One producer’s solution to record management.

During an inspection, operators should have all relevant paperwork in order and available, including: permit, NMP, records and other supporting documents. The operator, planner or consultant should all be able to explain any components of the NMP. The EPA and their cooperating state counterparts are largely concerned with the 9 minimum practices for a NMP. These include:

  1. Ensure Adequate (waste) Storage
  2. Ensure Proper Management of Mortalities
  3. Divert Clean Water From Production Area
  4. Prevent Direct Contact of Livestock (with waters of the state/U.S.)
  5. Proper Chemical Handling
  6. Conservation Practices to Reduce Nutrient Loss
  7. Protocols for Manure and Soil Testing
  8. Protocols for Land Application of Manure and Wastewater
  9. Record Keeping

Inspection Preparation

It is very helpful for a producer to conduct or initiate an educational or non-regulatory mock-inspection. This can be done with the confidential help of a third party. In some states, Extension may be able to assist. Additionally, many states may make their inspection protocol available. EPA has published a fact sheet titled: What to Expect when EPA Inspects Your Livestock Operation.

Other tools are available, such as the nationally adapted Farm*A*Syst self assessment modules. These may not specifically address a permitted operation, but they help address environmental risk and liability based on practices. Conducting modules with farm/ranch staff or your county agent may give insight into areas that need improvement prior to a visit from regulators.

Participating in a USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service program may also offer an opportunity for a general assessment. Once again, this may be helpful in identifying critical areas, though likely will not directly address regulations. If a consultant is employed by the operation, that person may also assist in assessing the operation prior to a regulatory inspection.

Related FAQs

  • Question #27793, During a regulatory inspection, what is likely to be most scrutinized? link
  • Question #27791, What are the most important things a producer can do to prepare for a regulatory inspection? link

Author: Thomas Bass, Montana State University
Reviewers: Saqib Mukhtar, Texas AgriLife Extension; Carol Galloway, USEPA; and Charles Fulhage, University of Missouri

Liquid Manure Treatment Lagoons

There are many options for the handling and storage of liquid manure. This page describes and differentiates some of the most common systems.

Anaerobic Treatment Lagoons Compared to Aerobic Lagoons and Storage Ponds

Most agricultural treatment lagoons are anaerobic lagoons. Anaerobic lagoons are earthen structures, which look at first glance like farm ponds. These lagoons are designed to provide biological treatment and long term storage of animal waste. Anaerobic lagoons are larger than manure storage basins, which do not provide significant biological treatment or long storage periods, but smaller than aerobic lagoons. Even though aerobic lagoons are designed to provide a higher degree of treatment with fewer odors, anaerobic lagoons decompose more organic matter per unit volume. Because of their treatment and storage capabilities anaerobic lagoons are a good compromise between storage basins and aerobic lagoons.

Anaerobic treatment of waste occurs without free oxygen to liquefy or degrade high BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) organic waste. With proper design and management the anaerobic lagoon can function for years. Odor from a well-designed and well-managed lagoon will be only slightly musty; foul odor indicates a malfunction requiring corrective action.

Advantages of Anaerobic Lagoons

Advantages of anaerobic lagoon systems are: manure can be handled with water flushing systems, sewer lines, pumps, and irrigation equipment; the high degree of stabilization reduces odors during land application; high nitrogen reduction minimizes the land area required for liquid effluent disposal, and long-term storage is provided at low cost.

Disadvantages of Anaerobic Lagoons

Disadvantages of anaerobic lagoons include: public perception that a lagoon is an open container of manure; offensive odors if improperly designed and maintained, and limited nitrogen availability if manure is used as a fertilizer. Lagoon design is based on the manure volume produced by the animals, plus any wash down water or wasted feed. An impoundment outside in the weather must also have space for runoff which may enter the impoundment, and rainfall less evaporation, that will occur over the storage area. Additional space for a 25-year 24-hour rainfall event and required freeboard is also necessary. Lagoons must have volume for all of the above plus the minimum pool or treatment volume to allow biological degradation, and in some cases, volume for sludge accumulation.




Figure 1. Single stage lagoon capacity Figure 2. Two-stage lagoon capacity

Contributed to eXtension CC2.5


Although emergency spillways as shown in the accompanying figures have the purpose of protecting embankments from overtopping and washing away during emergency weather situations (hurricanes, etc.), some states (i.e., Arkansas, at this writing) do not include these structures in lagoon and storage pond design requirements to save on construction costs.

Lagoons have been used extensively to treat swine manure and store wastewater prior to land application using normal irrigation equipment, Lagoon Design and Management for Livestock Waste Treatment and Storage.


Lagoon level gauge marker.jpg


Recommended Educational Resources

Research Summaries

National Center for Manure and Animal Waste Management white paper summary, “Manure Management Strategies” published by North Carolina State University. A two page Executive Summary is available. The full white paper can be ordered from MWPS, Iowa State University.

Page Managers: Ted Tyson, Auburn University, and Saqib Mukhtar, Texas A&M University, .

Solid Manure Application Equipment

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How is solid manure applied to cropland?

The most common equipment for applying solids to the land is a rear-discharge, box-type spreader equipped with beaters that broadcast the manure over a width of several feet (see Image 1).

Usually, the manure is conveyed to the beaters at the rear by slats attached at each end to a sprocket-driven chain. Some use a powered front end-gate to push the material to the beaters at the rear. To handle semisolid manure, a tight-fitting, closable rear end-gate is required.

Some spreaders have a side discharge; most of these have V-shaped hoppers and feed the material to the discharge with augers. A rotating expeller slings the material out of the discharge port. The application rate is varied by an adjustable gate opening, usually operated by a hydraulic cylinder.

Flail-type spreaders have a semicircular hopper bottom and a rotating shaft with chain-suspended hammers to fling the material from the hopper. The flail-type and the side-discharge spreaders are adapted to both semisolid and solid manure.

Image 1: Broadcasting manure on cropland.

Manure spreaders may be tractor-drawn models or they may be mounted on a truck. Most tractor-drawn spreaders are PTO operated, but some are driven from the ground wheels. Some are hydraulically powered for greater speed variation, especially for the apron drive, to vary the application rate. In the past, spreader capacities varied from about 30 to 400 cubic feet with tractor horsepower requirements ranging from 10 to more than 120.

Recommended Reading About Land application of Manure

Land Application Equipment for Livestock and Poultry Manure Management

Authors: Jon Rausch, Ohio State University and Ted Tyson, Auburn University.

Liquid Manure Application and Irrigation Equipment

Liquid manure application to crop land

Direct injection of liquid animal manure
Direct injection of liquid animal manure

Liquid animal manure is land applied using liquid manure tankers or irrigation equipment. Liquid manure tanks are frequently pulled, much like a wagon, behind a tractor or mounted on a truck or other power source. Pull type tanks range in size from less than 1,000 gallons to over 8,000 gallons. Those that are mounted on a truck are generally between 3,000 and 6,000 gallons. Truck mounted tankers make over the road travel quicker and safer.

Drag-line direct injection of animal manure
Drag-line direct injection of animal manure

Liquid manure tankers generally discharge manure from the rear of the tank on the soil surface. Alternatively, various types of soil incorporation tools may be used and are generally mounted directly to the tanker. Manure from the tank is distributed through a series of hoses and discharges through the soil incorporation tool. Soil incorporation of liquid animal manure can minimize odors and conserve nutrients.

Irrigation of wastewater by hard hose traveling gun
Irrigation of wastewater by hard hose traveling gun

Land applications by sprinkler irrigation or by a drag-hose, tractor-mounted applicator are the current practical methods of applying large volumes of lagoon effluent or contained lot runoff. Drag-hose applicators can decrease odor problems and the loss of ammonia nitrogen to the air by incorporating the manure. The advantages of sprinkler irrigation include reduced cost because of lower energy and labor requirements.

Lagoon wastewater applied by pivot irrigation for hay production
Lagoon wastewater applied by pivot irrigation for hay production

Labor requirements can be further reduced by permanently installed underground pipes to sprinkler risers, center-pivot irrigators or hose attachment points for traveling guns or drag-hose applicators. However, land application of manure slurry and lagoon effluent with irrigation equipment requires a higher level of management than other methods of spreading to avoid pollution and nuisance problems.

Recommended Reading on Liquid Manure Application and Irrigation Equipment

Authors: Jon Rausch, Ohio State University and Ted Tyson, Auburn University