Implementing a Nutrient Management Plan

Why Develop a Nutrient Management Plan?

Developing a nutrient management plan can be a large undertaking. And once it is completed, implementing it puts a livestock producer well on the way to environmental stewardship. A plan may be written for one or more purposes: to satisfy regulatory programs, to qualify for financial assistance or maybe just to gain peace of mind.

The plan should have been developed in close working relationship with the producer, and in so doing, many of the management practices that needed improving will have been worked out and the producer understands the need for the practices and is willing and capable to achieve the items as detailed in the plan. No plan will ever be followed exactly as it was written as weather conditions, soil conditions and market fluctuations create a constant flux for any farming operation. But as these changes arise, the producer who has been involved in the development of the plan is also skilled in how to make changes that continue to be in the spirit of the plan for environmental protection, nutrient accounting and conservation needs. The plan is then teamed up with records that show the plan is either being followed, or documents any deviations.

diagram

Contributed to eXtension CC2.5

Also check out the archived webcast on Improving Implementation of Nutrient Management Plans

Strategic Planning

The planning process needs to include strategic (long term) and tactical (annual) planning. A strategic plan needs to be developed for the whole farm. The strategic plan articulates the policies and guiding principles for the entire farm operation. This type of plan needs to present clear concise statements that reflect the farm’s commitment to conducting operations according to the plan. A good starting point is to create a Whole Farm Nutrient Balance Report This report will provide the farm with a snapshot of the nutrient flows onto and off of the farm. The ideal scenario would be for the nutrients imported onto the farm in feed and fertilizer to be balanced by the nutrients being removed in commodities that are sold off the farm. For farms that have more nutrients than the farm can deal with the options to consider include, reducing purchased inputs (fertilizer and feeds), moving nutrients off the farm, through manure or compost, acquiring more land or reducing animal numbers.

Once the farm knows where it stands with regard to nutrient balance it can begin to formulate the strategy needed to deal with the situation. Farms with too few nutrients or just enough nutrients needed to meet crop requirements can take a straightforward approach to developing a strategic level plan for the farm. In these situations the farm simply needs to commit to making maximum use of the available nutrients by applying the nutrients to a crop field when the field needs the nutrients and at a time of year when the crop can take them up. On the other hand the farm that has too many nutrients has a more complex problem. This farm also needs to apply nutrients to fields needing them when the crop can take them up, but it also needs to develop a strategy to deal with the excess nutrients.

Annual (Tactical) Planning

Plans should be reviewed annually, to see how closely last year’s actions matched the plan, to make any updates to the plan and to project ahead for the next twelve months. This annual update is the time to input any new soil tests, develop the coming crop rotation, document yields, add new fields or delete ones no longer farmed, update animal numbers and incorporate new manure analysis. If major changes are being planned or have occurred, the plan may need significant changes.

These factors will keep the plan current and meaningful. Conceptually, implementing a nutrient management plan can be thought of a cyclical process composed of a series of steps. Due to the continuous nature of farming several of the steps in the cycle may be happening simultaneously, but for clarity we will consider them one at a time. The figure below shows these steps and the cyclical arrangement of their relationship to each other.

There are instances where the annual/tactical plan can be functional for the coming year, but the strategic/long range plan indicates that annual planning will become more difficult each year. For some farms, it may be easy to nitrogen base the plan, but coming into phosphorus balance will be more difficult, or impossible. P-index strategies should be considered a short term solution; but when a farm is generating more phosphorus than it can utilize, eventually, a P-index strategy will lead to over applications of phosphorus and potential concerns in the years to come, especially if regulations and policy tightens nutrient planning in the future. There will be situations where livestock numbers increase on an operation but there is less land base in the neighborhood. Scenarios such as these, point to the importance of considering both the long term and the annual planning process.

Communicating the plan

Implementation of a plan often hinges on communicating the plan to other family members or hired employees. First, the farm owner needs to show, by his/her actions and words, that the plan is important. Next, a system of communications to the farm employees on what they should do to follow the plan and reporting back, by the employees, of what they have done needs to be put in place. If the farm doesn’t place sufficient value on the plan then the workers will have no incentive to follow the plan and it will collect dust on a shelf.

The tactical/annual plan will be a field-by-field, day-by-day, plan that needs to be communicated to the farm employees or family members. For some workers, training may be needed to impart the skills required to farm under the constraints of the plan. For example operators of manure spreading equipment may need to be taught how to adjust tractor gearing or throttle settings to obtain spreading rates as defined in the plan. This section of the plan will require things like:

  • Field 1 needs 2000 gallons of liquid manure applied per acre in the spring.
  • Field 4 needs to be harvested by September 1 in order to establish a cover crop to protect the slope from erosion during winter.
  • Field 25’s soil P levels are above threshold levels, no manure can be applied.
  • Field 6 needs 200 lbs. of potash.

Records of actions

In return, there needs to be a track record of what did occur, noting any changes to the planned activities. Records are critical to the process because they provide the proof that the plan is being adhered to, as well as valuable information to be used in the formulation of the following year’s plan. If your farming practices are questioned by a regulatory agency or an unhappy neighbor, your records may be your only defense.

Nutrient management plans need to be based on realistic yield information. CC 2.5 Rich Meinert.

There are a number of websites that can provide sample record keeping forms and field worksheets that can be used as is or modified to meet the specific needs of the farm. A couple of suggestions to get started are:

Analyze & Evaluate

This section of plan implementation is where crop records get put to use. One needs to analyze the records kept, to determine on a field by field basis how closely the plan was followed. If the records deviate substantially from the plan the farm needs to provide a reason for the deviation. These explanations need to become part of the permanent crop records so that if someone looks back at the crop records he can obtain a clear picture of what happened and why. The farm may have experienced a wet spring and needed to remove manure from storage to avoid a discharge, but the only field that was dry enough to work had already been spread. By determining what happened and why, the farm presents a rationale to outsiders that it is being environmentally responsible.

Evaluation is the final determination of how well the plan worked. After the individual field comparisons are completed, summary information should be calculated to provide a report card on the nutrient management practices as a whole. It is this summary information that can point out the weak points in the plan. For instance, if fields consistently yield less than the yield goal in the plan then adjustments need to be made. If a number of fields are increasing in soil P over time the application rate for manure or fertilizer may need to be lowered to reduce the accumulation of P.

This management information is the hidden benefit of the NMP process. Detailed farm records will allow farms to use input costs, production data, operating costs and revenues to conduct cost/benefit analysis on production practices. This will allow the farm to see which aspects of the operation are helping or hindering profitability.

Another aspect of evaluating a NMP is to do periodic checks on practices and procedures. Farms need to take a proactive approach to quality control in the area of nutrient management. Manure and fertilizer spreader calibrations will change over time. Farm personnel will begin to forget practices and they do not perform the same task in exactly the same way every time. Field conditions can vary due to weather.

For these reasons farms need to conduct periodic spot checks of manure and fertilizer application. Results from these types of measurements can be used to verify how accurately practices are being followed, and will provide a measure of confidence for the accuracy of the farm’s records in the event of a complaint. For example, if a complaint were filed stating that the farm misapplied liquid manure, it would be in the farm’s best interest to not only produce the crop records to show what was applied, but also to show a series of spot check results, that showed that the applications made on the farm that year were accurate to within plus or minus a real number of gallons per acre. Knowing this confidence interval can provide an extra measure of assurance that the farm actually applied what it said it had.

Implementing a nutrient management plan on a farm can be a daunting task. There is a lot of information to be managed. There are decisions to be made and records to be kept. You don’t need to do it all at once. See what specific resources are available in your state and use this web site to provide suggestions that you can tailor to suit your situation. When a plan is written and implemented correctly a farm can learn a lot about itself, and how to position itself to be in business over the long term with a minimal environmental foot print.

Page Manager: Richard Meinert, Extension Educator, University of Connecticut
Reviewers: Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska and Doug Beegle, Pennsylvania State University

Manure Test Record Keeping

Manure nutrient analysis will vary from sample to sample on a farm even with consistent management and careful sampling. Generally, a running average of manure analyses will better reflect what is in the manure than any one sample result. Also, most of the sampling methods outlined here recommend sampling at the time the manure is being spread. This means that manure analysis results will not be available until after the manure is already spread. Therefore, nutrient management plans should be based on previous test results.

Creating a Baseline For Your Manure Analysis Records

It is recommended to test manure annually for at least 3 years to establish a running average manure analysis that is used in the following year to develop the nutrient management plan. If there is significant variation within this time frame the 3-year period should be extended. Determine what might cause the variation. Can management changes be made to reduce the variation (eg. better sampling, better agitation, etc.)? Can management changes be made to react to the differences from year to year (eg. increasing rates in a year when above average rainfall dilutes the manure, or adjusting rates based on changes in animal feeding, etc.)

Once a baseline is established, less frequent manure testing may be acceptable. When a new manure test is run, it should be compared to the running average. If the new analysis is consistent with the average it can be added to the running average. If there is a trend, for example manure analyses are slowly and consistently increasing or decreasing over time, the oldest value in the running average should probably be dropped when the new value is added.

What If You Receive an Abnormal Manure Test Result?

If the new manure test result is very different from the running average, immediately try to determine the cause. Evaluate the sampling procedures, especially if there were no obvious management changes. Consider having the sample rerun or submitting a new sample if possible to confirm or correct the analysis. Look for management changes such as major changes in animal feeding; changes in dilution water in liquid manure (more or less rainfall, changes in washwater added, etc.); or changes in manure handling (manure scraped from barn floors more or less frequently, different bedding management, etc.).

If the change was a one-time occurrence do not add this value to the running average. If a permanent management change was made a new round of more intensive sampling should be initiated to establish a new baseline for future planning.

Also, management adjustments may have to be made after manure application, such as applying more or less supplemental fertilizer to fields where the manure was spread. Plan to apply supplemental fertilizer after manure application is complete and actual manure nutrient application is known based upon a current manure sample.

The data below from a PA dairy farm illustrates how records are used to develop a useful manure analysis program. Only the N and solids analysis are shown here but all test results would be analyzed similarly.

Manure Test N Running Average N1 Solids
Year lb/1000gal lb/1000gal %
1 28 28 6.8
2 25 27 7.8
3 26 26 7.4
4 352 26 10.4
5 26 26 6.2
6 26 26 6.1
7 29 27 7.5
8 363 36 8.8
9 34 35 8.1
10 35 35 8.3

1Used to develop the nutrient management plan
2Value does not fit the trend. A review of the situation indicated that this was an abnormally dry year, thus there was less dilution from rainfall. Notice that the % solids were higher than they had been, which is more evidence that the dry year was the culprit. This value was not included in the running average. The farmer reduced his sidedress nitrogen (N) rate slightly that year to account for the higher N analysis and also lower yield potential because of the drought.
3The N analysis changed dramatically in this test. However, the farmer had a made a major change in his feeding program, replacing corn with distillers grains. This would be consistent with the increased N in the manure. Since this was likely a permanent change, a new running average was started. Since the change in feeding management was known, some educated guesses about how this would affect the manure analysis were used to make adjustments in the nutrient management plan for year 8 rather than using the existing running average.

Related Web Pages

Page Authors: Douglas Beegle, Pennsylvania State University and John Peters, University of Wisconsin Reviewers: Jerry Martin, Pennsylvania State University and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska

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.

Introduction

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.

Inspections

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

Use of the Dairy Opportunity Checklist in Feed Management Plan Development

Introduction

This fact sheet has been developed to support the implementation of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Feed Management 592 Practice Standard. The Feed Management 592 Practice Standard was adopted by NRCS in 2003 as another tool to assist with addressing resource concerns on livestock and poultry operations. Feed management can assist with reducing the import of nutrients to the farm and reduce the excretion of nutrients in manure.

Please check this link first if you are interested in organic or specialty dairy production

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has adopted a practice standard called Feed Management (592) and is defined as “managing the quantity of available nutrients fed to livestock and poultry for their intended purpose”. The national version of the practice standard can be found in a companion fact sheet entitled “An Introduction to Natural Resources Feed Management Practice Standard 592”. Please check in your own state for a state-specific version of the standard.

The national Feed Management Education team has developed a systematic 5-step development and implementation process for the Feed Management Practice Standard. A complete description of the 5-steps can be found in a companion fact sheet entitled “Five Steps to the Development and Implementation of a Feed Management Plan”.

The second step of this process focuses on identifying the conditions where the practice applies and making an initial assessment of the opportunity for the full development of a Feed Management Plan. Key participants at step 2 would be the producer, the nutrient management planner, and NRCS staff.

The conditions where the practice applies as noted the in NRCS 592 standard include:

  1. Whole farm imbalance
  2. Soil nutrient build-up
  3. Land base not large enough, or
  4. Seeking to enhance nutrient efficiencies.

After defining the condition(s) for use of the 592 standard, an opportunity checklist (see pages 3-6) is then used make an initial assessment of developing a complete feed management plan.

The Opportunity Checklist is organized to first identify the resource concerns of:

  • Soil Condition – Animal Waste and other organics
  • Water Quality – Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Groundwater
  • Water Quality – Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Surface Water

If one or more of these conditions exist on an operation, then a FMP should be considered by completing the Opportunity Checklist.

The Opportunity Checklist is designed to determine the relative opportunity for feed management to impact Whole Farm Nutrient Management. The Opportunity Checklist is the first step in making a decision on whether to complete a FMP.

The checklist is meant to be used as an initial, quick, on-farm assessment tool. If the decision is made to complete a FMP, numerous additional feed management practices will be assessed in more detail with the use of the Feed management Plan Checklist.

The items shown in the Opportunity Checklist are the management practices which have the greatest opportunity for feed management to impact Whole Farm Nutrient Management. The ‘Benefit to the Environment’ column provides the possible impact the practice could have on whole farm nutrient management. It is meant to be informative and should not be answered for each farm.

If one or more of the Opportunity Checklist items are noted in the category of “moderate or lots of opportunity for improvement”, then the next evaluation step should be completed: Economic Evaluation (manure transport vs feed management change) or FMP Checklist.

Following on this fact sheet you will find a completed Opportunity Checklist as an example.

Dairy Opportunity Checklist:

Identify resource concerns and/ or conditions where practice applies and assess the Opportunities

Feeding management is one of six components of a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) as defined by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. Feeding management as part of a CNMP should be viewed as a “consideration” but not a “requirement” as some practices will not be economical on some dairies.

Resource concerns and the conditions where practice applies

Field specific resource concerns that may be impacted by feed management (but not limited too) are soil and water quality. For example, nutrients may build-up in the soil or leach into ground water due to manure application. Feed management practices with or without several other practices may reduce the volume and nutrient content of manure. If one or both of these resource concerns exist on an operation, then a Feed Management Plan (FMP) should be considered by completing the Opportunity Checklist.

Conditions where practice applies are whole farm imbalance, soil build-up of nutrients, land base not large enough, or operation seeking to enhance nutrient efficiencies. Feed management practices with or without several other practices may reduce the volume and nutrient content of manure and may be an effective approach to minimizing the import of nutrients to the farm. If one or more of these conditions exist on an operation, then a FMP should be considered by completing the Opportunity Checklist.

Opportunity Checklist

The Opportunity Checklist is designed to determine the relative opportunity for feed management to impact Whole Farm Nutrient Management. The Opportunity Checklist is the first step in making a decision on whether to complete a FMP. The checklist is meant to be used as an initial, quick, on-farm assessment tool. If the decision is made to complete a FMP, numerous additional feed management practices will be assessed in more detail.

The items shown in the Opportunity Checklist are the management practices which have the greatest opportunity for feed management to impact Whole Farm Nutrient Management. The ‘Benefit to the Environment’ column provides the possible impact the practice could have on whole farm nutrient management. It is meant to be informative and should not be answered for each farm. If one or more of the Opportunity Checklist items are noted in the category of “moderate or lots of opportunity for improvement”, then the next evaluation step should be completed: Economic Evaluation (manure transport vs feed management change) or FMP Checklist.

Dairy Information
Dairy Name
Date Completed
Producer Signature
Adviser Signature
Identify resource concern(s) and/ or the condition(s) where practice applies:
Resource Concern(s)
Soil Condition: Contaminants – Animal Waste and Other Organics

  • Nutrient levels from applied animal waste and other organics restrict desired use of the land.
Water Quality: Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Groundwater

  • Pollution from natural or human induced nutrients such as N, P, and organics (including animal and other wastes) degrades groundwater quality.
Water Quality: Excessive Nutrients and Organics in Surface Water

  • Pollution from natural or human induced nutrients such as N, P, and organics (including animal and other wastes) degrades surface water quality.
Conditions Where Practice Applies
Whole Farm Imbalance: Confined Dairy operations with a whole farm nutrient imbalance, with more nutrients imported to the farm than are exported and/or utilized by cropping programs.
Soil nutrient build-up: Confined Dairy operations that have a significant build up of nutrients in the soil due to land application of manure.
Land base not large enough: Confined Dairy operations that land apply manure and do not have a land base large enough to allow nutrients to be applied at rates recommended by soil test and utilized by crops in the rotation.
Dairy operations seeking to enhance nutrient efficiencies

Determine the Feed Management opportunities for addressing Resource Concerns:

On the following pages is a list of feeding management practices that can affect nutrient balance. Please read through each feeding management consideration and record your answer. If one or more of the Opportunity Checklist items are noted in the category of “moderate or lots of opportunity for improvement”, then the next evaluation step should be completed; economic evaluation or FMP Checklist.

Dairy Opportunity Checklist

Click here to view the Dairy Opportunity Checklist, example of the Dairy Information worksheet and an example Dairy Opportunity Checklist (PDF).

“Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, national or ethnic origin; physical, mental or sensory disability; marital status, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.”

Disclaimer

This fact sheet reflects the best available information on the topic as of the publication date. Date 5-25-2007

This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.

Image:Feed mgt logo4.JPG

This project is affiliated with the LPELC.

Image:usda,nrcs,feed_mgt_logo.JPG

Project Information

Detailed information about training and certification in Feed Management can be obtained from Joe Harrison, Project Leader, jhharrison@wsu.edu, or Becca White, Project Manager, rawhite@wsu.edu.

Author Information

J. H. Harrison jhharrison@wsu.edu, and
R. A. White, Washington State University
A Sutton and Todd Applegate, Purdue University
Galen Erickson and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska
R. Burns, Iowa State University
D Wilks – Standard Nutrition

Partners

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Use of the Dairy Feed Management Plan Checklist in Feed Management Plan Development

Introduction

This fact sheet has been developed to support the implementation of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Feed Management 592 Practice Standard. The Feed Management 592 Practice Standard was adopted by NRCS in 2003 as another tool to assist with addressing resource concerns on livestock and poultry operations. Feed management can assist with reducing the import of nutrients to the farm and reduce the excretion of nutrients in manure.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has adopted a practice standard called Feed Management (592) and is defined as “managing the quantity of available nutrients fed to livestock and poultry for their intended purpose”. The national version of the practice standard can be found in a companion fact sheet entitled An Introduction to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Feed Management Practice Standard 592. Please check in your own state for a state-specific version of the standard.

The national Feed Management Education team has developed a systematic 5-step development and implementation process for the Feed Management Practice Standard. A complete description of the 5-steps can be found in a companion fact sheet entitled Five Steps to the Development and Implementation of a Feed Management Plan.

The fourth step of this systematic process focuses on the development of the Feed Management Plan. Key participants at step four are the producer and their nutritionist. The key tools to be used at step four are the Feed Management Plan (FMP) Checklistand the Feed Management Plan Template. This fact sheet will concentrate on using the checklist. The next fact sheet in this series A National Template for Preparing a Dairy Feed Management Plan will discuss the template.

Please check this link first if you are interested in organic or specialty dairy production

Using the Feed Management Plan Checklist

The FMP checklist is designed to assist dairy operators and their nutrient management advisor to determine feeding management factors that affect nutrient management. The checklist is meant to be used as an on-farm assessment tool. The factors contained in this assessment can be used as a guide to document and identify feeding management practices that will impact whole farm nutrient management.

The FMP checklist is designed to assist dairy operators and their nutrient management advisor to determine feeding management factors that affect nutrient management. The checklist is meant to be used as an on-farm assessment tool. The factors contained in this assessment can be used as a guide to document and identify feeding management practices that will impact whole farm nutrient management.

The FMP checklist is designed to systematically gather information that can be used to develop the feed management plan. The organization of the checklist is divided into six management categories of:

  • targeting nutrient requirements
  • ration balancing
  • ration management practices
  • production aids/enhancers
  • monitoring tools
  • forage management practices

To use this checklist, each practice should be discussed with the operator: Are they already implementing the practice? If Yes, indicate so and skip to the next question. If No, discuss whether or not the practice could be implemented and consider the economic implications. In many cases the economic implications will be a “best professional” judgment by the consulting nutritionist or producer.

It is important to address the question “Will it be considered in the future?” as this can provide guidance for reviewing and updating the FMP in the future.

The ‘Benefit to the Environment’ column provides the possible impact the practice could have on whole farm nutrient management. It is meant to be informative and should not be answered for each farm.

By following this link you will find a blank copy of the Feed Management Plan Checklist (PDF file). Additionally, a Completed Feed Management Plan Checklist(PDF file)is available as an example.

The next step in the process is to write the Feed Management Plan. A fact sheet on developing the FMP is available at A National Template for Preparing a Dairy Feed Management Plan.

Related Files

To follow the references in this article, it is recommended that you print these PDF files and refer to them at the appropriate places in the article.
Feed Management Plan Checklist
Example Feed Management Plan Checklist(Dairy).

Disclaimer

This fact sheet reflects the best available information on the topic as of the publication date. Date 5-25-2007

This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.

Image:Feed mgt logo4.JPG

This project is affiliated with the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center.

Image:usda,nrcs,feed_mgt_logo.JPG

Project Information

Detailed information about training and certification in Feed Management can be obtained from Joe Harrison, Project Leader, jhharrison@wsu.edu, or Becca White, Project Manager, rawhite@wsu.edu.

Author Information

Joe Harrison jhharrison@wsu.edu, and Becca White, Lynn Johnson-VanWieringen, and Ron Kincaid, Washington State University. Mike Gamroth, Oregon State University Tamilee Nennich, Texas A&M University.

Partners

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Acknowledgments

This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.
This project is affiliated with the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

usda,nrcs,feed_mgt_logo.JPG

 

“Extension programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on nondiscrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, national or ethnic origin; physical, mental or sensory disability; marital status, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.”

A National Template for Preparing a Dairy Feed Management Plan

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Introduction

This factsheet has been developed to support the implementation of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Feed Management 592 Practice Standard. The Feed Management 592 Practice Standard was adopted by NRCS in 2003 as another tool to assist with addressing resource concerns on livestock and poultry operations. Feed management can assist with reducing the import of nutrients to the farm and reduce the excretion of nutrients in manure.

The Feed Management 592 Practice Standard adopted by NRCS is defined as “managing the quantity of available nutrients fed to livestock and poultry for their intended purpose.” The national version of the practice standard can be found in a companion factsheet entitled An Introduction to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Feed Management Practice Standard 592. Please check your state-specific version of the standard.

The national Feed Management Education Team has developed a systematic five-step development and implementation process for the Feed Management Practice Standard. A complete description of the five steps can be found in a companion factsheet entitled Five Steps to the Development and Implementation of a Feed Management Plan.

The fourth step of this process focuses on the development of the Feed Management Plan. Key participants at Step 4 are the producer and his nutritionist. The key tools to be used at Step 4 are the Feed Management Plan (FMP)Checklist and the Feed Management Plan Template.

Please check this link first if you are interested in organic or specialty dairy production

Using the Feed Management Plan Template

The Feed Management Plan, or FMP, is intended to assist the producer with documentation of those practices that affect whole-farm nutrient management and contribute toward achieving nutrient balance at a whole-farm level. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two nutrients that are required to be managed as part of the FMP in a Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan.

When nitrogen and phosphorus imports exceed nitrogen and phosphorus exports, there is an imbalance at a whole-farm level. These imbalances can lead to impaired water quality in nearby water bodies due to both surface runoff and leaching of nutrients to groundwater. Excess nitrogen can also be volatilized and contribute to impaired air quality. Potassium is a nutrient that can lead to production and health problems if it is not monitored in dairy rations, therefore, it is also included as a nutrient to monitor.

The FMP template is designed to provide a common format to address all areas noted in the Feed Management 592 Practice Standard. It is organized with the following sections:

  • Contact information
  • General purpose and background information about the 592 standard
  • Specific purpose selection for the operation
  • When the plan was written
  • When the plan will be reviewed
  • Specific farm information for use with the electronic manure excretion estimator tool
  • Summary of feeding practices and equipment/technologies utilized on the farm
  • Record keeping
  • Recommendations

Estimate of Manure Nutrient Excretion

As part of the FMP, the impact that feed management will have on manure volume and nutrient content is estimated. The specific farm information section has been included to collect farm-specific descriptive information for use with the electronic manure excretion estimator tool. This tool is described in a companion factsheet entitled Estimating Manure Nutrient Excretion.

Feed Management Practices

This section should include a list and narrative of those practices that have been adopted. One way to document practices is to insert a copy of the completed Feed Management Plan Checklist. Proprietary information or specific ration formulations need not be included.

Guidance Sections

There are two important sections of the FMP that should contain specific guidance about sampling and analysis procedures, these are:

  • Record of feed sampling and feed analysis
  • Final recommendations

By following this link you will find a blank copy of the Feed Management Plan Template (PDF file). Additionally, a Completed Feed Management Plan (PDF file) is available as an example.

Related Files

To follow the references in this article, it is recommended that you print these PDF files and refer to them at the appropriate places.
Feed Management Plan Template
Example Feed Management Plan (Dairy).

Disclaimer

This factsheet reflects the best available information on the topic as of the publication date. Date 5-25-2007

This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.

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This project is affiliated with the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center.

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Project Information

Detailed information about training and certification in Feed Management can be obtained from Joe Harrison, project leader, jhharrison@wsu.edu, or Becca White, project manager, rawhite@wsu.edu.

Author Information

Joe Harrison, Becca White, Lynn Johnson-VanWieringen, and Ron Kincaid, Washington State University
Mike Gamroth, Oregon State University
Tamilee Nennich, Texas A&M University
Deb Wilks, Standard Nutrition

Partners

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Acknowledgments

This Feed Management Education Project was funded by the USDA NRCS CIG program. Additional information can be found at Feed Management Publications.
This project is affiliated with the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center

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Agriculture Environmental Management Systems

What is an EMS?

Environmental Management Systems (EMS) are a method of improving environmental and economic performance of a firm. They are widely accepted across many industries and are increasingly common in agriculture. An EMS is a process for integrating environmental considerations and requirements into day-to-day management and long-term planning for a farm.

This management approach examines a production system from start to finish, from inputs to products. With an EMS, the owner/operator and employees develop a plan for action that fits specific needs and resources, builds upon their stewardship principles, helps comply with legal requirements, and works to continually improve the operation. Also see What is an Ag EMS?

An EMS does NOT replace regulations, but may help in attaining compliance or realizing other benefits related to reduced environmental liability and better management. The EPA encourages adoption of EMSs as a method of improve regulatory compliance, encourage environmental performance, and perhaps reduce regulatory burden.

An emerging concept that is very similar to an EMS is known as ‘adaptive management’. Check out an archived webinar on Adaptive Nutrient Management and a recorded symposium presentation on opportunities for adaptive grazing management in drought-stricken areas.

The EMS process was developed for industry and is commonplace in manufacturing world wide. The most recognized system is ISO 14001 which involves third party certification and formal auditing. As farms become larger and more complex and rely on more employees and outsource more services, the farmer needs a systematic method of managing his or her operation. While formal certification may not be necessary, the EMS process and principles can help farmers improve their environmental and economic performance. There are Ag EMS Publications tailored for agriculture that make it practical to implement on the farm.

The EMS model is a Plan, Implement, Check and Correct, and Review sequence, a proven successful management process. The planning process begins with establishing an environmental policy for the farm/ranch that describes the farmer’s commitment to environmental stewardship, to meeting regulations, and to continual improvement.

An Environmental Management System (EMS) helps to integrate environmental decisions into the overall farm management. CC2.5 LPELC

Environmental Policy Statement

An EMS policy statement describes the environmental principles that are important to you, and establishes your goals for managing them. Everyone who works on your farm should know and share a commitment to the policy statement. You can showcase this statement to the public to demonstrate your environmental commitment. An EMS policy statement should at a minimum describe your commitment to:

  • pollution prevention,
  • continual improvement, and
  • compliance with environmental regulation.

Plan

Next, the farmer assesses the current operation to identify strengths and weaknesses and identifies which if any are causing significant environmental concerns. He or she has now identified a small list of priorities to address first. Then, an action plan with defined objectives, measurable outcomes, and specific steps, timelines, and assignments is developed for each priority. Some assessments can be found at:

Implement

“Implement” involves communicating the plan to the people that are responsible for making it happen. This includes preparing operating procedures, training, and resources as needed.

Record keeping is an essential component of an effective EMS. CC2.5 LPELC

Check

“Check” is a regular review of the plan’s progress and environmental performance. If problems arise “Correct” refers to corrective actions taken. Documenting regular monitoring actions taken helps the farmer measure progress and shows a proactive approach to environmental improvement.

Review

“Review” closes the loop on the continuous improvement process. Farmers annually review their operation and their plan to determine if they are headed in the right direction, using the best methods, and making progress.

Chances are good that components of the EMS process are already being utilized on a farm. These may include management plans for manure handling, pests, or nutrients, in addition to records on soil testing, chemical applications, feeding requirements, or worker training. An EMS helps organize and document these efforts and improve the environmental and economic performance of the farm.

Examples of Environmental Management Systems for Agriculture

Resources For More Information

Author: John Lawrence, Iowa State University Reviewers: Mark Risse, University of Georgia and Tommy Bass, Montana State University

Whole Farm Nutrient Balance

What is Whole Farm Nutrient Balance?

Nutrient management is a process of planning for manure and fertilizer applications to individual crop fields. Whereas whole farm nutrient balance considers the location and flow of nutrients onto, within and off the entire farm. Whole farm nutrient balance involves taking a step back and also comparing the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and other nutrients entering the farm as purchased feed, fertilizer, animals etc. with the amount of nutrients leaving the farm as milk, animals, crops, manure exports to other farms, etc. Such a comparison can help in determining the economic and environmental impacts of nutrient management on dairy and livestock farms.

A comparison of the flows of nutrients onto and off dairy and livestock farms results in whole farm nutrient balance assessment. This balance is usually calculated from records of the nutrient-containing materials coming onto the farm (feed, fertilizer, purchased animals) and those leaving the farm in the form or products (milk, meat, eggs, crops, etc.). Balances can be expressed as percentage remaining, lbs/acre remaining or, for dairy farms, as lbs remaining per unit milk produced. For an example, see the Cornell Whole Farm Nutrient Balance Software or other such tools.

An estimate of the whole farm nutrient balance can also be determined from the density of livestock on the farm. Animal Density is usually estimated from the number of animal units per acre. (See box below)

Animal Density=Animal Units (AU)/Acre on an annualized basis,

  • AU=1000 lb live weight/A
  • Acres=acres available for manure application
  • Annualized=days our of 365 animals are on the farm producing manure

Animal Density=AU/Acre*(Days/365)

Go to the Animal_density_Calculator (Excel file)

Source: Doug Beegle, Pennsylvania State University.

Why Is the Whole Farm Nutrient Balance Important?

When the inflow of nutrients is greater than the outflow, annual losses and/or accumulation of nutrients will occur. The whole farm nutrient balance can indicate the potential for non-point source pollution from nutrients on the farm which can help to target management efforts to minimize the impact of nutrients on the environment. As such, the assessment of a farm’s nutrient mass balance can assist producers in determining the need for and identification of management practices that can reduce nutrient imports or enhance exports such as off site movement of manure, manure treatment, feed ration adjustments, land purchases and herd size adjustments to land acres. Knowing a farm’s nutrient balance is especially useful for farms looking at expansion or costly upgrades of equipment and buildings to ensure the long term sustainability of the farm.

The whole farm nutrient balance brings a number of important characteristics of the farm to the forefront that can optimize the economics of manure management while minimizing the environmental impacts from manure nutrients. Some of these are summarized in the table below.

The economics of nutrient management are often linked to the whole farm nutrient balance. For example, most people assume that improved nutrient management will always result in a positive economic return for the farm, but in fact, on many of the farms with a high potential for nutrient pollution, the economics of improved nutrient management to protect the environment will be costly. For farms that have excess nutrients the goals become maximizing safe utilization of nutrients and developing a strategy for removing excess nutrients from the farm. Examples of different nutrient management strategies based on nutrient balance can be seen by selecting the appropriate link in the table below.

Characteristics of Farms Based on Manure Nutrient Balance
Manure Nutrient Balance Deficit Balanced Excess
Animal Density* Low (<1.25 AU/A) Medium (1.25-2.25 AU/A) High (>2.25 AU/A)
Feed Source (% Off Farm) <50% 50-80% >80%
Land for Manure Application Adequate Limited Inadequate
Manure Management Strategy Deficit Balance Strategies Nutrient Balance Strategies Excess Nutrient Strategies
Economics of Nutrient Management Positive Neutral Negative
Non-point Source Pollution Potential Low Low to High High

*For P balance assessment, animal densities shown here should be halved.

Recommended Resources for Calculating Whole Farm Nutrient Balance

Excess Nutrients Management Goal = Reduce the Excess

  • Remove manure nutrients from the farm
  • Reduce the animal density
  • Manage nutrients remaining on the farm based on nutrient balance.
  • Example tactics:
    • Sell manure
    • Give manure away
    • Acquire more land
    • Reduce animal numbers

“In Balance” Management Goal = Maximize Safe Use of Manure Nutrients

  • Manage manure based on nutrient balance
  • Manage nutrients so that over time inputs balance outputs
  • Example tactics:
    • Spread manure on legumes
    • Don’t incorporate manure. Note: This strategy is currently sustainable but will likely change if air emissions need to be reduced.
    • Increase intensity of cropping system
    • Detailed plan needed

Deficient Management Goal = Maximize Efficient Use of Manure Nutrients

  • Manage based on expected crop response to manure nutrients.
  • Manage nutrients to increase yields or decrease purchased inputs.
  • Example tactics:
    • Spread manure in the spring as near to the time of crop utilization as practical
    • Use cover crops to conserve nutrients from fall and winter applied manure
    • Incorporate manure immediately to conserve nitrogen
    • Spread manure on N requiring crops
    • Don’t spread manure on legumes – they don’t need the N
    • Spread manure on fields with low P & K soil test levels

Page Manager: Douglas Beegle, Penn State University

Nutrient Planning on Small Farms

livestock and poultry environmental learning center logo with cow, pig, and chicken sillhouettes over a map of the U.S. with three circling arrowsThe LPE Learning Center hosted a webcast on Nutrient Planning on Small Farms in June, 2008.

Positive Impacts of Manure

When managed properly, manure can be a valuable resource on a farm. Manure can be a source of nutrients for crop production and improve soil quality. The organic matter present in manure can improve both tilth and water holding capacity of the soil. Livestock and poultry manure is a valuable fertilizer for crop and pasture production. Most farm owners do not realize the value of the manure that is produced on their farms.

Negative Impacts of Manure

When not managed properly, manure can pollute the environment; mainly as ground or surface water pollution due to the nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and carbon (organic matter). In addition manure can lead to air quality concerns, pathogens in water supplies, odors, dust, and the presence of vermin.

Manure Nutrients

Manure nutrients can be beneficial for the soil and plant growth; however, manure application rates should be based on plant growth needs. Excessive manure application to the soil can result in nutrient leaching and increased losses through runoff. In addition, manure contains soluble salts and minerals such as arsenic, copper, and zinc which in excessive amounts may negatively impact the soil quality.

Manure nutrients, (N, P, and organic matter) can be major pollutants in lakes and estuaries as well as rivers. Nitrogen and phosphorus attached to soil particles may reach waterways through surface runoff or wind deposition. Dissolved N and P may leach through the soil, ultimately reaching water bodies. Organic matter can enter water bodies in the form of manure, vegetative matter, or animal carcasses. Waters rich in minerals, organic matter, and nutrients promote a proliferation of plant life, especially algae. This process is called eutrophication. Algae growth and the decomposition of organic matter in water bodies reduces the dissolved oxygen content of the water, which may lead to the death of aquatic life.

Pathogens and Vermin

In addition to the concerns regarding nutrients, pathogens may be present in manure. Some examples of the pathogens are E. coli, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium parvum. These pathogens can impair water bodies and potentially pose human health risks when manure or contaminated water comes in contact with food sources. Flies and rodents are other manure related concerns on livestock farms. These problems can be minimized by proper design of animal housing and manure storage, and proper handling procedures when turning or moving manure piles.

Air Quality

Air quality concerns arise from odors, particulate matter, and aerial pathogens. Ammonia released from manure can result in odor and may react with other compounds in the atmosphere producing particulate matter (PM 2.5) which can affect the environment and public health. There are a variety of other compounds released from manure such as hydrogen sulfide, green house gases (methane and nitrous oxide), and some volatile organic compounds that can also cause air quality concerns. Particulate matter that arises from dust and reaction of ammonia with other compounds in the atmosphere are also a concern.

Why Implement Nutrient Management Planning?

The purpose of nutrient management is to implement practices that permit the efficient use of manure for crop production while protecting potential environmental damage that may be caused by nutrients. Nutrient management planning is a site specific exercise; and, if the recommendations are followed, nutrient losses should be minimal. In general, nutrient management considers the nutrients available on a farm, how best to use them, and the potential impacts of the nutrients on the environment. Factors typically considered in nutrient management planning are: goals of the farming operation as well as any constraints; available farm resources (land, equipment, financial resources); potential critical areas on the farm (sensitive water bodies, neighbor concerns, erosion, manure storage); and nutrient balance analysis (shown in the figure below).

 

Recycling

CC2.5 Mike Westendorf

Farm nutrient inputs consist of animals, feed, fertilizer, legume nitrogen, and bedding. Outputs are animals, milk, meat, eggs, manure, and crops. Recycling also occurs on the farm with nutrients moving from feed through livestock, applied to soil, utilized by plants, and back to feed again. The optimal goal (Whole Farm Nutrient Balance) is for the farm to remain in balance between inputs and outputs without losses as runoff or leachate from either the soil or manure. Soil can store some nutrients assuming that the amount of manure applied to the soil is not excessive.

 

Small Farms are Different than Large Farms

The challenges of managing manure nutrients are different on a small farm than on many larger farms although the principles are similar. Small farms have fewer animals and sometimes several animal species on the same farm. They also may have limited acreage and/or lack equipment for spreading manure. The nutrient management planning section provides information on feeding animals and managing their diets; manure production; basic soil science and soil fertility; and nutrient (manure) management. The section details on- and off-farm use within the context of a nutrient management plan.

The following articles are coming soon!

  • Basic soil science and fertility
  • Nutrient management on the farm
  • Crop utilization
  • Nutrient management plans
  • Off-farm utilization
  • Soil and manure testing
  • Record keeping

Additional Resources

Nutrient Management–SIMPLIFIED! by Randall James, Ohio State University Extension

Authors: Jactone Arogo Ogejo, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Michael Westendorf, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey