Additional Resources on Manure-to-Energy Technologies

Reports on Manure-to Energy Technologies

Financing for Manure-to-Energy Projects

Resources for Manure-to-Energy Projects

You may also be interested in the farm manure-to-energy case studies and an introduction to manure-based energy.

The Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative in the Chesapeake Watershed

Development of this information was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the USDA, U.S. EPA, and Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. The views and conclusions contained in materials related to the Farm Manure-to-Energy Initiative are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of NFWF, the USDA, U.S. EPA, or Chesapeake Bay Funders Network. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute endorsement by project funders.

Air Quality Resources for Policy Makers

Healthy communities include healthy businesses. A proposed new or expanded animal feeding operation can challenge the harmony of a local community. One commonly expressed concern regards the health impacts of the airborne emissions. Resources are available to help community members dealing with difficult decisions related to animal feeding operations. This 12 minute video explains some common air issues related to livestock and poultry production and science-based resources available to help policy makers and community members better understand odor, health and zoning issues as they develop policy.

Policy and Air Quality Resources

Setback estimation tools are available to help local policy makers and feeding operation owners assess the potential odor impact of a new or expanding operation on nearby neighbors and public areas. After odors, the most common livestock and poultry air emissions to receive scrutiny from regulators are ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. Both of these gases are important in a piece of federal legislation known as the Environmental Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA).

Some of the management practices available to farmers mentioned in this video include:

More Videos in This Series

Additional educational materials are available at Air Quality in Animal Agriculture


For more information about this video or these resources, contact Dr. Kevin Janni, University of Minnesota

These materials were based upon work supported by the by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture under Agreement No. 2010-85112-20520.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this video are those of the speaker and do not reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Manure Use for Fertilizer and Energy: June 2009 Report to Congress

Animal manure can be used as a fertilizer, and it can improve soil quality. Manure can also be used as a feedstock for energy production. But excessive concentrations of manure, either in storage or in land application, can create environmental risks, and farmers are facing increased regulation of their manure management practices.

This web page summarizes the findings of an USDA Economic Research Service publication, Manure Use for Fertilizer and for Energy : June 2009 Report to Congress.

What Is the Issue with Animal Manure?

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 directed the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prepare a study that would evaluate the role of animal manure as a source of fertilizer, and its other uses. The study was to provide:

  1. determination of the extent to which animal manure is utilized as fertilizer in agricultural operations by type (including species and agronomic practices employed) and size;
  2. an evaluation of the potential impact on consumers and on agricultural operations (by size) resulting from limitations being placed on the utilization of animal manure as fertilizer; and
  3. an evaluation of the effects on agriculture production contributable to the increased competition for animal manure use due to bioenergy production, including as a feedstock or a replacement for fossil fuels.

Livestock manure has value as a fertilizer and as an energy source. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Animal manure is used as a crop fertilizer and soil amendment, but it can pose environmental risks when stockpiled or applied in excessive amounts. Federal, State, and local governments have responded to the environmental risks with regulations and conservation programs, and some State and local governments have also initiated lawsuits against livestock operations, claiming damages to water resources from manure. Efforts to comply with regulations impose costs on certain livestock operations and will likely lead to changes in manure use on those operations.

There is also increasing interest in using manure for energy production. Methane can be captured from the biogas in manure and burned for electricity generation, while manure can also be burned directly as a feedstock in combustion processes. This report assesses current patterns of use of manure as fertilizer and evaluates the likely impacts of emerging environmental regulations on manure use. The report also assesses current efforts to use manure for energy production and evaluates the impact of bioenergy investments on manure’s use as fertilizer.

What Did the Study Find?

Manure Nutrient Use

About 15.8 million acres of cropland, equivalent to about 5 percent of all U.S. cropland, are fertilized with livestock manure. Corn, which is planted on about one-quarter of U.S. cropland, accounts for over half of the land receiving manure. Patterns of manure use are driven by the agronomic needs of crops and by transport costs, which limit the distance that manure can be moved and create close links between types of livestock and certain crop commodities. Each favors the application of manure to corn.

Most manure applied to corn comes from dairy and hog operations. Manure from poultry and cattle feedlot operations is drier and less costly to transport, and is therefore often removed from the farm and shipped to other operations. Because broiler production is concentrated in the southern United States, crops like peanuts and cotton rely heavily on broiler manure when they use manure fertilizers.

The value of nutrients in this manure will vary with supply and demand. Photo courtesy Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska.

Large livestock operations are increasingly required to have nutrient management plans, which require balancing nutrient applications with the nutrient utilization of crops. Compliance with the plans can raise farm costs. Estimated costs vary sharply with the degree to which excess manure needs to be disposed of and the willingness of nearby farmers to accept manure for application to their cropland. A low willingness to accept among nearby farmers means that livestock producers will need to transport excess manure much farther for crop application. With a limited willingness to accept manure (defined as 20 percent of nearby farmers), we estimated that production costs, including those for manure management, would likely rise by 2.5-3.5 percent for large operations.

Such increases are unlikely to alter the emerging structure of livestock production, where large operations have substantial cost advantages over small operations. They are also unlikely to lead to substantial declines in production and consumption; the resulting percentage retail price changes would be less than the cost changes noted above because farm costs are only a fraction of retail costs, and retail demand for meat and milk is relatively insensitive to price changes. As a result, expanded regulation through nutrient management plans will likely lead to wider use of manure on cropland, at higher production costs, with little impact on the size structure of farming operations.

Manure-to-Energy Use

Manure-to-energy projects are not currently in widespread use. Digester systems, including those planned or in construction, cover less than 3 percent of dairy cows and less than 1 percent of hogs. The single operating combustion plant utilizes litter from 6.6 percent of U.S. turkey production, while an idled plant in California could utilize manure from about 3 percent of fed cattle.

This anaerobic digester produces energy from livestock manure. Photo courtesy Bill Lazarus, University of Minnesota.

Manure-to-energy projects may allow farmers to realize benefits from avoided purchases of electricity, from selling electricity, or from selling manure to generating plants, but few realize enough savings to justify the expense. But because such projects use existing resources, they could provide society with benefits if manure replaces newly mined fossil fuels in energy production, and if methane, a greenhouse gas, can be captured. Those societal benefits have led to proposals to support manure-to-energy projects through State utility mandates (to purchase electricity from farms and to invest in renewable production sites), through subsidies for capital costs, and through direct subsidies and credits for energy production. Expanded support could lead to a substantial growth of energy applications for manure.

Currently envisioned manure-to-energy projects are not likely to impose substantive constraints on the use of manure as fertilizer. Many of the nutrients that are beneficial to crop growth remain after energy production. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium nutrients remain in the effluent of the digester process, to be spread on fields. Combustion processes do consume the nitrogen nutrients in manure, but leave phosphorus and potassium in an ash residue that, because of its concentrated form, is less costly to transport than raw manure. In addition, manure-to-energy projects function in markets for fertilizer and energy, and will be most economic in those areas in which the acquisition costs of manure are lowest. In turn, manure acquisition costs will be lowest where manure is in excess supply, with the least value as fertilizer.

Additional Reading About Manure for Fertilizer and Energy


James MacDonald, chief of the Agricultural Structure and Productivity branch in USDA’s Economic Research Service, Resource and Rural Economics Division,

Manure Testing Information and Resources

The LPE Learning Community manure testing resources are organized by the following topics.

Manure Testing Overview

Step 1. Manure Sampling

Step 2. Manure Test Results

Step 3. Total and Available Nutrients

Step 4. Manure Test Record Keeping

Finding a Manure Testing Laboratory

The following web pages all list laboratories that offer manure testing services. None of these pages claims to have a comprehensive national list, but all have many labs along with contact information listed. You are likely to find one or more labs within reasonable distance for mailing samples.

Water Programs (Regulations) That Can Affect Livestock and Poultry Producers

There are many resources available to assist producers in learning about which regulations apply to their operation. This page focuses on water-related programs.

Federal Programs

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations: Animal feeding operations can pose a number of risks to water quality and public health, mainly because of the amount of animal manure and wastewater they generate. Manure and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute pollutants such as nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus), organic matter, sediments, pathogens, heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and ammonia to the environment. These pollutants can cause several types of water quality and public health impacts, such as contamination of drinking water supplies and fish kills.Concentrated animal feeding operations that discharge into waters of the U.S. are required to apply for a permit under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.
  • Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) program: If your farm stores oil, fuel, or oil products, you should take note of the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasures (SPCC) program. Regulated facilities, including some farms, must develop and implement SPCC Plans that establish procedures and equipment requirements to help prevent oil discharges from reaching waters of the United States or adjoining shorelines.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations under the Clean Water Act

  • EPA Final CAFO Regulations (July 30, 2012)
    The final 2012 federal CAFO regulations include revisions to remove the 5th Circuit Court’s vacated elements, and the 2008 and 2003 Final CAFO Rules.
  • Consolidated Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) Regulations (38 pp., 452K)
    This document consolidates the current federal CAFO regulatory requirements included in the 2012 CAFO Rule Revision to remove the 5th Circuit Court’s vacated elements, and include the 2008 and 2003 final CAFO rules into a single document.
  • NPDES Permit Writers’ Manual for CAFOs
    Provides information to states, producers, and the general public including: 1) general information on Clean Water Act and NPDES requirements for CAFOs, 2) information to explain CAFO permitting requirements under the CWA, and 3) technical information to help states and producers understand options for nutrient management planning.

Additional Resources and Links

Oil Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) program under the Oil Pollution Prevention Program.

Additional Resources and Links

State Programs

Local Programs

In addition, you can contact your local:

  • Cooperative Extension office,
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS office),
  • Soil & Water conservation district, or
  • county zoning office

to find out about local or area programs or regulations that apply to you. The Soil & Water conservation districts and NRCS offices also good sources of information about cost-share or financial assistance programs that can help reduce the financial burden associated with complying with regulations.

Webcast Presentations

What Do the Experts Say? Frequently Asked Questions Related to Pathogens and Livestock or Poultry Production

A panel of national experts on pathogen issue in animal manure was assembled in 2006 by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center to share their expertise. The Learning Center is indebted to Chip Simmons, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Public Health; Thomas Harter, University of California, Davis; Jeanette Thurston-Enriquez, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Sheridan Kidd Haack, US Geological Survey; Gary K. Felton, University of Maryland; Dan Shelton, USDA Agricultural Research Service; Rob Atwill, University of California, Davis; Jane Frankenburger, Purdue University; Laurel Staley, US Environmental Protection Agency.

Pathogen Fundamentals

  • What is a pathogen? A zoonotic pathogen? FAQ #26419 .
  • What is the difference between bacteria and viruses? Do both bacteria and viruses from livestock represent a human health risk? FAQ #26425
  • How long will animal-derived (zoonotic) pathogens persist in groundwater and surface water? FAQ #26430
  • Regarding E. coli, is there data stating the levels that confined feeding operations are currently contributing E. coli? FAQ #27123
  • Do you have any statistics relating directly to horses? Are they more or less likely to be implicated in pathogen outbreaks in humans? FAQ #27124
  • How many cases involving human sickness related to pathogen contamination of surface water from agricultural livestock sources have been documented? FAQ #26420
  • What risks to my health (CAFO inspector) exist during a CAFO inspection from exposure to pathogens? FAQ #26427
  • If pathogens are a significant health concern, why don’t farmers and farm workers get sick from these pathogens more often? FAQ #26437
  • What are the health effect from trucks hauling poultry litter; specifically, from the dust and material coming off the trucks? FAQ #27126
  • What is the relationship between odor and possible pathogens? Can people get sick if they are downwind from wastewater irrigation sites? FAQ #27127

Surrounding a sinkhole or other high risk geology with a conservation buffer is an important pathogen best management practice (BMP).
Source: Jane Frankenberger, Purdue University.


Pathogen BMPs

  • What BMPs are effective for minimizing pathogen transport from manure land application sites to surface and groundwater? FAQ #26422
  • How does a poultry facility appropriately handle flock mortalities from avian flu? FAQ #27168
  • If I control the manure and runoff from my animal housing and manure storage, have I eliminated my farm’s risk associated with pathogens? FAQ #27169
  • Do confined cattle have increased risk of shedding E. coli 0157:H7 due to high grain content of their diet? FAQ #27170 and FAQ #27176
  • Should we be concerned about E. coli O157:H7 in manure compost? FAQ #27171
  • By what factor does composting manure reduce the pathogens present? FAQ #27172
  • Please recommend pathogen elimination or reduction technologies for animal manure, (especially manure from CAFOs) to eliminate pathogens as a regulatory requirement? FAQ #27173
  • If indicators for pathogenic organisms are identified in irrigation water used for food crops, like spinach, should these waters be treated before application, and if treatment should be done what methods would be effective? FAQ #27177
  • In the upper Midwest, conventional systems are simple pit or pond storage structures, not fitting the technical standard of “anaerobic lagoon”. What are the attenuation rates for those structures? FAQ #27178
  • With the recent focus on pathogen transport between livestock operations and ready to eat crops I’m interested to know if there’s any research that could recommend a buffer size between livestock operations and edible crop fields? FAQ #27135

Pathogen Transport

  • Do pathogens move in the environment similar to other potential pollutants with which I am more familiar? Nitrates? Phosphorus? Sediment? FAQ #26423
  • What livestock pathogens are most likely found in surface waters that are of concern to humans? FAQ #26434
  • If pathogens are found in a watershed, are livestock likely to be the only or primary cause of those pathogens? FAQ #27136
  • Can pathogens enter the groundwater via normal land application of manure? Via manure storage? FAQ #27137
  • It was reported that in the E. coli O157:H7 spinach contamination in California that the E. coli was actually taken up through the roots of spinach plants and sequestered in the leaves. Is this possible? FAQ #27140
  • Can you give an example of survival times for pathogens? FAQ #27151
  • How far (feet/miles) downstream are pathogens detected from where they enter the stream? FAQ #27154
  • Is there a relationship between ambient temperature and risk to pathogen exposure in manure application? FAQ #27155

Limiting animal access to surface water, especially young animals is critical to reducing pathogen risk
Source: Rob Atwill, University of California-Davis

Related FAQs

  • Regarding pathogen contribution to watersheds from confined feeding operations, is E. coli the best pathogen to measure to determine contamination of a watershed from livestock manure? FAQ 26433
  • How do I know if I am the cause of a pathogen problem? What do I monitor? How do I know if I have solved my pathogen problem? FAQ 26432
  • What pathogens should I test for to determine if manure has contaminated my well? FAQ 26431
  • Is there a meaningful method to analyze surface water samples for Crypto. and Giardia? FAQ 26429

Page Managers: Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska, and Janice Ward, US Geological Survey

Ag Environmental Management Systems Publications Curriculum Materials

This series of agricultural environmental management system (EMS) publications are the result of a five year project, Partners for Livestock EMS that field tested EMS tools with over 200 beef, dairy, and poultry producers in nine states. The ag EMS processs process is aimed at helping farmers and ranchers integrate environmental decision making into the day to day management of their operation. The process emphasizes the following actions:

  • Assess current performance and regulatory compliance.
  • Establish effective communication.
  • Set priorities for environmental improvement.
  • Develop action plans focused on measurable objectives.
  • Maintain comprehensive, well-organized records.
  • Identify and control potential sources of error.
  • Monitor progress toward objectives.
  • Regularly improve plans and re-assess priorities.

Users are encouraged to create individualized approaches to achieving objectives. The result is an ag-friendly EMS that is consistent with international standards.

Who Should Download the Ag EMS Publications?

These publications are targeted for use by farmers, ranchers, and their advisers. Educators and agency staff will find them useful in program development. Download the entire package (.ZIP format – includes both Word and PDF versions of all six publications)

An Introduction to Ag EMS (PDF format) | (Word format) (Word cover)

Target audience: Farmers, educators, and coaches/advisers
Purpose: An introduction to Environmental Management Systems (EMS) concepts for farmers, educators, coaches, and others. It explains the basic requirements and the benefits of the EMS process. It can also be distributed to those potentially interested in an EMS educational program. Download PDF | Download Word & cover

EMS Fact Sheets (PDF format) | (Word format)

Target audience: Farmers
Purpose: A companion to My EMS Workbook. This publication contains a fact sheet for each step of the EMS process. It provides an explanation for each topic, examples, and a list of recommended tasks. Download PDF | Download Word

My EMS Workbook (PDF format) | (Word format)

Target audience: Ag producers
Purpose: Intended for use with the EMS Fact Sheets. This publication contains blank worksheets that producers can complete. When completed, the workbook will serve as a summary or manual of their EMS. Download PDF | Download Word

Example My EMS Workbook (PDF format) | (Word format)

Target audience: Ag producers, educators, and coaches
Purpose: This publication is an example of the My EMS Workbook already completed for a case study beef feedlot. The example is intended to provide producers with a sense of how the materials will look when completed and offer ideas for their own EMS. Educators and coaches may use the example as-is, or they can modify it to reflect a particular animal species or geographical location. Download PDF | Download Word

EMS Sample Record Keeping Forms (PDF format) | (Word format)

Target audience: Ag producers, educators, and coaches
Purpose: These forms are blank templates that can be used as-is or modified to accommodate a producer’s record-keeping systems. The publication covers a wide range of environmental record-keeping topics that are commonly required in regulatory programs, in cost share programs, and by producers wishing to demonstrate a high level of environmental stewardship. Note: The CAFO regulations have been modified since the publication of this material. It is recommended that you verify requirements in federal and your state regulations and modify the materials if necessary before distribution. Download PDF | Download Word

EMS Supplement (PDF format) | (New handout 4b) | (Word format)

Target audience: Educators and coaches
Purpose: This publication provides guidance on setting up an educational program and gives additional information related to each topic. A list of recommended tasks or activities is included. It also contains one or more handouts for each step that can be photocopied and given to producers. This publication compares the relationship between the ISO 14001 standard and the EMS model outlined in the publication. Note: You should replace the handout 4b in both versions with the file downloaded as “new handout 4b”.  (PDF format) | (New handout 4b) | (Word format)

Resources for More Information on Ag EMS

Educational and Commercial Resources for Manure Composting

Educational Resources

Commercial Resources

Consulting Resources

  • Coker Composting & Consulting, Roanoke VA, provides professional support to the composting industry with experience in planning, designing, building and running compost facilities
  • Tetra Tech provides responsible resource management and sustainable infrastructure services, offering innovative and cost effective solutions to complex problems
  • Midwest Biosystems offers consulting services to fit the need of any proposed or existing composting operation
  • Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. is a national management consulting firm that helps public and private sector organizations find solutions to solid waste management challenges

Author: Jason Governo, University of Georgia

Equipment and Software for Manure Composting

Composting Equipment & Software

  • Engineered Compost Systems is a company that designs and manufactures equipment, including CompTroller(tm) compost control and monitoring systems, aeration hardware, motor controls, feedstock mixers, product refinement equipment, ASP pile building conveyors and transfer conveyor systems. They also provide technical support for compost process and facility design and trouble-shooting, pro-forma facility analysis, compost marketing support, and operator training.
  • Green Mountain Technologies designs and manufactures in-vessel composting equipment. It also supplies compost management software and instrumentation, including 1)Windrow Manager 2.0 Software which includes a handheld Pocket PC, probe for temperature and oxygen sampling, and desktop software; 2)Compost Lab, a full suite of tools for managing compost batch data; and 3)Compost Calc – Recipe Software for predicting success of compost batches beforehand.
  • Reotemp Instruments is a California composting company manufacturing bimetal thermometers, pressure gauges, diaphragm seals and related accessories, moisture meters, the EcoProbe wireless monitoring system that allows monitoring from the office and the Compost Data Logger that records up to 16,000 temperature readings over extended periods and is downloadable to computers.
  • Industrial Telemetry, Inc., an Oklahoma Company, provides the BioMESH WindRow Control software program designed to allow the user to track the building and managing of the WindRows, static or turned, of a compost facility using patented transceiver/repeater REALMESH radio telemetry coupled with some of ITI’s sophisticated mapping techniques to transmit and track information while supporting simultaneous manual data entry.
  • Midwest Bio-Systems manufactures specialized equipment for the production of humified compost. The Aeromaster line of compost turning equipment includes pull-type and self-propelled compost turners, water trailers, probes, thermometers, sulfide test kits, windrow covers and Aeromaster service parts. The Advanced Composting System line of inoculants include the N-Converter, Humifier and Finisher products.
  • Renewable Carbon Management, LLC sells and licenses the NaturTech Composting System for converting organic materials into value added commodities. It is a biofiltration, in-vessel composting system that can be located in the smallest area possible with production ranging in size from 4 to 1000 tons/day. Programs can be implemented within 5 to 75 days, depending on the complexity of the process.
  • Compost Wizard software program uses critical user-inputs such as types of feedstocks, types of equipment, number of workers and location of the facility, to develop a preliminary design of the composting process and facility, and an estimate of capital and operating costs. The user can quickly generate many different design scenarios that can be used to estimate the feasibility of composting as a waste management option.

Author: Jason Governo, University of Georgia

Dairy Feed Nutrient Management Fact Sheets

Introduction to Feed Management and Developing a Feed Management Plan

It is strongly recommended that you read these introductory fact sheets before the dairy-specific ones.

Developing A Dairy-Specific Feed Management Plan

Managing Feed Nutrients on a Dairy Farm

Tools and Resources for Developing a Feed Management Plan

These fact sheets were developed as part of the National Feed Management Education Project.