AMES, IOWA — With smaller supplies of fertilizer available right now, along with rising costs, more farmers are looking to go old school when it comes to feeding their fields. The demand to use livestock manure is growing. Buying and selling manure is something that has started in agriculture fairly recently.

 “Starting about 2000 … we actually came up with a mechanism for buying and selling manure,” said Daniel Andersen, who focuses on manure treatment, management, and utilization at Iowa State University. “It it didn’t really take off until fertilizer prices started trending up.””

The manure can range in price from $50 a ton up to $200. It all depends on it’s NPK rating to show how much nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus is in the waste.

“That’s the initial pricing, is based on how much NPK really is in whatever manure source we’re talking about,” said Andersen, “So we’re looking at something like solid broiler turkey or layer manure or we might be talking somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 a ton to start with, but it’s really price based on how much nitrogen and phosphorus it has in it.”

The manure is not a permanent solution to the fertilizer shortage, due to the fact that manure supplies are not all that plentiful either.

“When you look at Iowa we’ve valued manure quite a while already, many of our dairy farmers I think of it as a circular economy where they’re getting free local sources fertilizer by growing that live stock,” said Andersen. “Recycling that manure on their land, it’s a way we encourage farmers to start, that’s a way for them to really get a fertility discount if you put up a hog barn.”

The demand for manure could decrease as fertilizer costs come down, and supply becomes available.

“We do have a limited supply of manure in the state, we do lead the nation in pork production, but even in the state like Iowa with lots of livestock there’s still a lot of capacity,” said Andersen, “We only get somewhere in the neighborhood of 25% to 30% of all our nutrient needs from manure. The higher fertilizer prices have (driven) up what manure is worth and the number of people looking to buy it because it does come out a slight discount compared to purchasing commercial fertilizers.”

Andersen said the big down side to manure is the smell. Also livestock operators have a DNR regulated plan for disposing of manure, so a livestock operator can’t just decide to sell to his neighbor. The soil must be tested to assure the manure would be good for the ground, and that ground water supplies would be protected.