Valuing manure and the environment was the platform for the 2014 Manure Expo held at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds in Springfield, Mo.

The two-day exposition pulled together the resources of over 70 vendors from the U.S. and Canada along with the expertise of Extension professionals from Missouri, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

“The main purpose is to show people how to increase efficiency of using manure as a fertilizer and decrease the environmental impact in its use,” said University of Missouri Extension Agricultural System Management professor Teng Lim. “It is the first time we’ve brought the expo this far south. We’re doing something new for the region and making an impact by educating the farmers and regulators in this region.”

The expo delivered the latest in technology and techniques through demonstrations, educational classroom events and a trade show. According to Doug Hamilton, a waste management specialist for Oklahoma State University, demonstrating equipment  side-by-side gave visitors the opportunity to check out how equipment measures up for their needs. “This is the only show I know of where you can do that,” he said.

Dave Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairy Association, attended some of the demonstrations and was overwhelmed by the amount of technology in place. He said, “Yesterday we saw an on-farm demonstration at the Chapman Dairy out by Pierce City. We saw several difference pieces of equipment used in his lagoon and their overall operations.

“Later we had a tour of the Springfield waste treatment facility. For us in rural America we don’t often get a chance to see, but they are taking the nutrients extracted there and applying them to agricultural lands.”

“Years ago, manure wasn’t realized for its economic value in raising crops, today it is,” he added, “People who are sharp about this know how to apply it and in the right amounts are realizing the economic benefit that is more important to us today because of profit margins than in past years.”

Realizing the value of manure and working to prevent an adverse environmental impact were the common themes in the classrooms. In the Manure as a Fertilizer session, Hailin Zhang, an OSU nutrient management extension specialist, kicked off the discussion with critically sampling soil to not simply assess the nutrients, but to provide the basis for setting fertilizing goals without overdoing.

“Soil sampling is the weak point in the analysis chain,” he said, “You can’t just grab a few samples and expect a good representation of that plot of land.”

Zhang urged participants to use sound planning in advance of taking samples with a starting number of no less than 20 samplings to ensure accurate analysis. He noted the size and physical geography of the field must be considered.

“When taking samples from huge fields it is a good idea to break them down into smaller sections,” said Zhang.

Another point in planning is deciding on the sampling pattern throughout the plot.

“By sampling in a diagonal, zig-zag or even grid sampling you will hit most of these places to get a good average and get good results,” remarked Zhang.

As he explained there are differences in the vertical or depth of samples taken in the soils nutrients. Zhang added, “It is equally important to get the number of samples and to be consistent in the depth of those samples to increase the accuracy of the report.”

Once a producer has a reliable report breaking down current levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, then setting realistic goals can begin. Since nitrogen is the fuel that keeps the crop going the amount of nitrogen needed must be based on the crop, yield goals.

“The formula for that is subtracting the actual soil nitrogen content from the amount needed to achieve the production goal to determine how much nitrogen needs to be applied,” Zhang said.

In his presentation during the ‘Manure Value and Optimization’ session, Josh Payne of OSU demonstrated with using poultry litter as the model to base estimated values and marketing.

“We’re placing a value on manure based on current commercial prices of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium,” he said, “We look at the nutrient content of the manure and we look at other factors such as organic matter, magnesium and calcium in it that can be used as a soil amendment to increase the pH of the soil.”

For the most part the writing is on the wall using such calculations to determine the cost if purchasing manure and if your livestock operation has a surplus of manure these concepts work equally as well for creating a fair market price. However one thought that may not be readily visible is the manure you already have or will be applying rarely comes to light in the account books, noted by MU’s Ray Massey.

Massey equates the manure value to a product that was created on the farm thereby adding a little more clearance to the bottom-line. Using the resource prevents the operation from outsourcing additional fertilizer to some level.

“Manure when used as a fertilizer becomes a on-site supply that translates into dollars,” he said.

Not only has the expo become a platform for learning, commerce between vendor and buyers; it has become the necessity that sparks greater innovation within the commerce of waste management.

Soon, many if not all of the slide shows given in the classrooms will be posted on the Manure Expo website. Point your browser to www.ManureExpo.org.

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