Manure Management for Farms
Producing More Manure Than Their Crops Need
Table of Contents
- Determining Your Landbase Needs
- Options for Farms that Produce More Manure Than
Their Landbase Can Handle
- Related OMAFRA Factsheets
- Appendix 1 Manure Application Agreement - Sample
Manure is an excellent source of plant nutrients, however, applying
too much of it to an area of land can increase the risk of environmental
concerns. This Factsheet outlines how to determine landbase needs
and discusses options for farms to manage the manure if enough landbase
is not available.
Determining Your Landbase Needs
A number of factors must be considered in order to determine the
landbase capacity of your Farm Unit to safely receive manure. The
OMAFRA computer software program NMAN or corresponding workbook
(OMAFRA Publication 818) are tools that help farmers determine values
for each of the following factors.
Legislative Note: A Farm Unit is the land and
associated facilities of an agricultural operation. For more information
on this topic or any other Legislative Note in this Factsheet, see
the More Info boxes at end of the document.
Factor 1: Nutrient Value of Manure to be Applied
The nutrient value of manure varies greatly from one animal type
to the next (see Table 1). The best way to determine
the nutrient value of your manure is to have it analyzed by an accredited
lab for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and dry matter
content. Take liquid manure samples from an agitated tank to obtain
an accurate estimate of nutrients. For a representative solid manure
sample, take samples from several locations of a pile. Average manure
nutrient concentrations for a range of livestock types are found
in the OMAFRA computer software program NMAN.
Table 1. Nutrient
Unit (NU*) Designations for a Variety of Different Animal Types
| Type of Livestock
|| # animals per NU
| Large frame dairy cow
| Beef feeders
| Swine- finishing pigs
| Lamb feeders
| Chickens- layer pullets
* A NU is equal to the amount of manure needed to give the fertilizer
replacement value of the lower of 43 kg of N or 55 kg of P.
For example, it takes the manure from 3 beef feeders to get the
equivalent of 1 NU.
Factor 2: Planned Crop Rotation
The nutrient requirements of crops vary from one crop to another.
What are the nutrient requirements of your current crop rotation?
To what extent can your manure be applied to meet these requirements?
Factor 3: Current Soil Nutrient Levels, Soil Type, and Topography
of the Landbase
If soil nutrient levels are already high, nutrient additions from
manure could be limited. The best way to determine the nutrient
levels in your soil is to submit a soil sample for analysis. Soil
type and topography can also limit the landbase capacity for manure
due to the higher risk of occurrence of contaminated runoff from
soil with low soil infiltration and steep slopes.
Factor 4: Proximity to watercourses or other environmentally sensitive
In order to reduce the risk of surface or well water contamination
setbacks for manure application are used. These setbacks should
be considered when calculating how much land remains for manure
Setbacks in Ontario
- 330 ft. (100 m) from municipal wells
- 50 ft. (15 m) from drilled wells or 100 ft. (30 m) from any
- 10 ft. (3 m) to 200 ft. (60 m) from the bank of surface water).
This setback depends on a number of factors such as the incorporation
method used, the slope near the watercourse and the P Index value
(see OMAFRA Factsheet, Determining
the Phosphorus Index for a Field, Order No. 05-067)
Legislative Note: The Nutrient Management Regulation
specifies required setbacks for regulated farm units. The setbacks
resulting from the P Index are not regulated but are still a recommended
In addition a 10 ft. (3 m) buffer is required along all watercourses
in fields where nutrients are applied and a nutrient management
plan is required by the Nutrient Management Regulation (except on
organic soils) (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Buffer strips along
streams reduce the risk of water pollution from nutrients.
Options for Farms that Produce More Manure than
their Landbase Can Handle
If you determine you have more manure nutrients than your landbase
can handle, consider the following options:
- Increase the size of the landbase
- Reduce the amount of manure nutrients to handle
- Apply more manure to the same landbase
- Move manure off-site
- Adopt innovative treatments of manure
Option 1. Increase the Size of the Landbase
in Your Farm Unit
There is enough cropland in Ontario to handle all the nutrients
from manure in the foreseeable future. The challenge is in obtaining
a localized landbase for the farm's manure since transporting manure
to remote sites can be costly (see end of this section for more
on landbase accessibility).
There are five approaches to increase the size of the landbase
in your Farm Unit.
- Purchase More Land on the Same Property Deed as the
Incorporating an additional landbase onto the same deed gives
greater assurance that a proper landbase remains with the barns
that produce the manure. This process is accomplished by purchasing
an adjoining landbase. After purchase by the same owner, the properties
are then joined on the same deed.
As livestock operations become larger, obtaining enough adjoining
properties will be difficult. It is expected that many operations
will gradually expand their landbase as properties surrounding
the livestock operation become available.
- Purchase More Land on a Different Deed
Owned land on a different deed gives the operation full control
of use of the landbase. However, there is a concern that the additional
property could be sold in the future possibly leaving the livestock
facility without an adequate landbase.
This land should be located close to the livestock facility to
lower the cost of manure handling. The accessibility of this land
base for spreaders or direct flow manure application systems*
(e.g. drag hose systems, see Figure 2) should
*Legislative Note: The use of high trajectory
irrigation guns as a direct flow manure application method is
prohibited by the NMA regulation when the manure being applied
exceeds 1% Dry Matter.
- Rent Land on a Long-Term Lease
Tillable land rented by the owner of the livestock operation on
a long-term lease is generally preferred over a manure application
agreement (see section below). The renter has control of the timing
and scheduling of crops to facilitate the application of manure.
This is especially important if the livestock operation has limited
manure storage capacity.
Legislative Note: For NMA regulation purposes
rented or leased land is treated the same as owned land, i.e.
it is under control by the operator.
- Use a Manure Application Agreement
A Manure Application Agreement is another way to handle manure
without land purchase. Though the land listed in an Application
Agreement would not become a registered part of a farmer's deeded
property, the farmer would list the land on his Farm Unit Declaration
Form when completing a Nutrient Management Strategy (NMS).
Legislative Note: Manure Application Agreement,
is not a required agreement under the NMA regulation but it is
an option for the farmer.
The longevity of the Agreement can range from 1-5 years. The landowner
will be more likely to renew their Agreement in the long term
if they see that the land receives benefit from the manure. If
the manure is unevenly applied or if damage occurs during application,
then the landowner may not gain any benefit and consequently may
refuse to continue with the agreement. Proper nutrient testing,
development of a NMP and uniform, non-compacting application are
keys to maintaining mutual benefit.
- Rent Land on a Short-Term Lease
A short-term lease can be considered if the livestock operation
is in an area where land is regularly available for rent. Then,
if one lease is lost, another lease can be picked up. Conversely,
if land is rarely available for rent, expansion based on a short-term
lease should not be considered.
Legislative Note: For a regulated farm unit,
a nutrient management strategy must be redone at least every 5 years.
However, a manure application agreement or rental agreement can
be for as little as 1 year. It is expected that the operator will
continue to renew this agreement over the 5-year span of the strategy.
If the agreement is not renewed, it is recommended that the operator
prepare a new Nutrient Management Strategy (NMS) if the loss of
land means that the amount of manure being generated exceeds the
amount that the NMS can accommodate.
Figure 2. Using a drag hose
for liquid manure application can minimize risk of soil compaction.
Landbase Accessibility for Manure Application
In all of the above 5 approaches, the accessibility of manure-application
equipment to the properties must be considered due to the large
volumes of manure that must be handled. For example, at a typical
rate of 5,000 imperial gallons of manure per acre (47 m3/ha),
2,500 tons of manure would be applied to a 100-acre farm (approximately
6 times the weight of dry corn you would harvest from the same acreage).
(See Figure 3).
Figure 3. Compaction Issues
should be considered when moving/applying manure.
Transporting 2,500 tons of liquid manure via a tractor trailer
to a remote site (over 3 km/2 miles) could become expensive. The
actual transportation costs could be affected by a number of factors
including amount of manure to be transported, distance to remote
site, access to transportation equipment or road configuration,
i.e. hills, drive through towns/hamlets, crossing major highways,
etc. For example, applying manure to a remote site rather than a
local one could add an additional cost of 1 cent per gallon of applied
manure because of added transportation costs. At an application
rate of 5,000 gal/ac (47 m3/ha), this would mean
an additional cost of $50/ac ($124/ha).
If manure spreaders are to be used, consider road travel and crossings
necessary to access a remote field. Turns on busy highways are very
dangerous since the large tanker often reduces or blocks visibility.
Repeated turns by a loaded multi-axle tanker on hot pavement can
cause extensive damage to the road. Safety concerns and extensive
equipment damage could also occur to farm equipment if the size
of the manure tanker is too big for the size of the tractor pulling
Direct flow liquid manure uses a pipeline to move the manure to
the field. In many situations at least one road, stream or private
property crossing will be involved to reach a field. Proper permission
must be obtained for any crossing or road access. For a livestock
farm, consider the installation of a permanent underground pipeline
to remote fields. Although more expensive initially, it allows quick,
Option 2. Reduce the Amount of Manure Nutrients
Reduction of nutrients in the manure will cause a decrease in the
amount of land required to spread manure from the farmstead (unless
liquid loading is the limiting factor). There are 3 approaches discussed
- Improve Efficiency of Nutrient Conversion from Feed
Most steps that improve the productivity of a livestock operation
(such as genetic improvements or feed ration balancing) will improve
nutrient conversion. However, in some cases there is a trade off
between conversion efficiency and productivity. An operator must
balance all factors in making a decision.
Specialized feed additives* designed to make certain nutrients
in feed more usable to the animal are coming on the market. If
effective, these products should improve nutrient conversion and
reduce nutrient levels in manure. For example, the additive phytase
has been found to reduce phosphorus in swine manure by 25%-50%.
(*Note: All feed additives have to be approved by Agriculture
and Agri-Food Canada before they can become available for commercial
Feeding animals a ration that is finely tuned to their nutritional
needs can also reduce animal manure nutrient output, as can reducing
the amount of feed spillage. Feed spillage can be reduced by using
high quality feeds, spill resistant feeders, good management and
by the recycling of refused feed to other animals.
- Decrease Livestock Production
If you lower the livestock production on the farm you will decrease
manure production. If you are already operating a livestock farm,
this approach is likely not practical; consider other approaches.
However, if you are planning a new or expanded operation, a Nutrient
Management Plan should be completed prior to construction. This
plan will determine the amount of manure that must be handled
and identify the size of landbase required to safely apply it.
If an appropriate landbase cannot be obtained, then downsizing
or relocation of the facility could be considered.
- Remove Nutrients from Manure
Some treatments of manure will reduce the amount of a particular
nutrient to handle. For example, during a composting process,
nitrogen may be lost to the air and will not have to be applied
to the landbase. However, one has to consider the environmental
problems being created as well as the economic losses. For example,
when composting, the "lost" nitrogen will be ammonia,
which can cause an odour concern and result in loss of a nitrogen
source for crop fertilizer.
Option 3. Apply More Manure to the Same Landbase
Increasing the application rate of manure without causing environmental
problems or crop yield reductions is another approach to deal with
excessive manure nutrients. Listed are 5 approaches available to
increase manure application rates.
- Reduce Commercial Fertilizer Use
By reducing commercial fertilizer applications, you may be able
to apply a higher rate of manure to a field. A Nutrient Management
Plan should be developed to properly match the nutrients in both
the manure and fertilizer with the crop nutrient requirements.
This plan should include manure and soil nutrient tests. OMAFRA's
NMAN software allows you to match these requirements and test
various "what if" scenarios.
Legislative Note: A Nutrient Management Plan
must be developed if the manure is to be applied on a regulated
farm unit that generates 300 nutrient units or more or if any
part of the farm unit is less than 100 m from a municipal well.
When using manure as a major source of nutrients, it is very important
to apply the manure evenly at the correct rates. Accurate, properly
calibrated application equipment is necessary. New technology
is becoming available to improve calibration and provide uniform
application of manure (see Figure 4).
- Reduce Use of Organic Nutrient Sources
Other nutrient sources such as ploughed-down red clover or sewage
sludge applications can provide a significant addition of nitrogen
to a field. In most cases, the operation will benefit. However,
if the full landbase is required to utilize nitrogen in the manure,
then the use of these organic nutrient sources should be reconsidered.
- Increase Crop Uptake of Nutrients
Increasing crop nutrient requirements will proportionally increase
the amount of nutrients that can be applied to the field. Examples
of increasing crop uptake are to:
- change to a crop or crop rotation that removes more nutrients
from fields (see Table 2)
- produce higher yielding crops
- switch to some legume-based crops such as alfalfa, which
use high levels of all nutrients (an alfalfa crop will use
soil-based nitrogen if available rather than producing its
The NMAN computer software program (or associated workbook)
can help to estimate multiple "what if" scenarios.
- Allow Build-up of Nutrients in the Soil
Phosphate and potassium, will build up in the soil profile if
applied above the crop's needs. If initial soil levels are low,
then some increase is preferable, provided that separation distances
from surface water are maintained. However, there will be a limit
on how long a build-up can continue before environmental problems
or crop growth restrictions occur. A nutrient management plan
completed using the NMAN software (or associated workbook) will
identify situations were it is recommended that P not be applied
over crop removal or not be applied at all.
Legislative Note: If P levels get too high, the
phosphorous limit in the NMA regulation may restrict the addition
of P beyond crop-removal levels, or in some cases, restrict the
addition of P nutrients altogether.
Since a livestock operation is a long-term venture, most landbase
calculations should not be based on significant nutrient build-ups
in the soil. One exception is when a remote landbase is to be
used for a limited number of years.
- Improve the Absorbing Ability of the Soil
The ability of soil to absorb manure may be limited by wet compacted
soils and/or steep slopes. The absorbing ability of the soil can
be improved by pre-cultivation or by improving the soil structure.
Alternatively, higher rate of manure application may be achieved
by completing multiple application passes with each pass at a
very low rate.
Contamination of drainage tile water via cracks to the soil surface
is another concern. Use of reduced rates, tillage prior to manure
application or monitoring of tiles may be necessary in fields
prone to this problem.
Table 2. Nutrient
Removal Rates of Common Field Crops1
|| Nutrient Removal (lb/ac)
| Corn Silage
| Alfalfa Hay
| Grain Corn
| Winter Wheat
1Corn silage has the highest total nutrient removal rate,
followed by alfalfa, soybeans, grain corn, and winter wheat.
*All yields are in bu/ac except corn silage and grass hay which
are in ton/ac
Figure 4. Example of a flow meter
sensor mounted on a manure tanker. Talk to your local dealer for
Option 4. Move Manure Off-Site
In some cases, transfer of manure to an off-site location may be
- Manure Broker Agreements
In some areas of Ontario, a manure broker (also called a manure
removal contractor) will take the manure from the barn, store
it and transfer it to another client. This approach is frequently
used for handling solid manure (such as broiler manure) where
there is a substantial demand for the manure as a source of organic
matter for growing crops.
Legislative Note: When a broker is used as a
part of a NMS, the appropriate Broker Agreements must be included.
These agreements demonstrate an understanding between the farmer
and the broker that once the broker takes the manure, it will
be managed responsibly under a NMS/P.
- Manure Transfer Agreement
A manure transfer agreement is used to transfer manure to another
farm that is not part of the same farm unit.
Legislative Note: Two types of agreements are
used. If the receiving farm is another regulated farm unit, a
Nutrient Transfer Agreement is completed. This transferred manure
must be included in the receiving farm's NMS. If the receiving
farm is not a regulated farm unit, information must be included
in the generator's NMS to indicate the receiving farm's area,
type and livestock information.
Option 5. Adopt Innovative Treatments of Manure
The main goal of manure treatment is to produce a product that
is easier to handle and less objectionable to users and their neighbours
(therefore increasing or maintaining the landbase available to spread).
Following are three ways to treat manure:
- Manure Separation
Separation produces a "solid" component out of liquid manure.
This "solid" material is easy to transport and in more
demand by potential customers. The remaining liquid component
is typically spread at the livestock operation. In some cases,
separation can be completed by just continuously draining the
liquids from the manure. Conversely, more complex systems such
as a screw separator can be used to extrude a solid material from
liquid manure (Figure 5). It is expected that
20% of the total nutrients from a free-stall barn can be "solidified"
Another approach to produce a solid material is to change the
manure handling and storage system to produce a solid form of
manure. An example of this is in layer barns where belt manure
handling systems are used along with water conservation to produce
a solid form of manure. Research projects indicate that the same
technology can be used in hog finishing barns where a sloped belt
under the slats immediately separates the solids from the liquids.
- Manure Composting
Composting solid manure can reduce the total volume by 30% - 50%
and decrease the odour level. This results in less volume of product
to be handled and a possible off-farm use by horticultural or
- Increase the Nutrient Concentration in Liquid Manure
Reducing the water content in liquid manure will concentrate the
nutrients in manure making it easier to justify the cost of transferring
the nutrients to remote fields. Practices such as keeping roof
water out of the storage, covering the storage or installing water
drinkers with less water loss can often reduce the volume of waste
to be handled (for example, adding wet/dry feeders to swine finishing
barns can reduce waste to be handled by at least 20%).
- Anaerobic Digesters
A digester treats manure in an oxygen-free environment. Biogas
is produced as part of the process that is used to heat the digester
with surplus available to produce renewable heat and electrical
energy. While it does not reduce volume or nutrient content, it
causes a substantial decrease in odour and pathogen levels in
Figure 5. Screw separator extruding
a solid material from liquid manure.
Although there are many options to reduce landbase requirements
of manure, proper planning should be completed before the time of
construction or expansion of a livestock facility to ensure that
adequate landbase is available. On farms where the landbase needs
are only just met, the farmer should have a comprehensive contingency
plan to safely handle any increases in manure volume or decreases
in available landbase.
Related OMAFRA Factsheets
Appendix 1. Manure Application Agreement - Sample
An application agreement may be completed by operations required
to have a Nutrient Management Plan and/or Nutrient Management Strategy
as defined by Ontario Regulation 267/03, where nutrients are applied
to land that is not owned or rented by the generator of the nutrients
and the generator intends to manage the application of nutrients
to the land.
- Name of Generator of manure/prescribed materials to be land
- Legal Name of the owner of the generating operation
- Operation Identifier (if previously assigned by Ministry)
- Land Owner/Receiver Information
- Owner/manager of land on which manure/prescribed materials will
- Legal name of the owner of the receiving operation
- Legal name of the land owner (if different from above)
- Operation Identifier (if previously assigned by Ministry)
- Term of Agreement (no less than one year)
- Agreement commences on
- Agreement ceases on
This agreement, between the parties named above, allows for the
following fields to be included in the farm unit operator's Farm
Unit Declaration and for application of manure to these fields under
the farm unit's nutrient management plan.
List each field/section under this agreement:
|| Tillable Acres
|| Roll Number
There are more fields listed on the back of this form.
I, (landowner) give permission to (generator of manure/prescribed
materials) to declare the above lands as part of the farm unit covered
by the nutrient management strategy for the time period covered
by this agreement. I also give permission to the farm unit operator/authorized
agent to do soil sampling on the properties listed to determine
the condition of the soil. I also agree that the land identified
in this agreement will not be used for the application of any other
prescribed material, originating from any other operation, including
my own (if I have any) during the term of this agreement.
I also agree that the prescribed materials covered by this agreement
will be applied in accordance to the nutrient management plan that
applies to the farm unit into which these lands are incorporated.
A spill contingency plan was developed and fully reviewed by both
- Land Owner
- Farm Unit Operator/Authorized Agent
Note: Permission to use these lands is required from all property
owners listed on the title to the land. For properties owned by
more than one person, permission may be given by additional owners
in the form of a signature on this form or a signed letter accompanying
NMA-Regulations and Protocols
Subject of Legislative Note: Calculating Nutrient Units
Subject of Legislative Note: Maximum Liquid Manure Application
Subject of Legislative Note: Setbacks from water courses
Subject of Legislative Note: Ban on use of High Trajectory Irrigation
Subject of Legislative Note: Nutrient Management Plans
Subject of Legislative Note: Phosphorus Index and Limit
Nutrient Management Disclaimer 2018
The information in this factsheet is provided for informational
purposes only and should not be relied upon to determine legal obligations.
To determine your legal obligations, consult the relevant law, www.e-laws.gov.on.ca.
If legal advice is required, consult a lawyer. In the event of a
conflict between the information in this factsheet and any applicable
law, the law prevails.