New May 1994

WQ218, Record Keeping for Manure Land Application

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Record Keeping for Manure Land Application

Charles D. Fulhage
Department of Agricultural Engineering

Applying manure fertilizer to land but still protecting water resources is an old and proven practice. However, as the operation size increases, the environmental impact of waste application becomes more apparent.

It is critical to properly manage the manure application process. Applying too much manure can lead to runoff. It can also lead to lower crop yields or a buildup of nutrients in the soil that may seep into the groundwater.

Why are good application records important?

A good system of record keeping can help assure that land application of manure efficiently uses the manure's fertilizer nutrients while protecting groundwater and surface water. Also, good records are evidence of good management. They will show you are complying with regulations, if any litigation involving the waste management system occurs.

Also, the intensive management approach to sizing the soil/plant filter or waste-receiving area for the Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) letter of approval requires keeping certain records and data.

In some cases, the producer does not own enough land to receive the waste generated. If some or all of the manure produced is spread on land not owned, a legally binding agreement must be made with the landowner. A form (M121-F, Spreading Agreement) is available from DNR outlining the necessary requirements.

In some cases it may not be feasible to work out an agreement with a single neighbor or landowner, especially if there is an active market for manure. In such cases, DNR may accept an accurate set of spreading records instead of a spreading agreement.

Items to consider in record keeping

Data to consider in record keeping depends upon your detail and goals. You need this basic data to include manure in your crop fertility program and satisfy DNR requirements for record keeping.

Field identification

This may be an item that does not change from year to year. There may already be an adequate identification system in place for other purposes, such as conservation compliance and cost share practices.

If you already have a field numbering system with your conservation plan, use that system. Some portions of a given field identified to receive wastes may not be covered by the waste application equipment being used. This is true of irrigation systems on irregularly shaped fields. So, field identification should include a layout of the actual area within the field that receives livestock wastes.

Year in question

Since many items, such as crops grown, yield records and manure applied, change from year to year, it is important that these items be recorded annually. Past experiences can be a basis for present and future decisions.

Crop grown

The type of crop grown on a waste-receiving area provides a basis for estimating needs. Record fertilizer nutrients, manure application and subsequent nutrient availability such as occurs when nitrogen is available following a legume crop. Planting and harvesting dates should be noted, also.

Crop yield

Crop yield, or amount removed from the field, is very important in developing a fertility program and nutrient application strategies. Yield directly influences the amount of nutrients removed from a field, which influences the amount of nutrients needed for the next crop.

Measure small grain yields in bushels per acre, while forage crops (hay, silage, etc.) are measured as tons per acre. Also record if no plant material is removed from the waste-receiving area. Pasture yields may be best described by the annual animal unit days the pasture is being grazed.

Soil test data

Soil tests provide a measure of nutrients available in the soil. The test will estimate additional nutrients needed for your yield goals, whether from manure or commercial fertilizer. Soil tests will show if any nutrient is building up in the soil from over-application.

Commercial fertilizer

If manure and commercial fertilizer are both being used, record the amount and blend of the commercial fertilizer.

Lab analysis

Record the manure fertilizer nutrients applied, the dates applied and the lab analysis. Lab analysis should include total nitrogen, ammonia nitrogen, phosphorus (or P2O).

The volume or weight of manure applied depends upon the type, such as solid, slurry or lagoon.

Solid manure, such as poultry litter and manure/bedding mixtures, are handled with mechanical spreaders. The amount of manure is described as pounds per load or tons per acre.

Slurry manure, manure collected in a tank or pit usually with some water added, is handled with tank wagons. The amount of manure is described as gallons per load or gallons per acre.

Lagoon effluent, manure collected in an open pond with significant amounts of dilution water from rainfall and runoff, is handled with irrigation equipment. The amount is described by volume in acre-inches or total depth of application in inches.

Application method

Application methods, such as surface broadcast, injected, incorporated after spreading, or irrigated, are important because of the potential for field losses of nitrogen. Manure that is high in ammonia nitrogen and is surface spread without incorporation will lose a significant amount of the ammonia nitrogen through volatilization.

Manure sold

Record if you sold the manure for fertilizer, as is a common practice with poultry litter. The record should include the amount sold, location and number of acres on which the manure will be spread, covercrop on the receiving area, date of application and the purchaser's name.

DNR will accept these records instead of a formal spreading agreement when another person's property is used for land applying manure. It is the responsibility of the seller to advise the purchaser of nutrient levels in the manure and of the proper methods of handling and spreading the manure so that pollution does not occur. If pollution occurs from the purchaser's negligent handling and management of the manure, the seller can be held partially responsible.

Soil and weather conditions

If there is potential for odor complaints or of runoff, record the soil and weather conditions at the time of spreading. This may be helpful, should problems develop. Soil conditions might be described by the estimated percent moisture condition or by the amount of rainfall the area has experienced recently. Also, include temperature, wind direction and speed.


The example is a worksheet that might be used for manure spreading records. Not every item in the worksheet will be filled out for each operation.

Worksheet 1
Manure spreading record

General information
Field ID ________ Number of acres receiving manure ________ Year ________
Crop ________ Planting date ________ Harvest date ________ Yield
Soil test data
N________(pounds per acre) P2O________(pounds per acre)
Commercial fertilizer applied
Date________(pounds per acre) P2O________(pounds per acre)
Manure nutrients applied
Date________ Type of manure________
Lab analysis Total N Ammonia N P2O
Solid (pounds per ton)        
Slurry (pounds per 1,000 gallons)        
Lagoon (pounds per acre-inch)        
Manure application rate
Solid________(tons per acre)
Slurry ________(1,000 gallons per acre)
Lagoon________(inches per acre)
Total manure spread
Solid, tons or number of loads________________
Slurry, gallons or number of loads________________
Lagoon, acre-inches or number of hours pumping and flow rate___________(gallons per minute)
Method of application
Surface spread, injected, irrigated, surface spread/incorporated after________days
Method of incorporation________________________
Soil and weather conditions
Estimated soil moisture________(percent)
Recent rainfall________ Temperature________
Wind speed________ Wind direction________
Manure sold or spread on another's property
Type of manure
Amount sold________ Spreading location________
Number of acres________ Date of application________
Covercrop________ Customer name________

WQ218 Record Keeping for Manure Land Application | University of Missouri Extension