Updated spreadsheet shows hauling manure farther can pay off

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.

High fertilizer prices got you down? A newly reformatted worksheet from Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) may help.

The Manure Haul Spreadsheet, introduced in the early 1990s, has been updated to help producers figure the cost of hauling manure to fields farther down the road, a practice that may take the sting out of high nitrogen prices.

“When nitrogen fertilizers were less expensive, 3 miles was about as far as you could afford to haul manure before the cost of transportation began to outweigh the value of the fertilizer,” says Bob Battel, farm management educator for Michigan State University (MSU). “But the high cost of commercial nitrogen may mean that you can go farther down the road and still save money, even after you factor in the increased cost of fuel.”

Battel recently updated the MSU Extension Manure Haul Spreadsheet to aid producers who want to determine the feasibility of fertilizing more fields with manure. Farmers with access to Microsoft Excel can download the information from the MSUE web site. From there, they can enter information that will personalize the data output and make it pertinent to their farms.

“Farmers who take the time to enter personalized information will get the most benefit from the program,” Battel explains. He says a number of data points are requested, including current price of fertilizers, labor costs, distance to the field and type of crop to be fertilized.

“Two variables that really extend the distance you can haul are the size of the tank you’re hauling with and the speed of travel,” Battel says. “Farmers may find that it pays to hire a custom hauler with a large tank who can move faster rather than do all the hauling themselves.”

Though standard manure nutrient values are already programmed into the software, Battel says a recent manure analysis will make the figures more accurate.

“We used standard book values for manure in the spreadsheet, but they are often unrealistic and could skew the values substantially,” Battel says. “To get the most accurate results, you should have a current manure analysis.”

A link to the Manure Haul Spreadsheet appears in the upper right corner of www.rootzone.msu.edu

Farmers who want to learn more or don’t have access to Excel can call their county MSU Extension office for more information.

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