How to Manage
    the bigger picture - manure produced land available
    storing manure
    composting manure
    recycling manure & compost


The bigger picture - how much manure is produced, how much land is available

- Amount of manure produced per animal.

- Land / animal connection: animal units and stocking rates.

- Determining animal units.

Photo courtesy of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

How much an animal weighs directly relates to the amount of feed it requires and the amount of manure it generates. Livestock weight varies depending on the type, breed, gender, age, and function.

Approximate lbs. of manure produced by various types and sizes of livestock – does not include bedding.

(1000 lbs)
50 lbs. manure / day 9 tons / year
Beef Cow
(1000 lbs)
63 lbs. manure /day 11.5 tons / year
Dairy Heifer
(750 lbs)
64 lbs. manure / day 11.6 tons / year
Pig – grow/finish (220 lbs.) 14 lbs. manure / day 2.5 tons / year
Sheep – lamb
(125 lbs.)
5.0 lbs. manure / day 1,825 lbs. / year
Layer Hen
(4 lbs.)
0.25 lbs. manure / day 91 lbs. / year

Information derived from the USDA Soil Conservation Service Agricultural Waste Management Field Handbook.

Compare this with the waste produced by a 150 lb. adult human of 4.5 lbs. of waste / day or 1,643 lbs. / year.

The nutrients produced by one, 1,000 lb. horse is equivalent to 13 people or 4 households.

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Making the connection between animal numbers and the land needed to support them.

The number of animals that can be supported by the land is based on many factors including the ability to provide feed, safe manure handling and recyling, and access to space, shelter and water.

For planning purposes, a general rule of thumb is that it takes one to two acres of land to support 1 animal unit or 1,000 lbs. of live weight.

This is often referred to as a stocking rate and this general rule of thumb can change throughout the country. In the Northeast Region, generally, it requires 1 to 2 acres of land to support one animal unit. Tell me more about determining animal units.

  • one 1,000 lb. horse = 1 animal unit
  • two, 500 lb. ponies = 1 animal unit
  • one 1,400 lb. dairy cow = 1.4 animal units
  • one 1,200 lb. beef steer = 1.2 animal units
  • five 200 lb. pigs = 1 animal unit
  • eight 125 lb. goats = 1 animal unit
  • 250 layer hens weighing 4 lbs. each = 1 animal unit

Photo courtesy of University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Many small acreage livestock owners do not have the corresponding land, equipment or time to raise all of the necessary feed and recycle all of the manure generated on-farm.

What does this mean?

  • We must purchase feed for our animals.
  • We are likely to have a surplus of manure and nutrients - we need to take some or all manure away to a place that can use it.
  • We must take steps to do the best job we can with the land we have available.

Even when have a lot of land, manure, livestock yards, pastures and other livestock activities can harm water resources and animal health if they are not managed properly.

Photo courtesy of the Mid-Atlantic Pasture Initiative.

Now that we have a basic idea of our manure production and land available we can consider:

- storing the manure

- composting options

- recycling of manure and compost

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More about determining animal units

To determine the total number of animal units on your farm, simply add up the total live weight that you have in animals and divide by 1,000.

Example: one farm raises 2 horses at 1,200 lbs. each; 1 beef steer at 1,000 lbs.; a dozen layer hens at 4 lbs. each.

2 (1,200 lbs.) + 1,000 lbs. + 12 (4 lbs.) = 3,448 lbs / 1,000 lbs./A.U. =

3.4 animal units

Many of us grow animals from young stock to adult for food or sale. In this case, take an average weight.


Example: we purchase a 65 lb. pig and raise it to 220 lbs. for food or sale. The average weight while on the farm is then:
65 lbs. + 220 lbs. / 2 = 142.5 pounds

142.5 pounds / 1,000 lbs./A.U. = 0.14 animal units

About 7 of these animals would be roughly equivalent to 1 animal unit.

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