Challenging Economics in Dairy Manure Management

GreenTracker|The 4,000 Holsteins on the Wildcat Dairy farm produce about 150 pounds of waste daily. That’s 200 million pounds of manure every year, a combo of two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine.

Manure and waste products can be a great resource, if used properly, according to Saqib Mukhtar, an associate professor of biology and agricultural engineering at Texas A & M University. Without proper management, the nutrients in it can foul streams, lakes and aquifers; the pathogens in it can contaminate food products; and the gases it produces, including ammonia, methane and bad-smelling volatile compounds, can upset neighbors and pollute the atmosphere.

Much of the environmental focus with cows has been the beef industry, but as the NYTimes article Down on the Farm, an Endless Cycle of Animal Waste points out, manure management requires an escalating financial investment at a time of decreasing demand. The financial math is challenging.