Animal Agriculture, Manure Management, and Water Quality

Animal Manure Management February 09, 2017 Print Friendly and PDF

This module is an overview of animal agriculture in the U.S. and how industry trends have affected manure management. Because the primary use of manure is land application as a plant fertilizer, the module addresses nutrient management and surface water quality impacts. The module also covers regulatory requirements and efforts to manage and reduce risks of manure nutrients reaching water.

1. Animal Agriculture Trends

Economic pressures and consumer demands have driven a trend toward consolidation in the animal agriculture industry. This has changed the way manure is collected and stored. Virtual tours of layer hen, pig, beef, dairy, and broiler sectors are included.

2. Manure Collection and Storage

Animal feeding operations collect and store manure in several ways with the largest differences being between those that handle manure as a "solid" and those that handle manure as a "slurry" or "liquid".

3. Land Application of Manure Nutrients

Land application of manure requires specialized equipment and technologies that continue to evolve. This equipment and technology must be combined with nutrient management planning to ensure manure applications are from the right source, at the right rate and time, using the right methods, and in the right place.

4. Water Quality and Manure

Improperly managed manure can negatively impact water quality. This section focuses primarily on surface water and nutrients but other topics are briefly introduced.

5. Clean Water Act Requirements

Some animal feeding operations are regulated under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Program (NPDES). The NPDES program is part of the Clean Water Act.

6. Planning for Stewardship

As new information, tools, and resources become available, farmers have opportunities to continually improve environmental stewardship and manage risks related to manure and water quality.


These materials were developed by the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (LPELC) with funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and with input from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board, United Egg Producers, and U.S. Poultry and Egg Association.

Many people contributed time, expertise, video, or images for the production of the three videos produced in this module.

  • Animal agriculture trends and manure management - Tetra Tech, Inc.; Mark Risse, University of Georgia; Leslie Johnson, University of Nebraska; Tom Hebert, Bayard Ridge Group; Bill Couser, Couser Cattle.
  • Manure nutrient management - Tom Hebert, Bayard Ridge Group; Tetra Tech, Inc.; Mary Berg, North Dakota State University; Mario de Haro Marti, University of Idaho; Mark Risse, University of Georgia; Leslie Johnson and Rick Koelsch, University of Nebraska; Bill Couser, Couser Cattle.
  • Managing manure to protect water quality - Tetra Tech, Inc.; Mark Risse, University of Georgia; Leslie Johnson, University of Nebraska; Tom Hebert, Bayard Ridge Group; Bill Couser, Couser Cattle.

For questions on these materials, contact Jill Heemstra, All images in this module, unless indicated otherwise, were provided by Jill.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.