Hire it Done or Do it Yourself?

Posted by Sydney Greiner on

That's the Million Dollar Question.

Investing in manure injection equipment is no small feat, and neither is the decision-making process leading up to the decision to do so. There are TONS of variables that play a role in understanding whether or not taking manure management in-house is justifiable. The amount of manure available to pump, the relocation plan for the available manure, the soil type of the land the manure will be relocated to, workforce availability, workforce training and certification, the legal ramifications that become more and more strict with each passing manure application season, and don't forget the up-front cost of a manure injection system. 


We know. It sounds like a lot and a bit overwhelming, but investing in liquid manure injection equipment, (over utilizing the seemingly more convenient, traditional methods) can be a resourceful investment for any farmer who wants to take his or her business to that next level of greatness. Doing so (within reason) can allow farmers' businesses to efficiently grow by providing new services, producing more abundant crops by effectively applying the nutrients found in liquid manure, work on their own timeline by applying when their pits are full and their land is ready, all while minimizing runoff into local streams and rivers. - It's all about that happy neighbor end-game...are we right?

Insta-1Some of you might've read that last paragraph and thought, "I want to reap those benefits now, sign me up for this manure injection thing pronto!"

Pump the breaks, we've got a few more things to cover and resources to provide you, to help you better understand the potential return on investment of a manure injection system.  

Let's revisit and hone in on the benefit of manure injection, specifically in terms of crop production. We may be biased because it's our line of business, but we will let the facts do the talking. Through various studies, it's been proven that liquid 'waste' is more than just waste that should be exposed of as quickly and conveniently as possible. Turns out that old, 'That's the smell of money' quote our grandparents taught us back in the day, holds some merit. Here's how.   

Crop production and land disturbance result in nutrient composition losses, and when incorporated into the soil properly, the nutrients found in liquid manure can sufficiently replenish those losses and even result in higher crop yields. The Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium found in liquid livestock manure can derive value for your bottom line when the nutrients are readily available, and we will say it again for the people in the back, are applied using the proper application method.

The estimated nutrient values found in different types of livestock manure are outlined below, and are first determined by species/facility type, and work in conjunction with the additional factors listed below:

  • Manure Source/Animal Production Practices
  • Storage of the Manure 
  • Agitation/Type of Manure Application
  • Region 

The book values above have been calculated to represent both organic and inorganic nutrients that comprise liquid waste. 

The data displayed in the table above were collected by the Iowa State University Extension. These numbers represent the book values of both organic and inorganic manure nutrients, and are the total lbs. per 1,000 gal. of manure. IMPORTANT: Estimated nutrient values may not be readily available during first year applications. These numbers reflect the nutrient value year over year.

If you've examined the manure nutrient estimate values outlined in the table above, you've probably noticed dairy manure has substantially less nutrient content than swine manure, which is why applicators working on dairy sites can typically apply higher gallon per acre rates. Nevertheless, it's important to understand that there are factors that can play a role in determining Phosphorus loss in manure on a farm-to-farm basis. Site characteristics like soil type, type of crop(s) being grown, and slope of the landscape all come into play. Even with these variables at bay, the percentage of volatilization of nutrients that occurs from one application method to the next might outweigh the variability. Keep scrolling.


Before we get into the thick of volatilization percentages, let's look at a real-life application. Referencing the table above, we will utilize the nutrient figures from a Wean to Finish (wet/dry) facility, applied at an assumed Nitrogen rate of 200 lbs./acre. By utilizing the nutrients readily available in livestock manure, and immediately injecting into the plant's root-zone at a 4" - 6" below grade depth, you can save some green by eliminating the need to purchase commercial fertilizers.

Peep the savings:

  • Nitrogen: $9,276.91 per 160 acres
  • Phosphorus: $8,184.03 per 160 acres
  • Potassium: $6,411.37 per 160 acres

AKA, liquid gold.

The numbers above were calculated by taking the estimated nutrient value * the number of liquid gallons it takes to get 200 lbs. of Nitrogen applied per acre * 2018 unit cost of primary crop production inputs * 160 acres.

Reduced commercial fertilizer input costs are accommodated with the potential for higher crop yields. The Ohio State University Extension's research results on crop yields, (shown below) have indicated that manure treatments average 17.4 bushels per acre more than the 28% UAN (commercial fertilizer) treatments. 

Darke County Six-Year Manure Incorporation Drag Hose Corn Plots


Swine Finishing Manure

28% UAN



















Average yield: bu/acre




Now, let's talk about volatilization and how it affects nutrient content efficiency. Among the number of nutrients and the percentage that is readily available for use, the method of application is equally as important as the value earned.

A quick refresher - The 3 most commonly practiced liquid manure application methods are irrigation, broadcast/top-spread, and injection. The irrigation and broadcast application methods are slowly phasing out, due to the high levels of nutrient loss and the environmental concerns they raise. 

In simplest terms, volatilization is the loss (or vaporization) of nutrients. This occurs when Nitrogen is transformed into NH3 and is lost in the atmosphere resulting in little to no benefit from a crop production standpoint. Note: volatilization is more apt to occur when temperatures reach 50 degrees and above.

The data displayed in the table above were collected by the ISU Extension. These numbers represent the number of nutrients lost through volatilization.

Utilizing the injection application method vs. broadcast, reduces volatilization by approximately 23%, which correlates to savings of $2,131.40 per 160 acres, that would otherwise potentially be spent on commercial fertilizers. 

[The above figure was calculated by the typical value of Nitrogen when manure is applied at an estimated Nitrogen rate of 200 lbs./acre.]

A decrease in inputs, an increase in crop yields, and a reduction in volatilization reiterates the significance of what our grandparents once told us, "That's the smell of money."


If you've made it this far, you probably have a better overall understanding of the benefits manure injection can provide, specifically in terms of crop production, and how it connects to your overall return on investment.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, there are TONS of variables that play a role in determining whether or not investing in a manure injection dragline system is the right fit for you. Whether you're completely new to the manure injection game, you're looking to make the switch from a tank injection to dragline operation, or maybe you're currently broadcasting or using the irrigation method to manage your manure - any way you look at it, the upfront costs associated can be distasteful.

The variables highlighted below work in accordance with our ROI calculator (a little further down the page) in understanding what a cost-effective solution looks like for you. 

  1. Number of projected total gallons per year
  2. The average number of gallons per site
  3. The average expense of site to site travel 
  4. Average GPM
  5. Workforce wages
  6. Percentage of time physically pumping manure
  7. Fuel consumption 
  8. Cost per gallon of fuel to run equipment 
  9. Estimated maintenance and repair costs
  10. Annual insurance costs
  11. Revenue per gallon 

Our team is providing the tools below for FREE to help you determine which route is best for you. At the end of the day, no two people and no two operations are exactly the same.

  1. Use our ROI calculator to input the variables specific to your operation (or potential operation) above, to understand what a cost-effective solution looks like for you, whether you're starting from the ground up or looking to upgrade components of your current set-up. 
  2. Download our 'Good, Better, Best' complete dragline systems recommendations tailored to both swine and dairy sites. You can then align our recommendations with your results from the ROI calculator and our MSRP ranges identified. 
  3. Contact one of our Equipment Specialists and have them walk you through the two tools provided above. They will work with you to build a custom solution that fits your business goals within your current means.  

Now that you've gained additional insight and you've got the tools and resources you need in order to set yourself up for success in the realm of manure management, you've got one of two options. Continue to hire it done or do it yourself. Owning a manure injection system within your current means can boost your bottom line, it's simply a matter of looking at the bigger picture and understanding what you are and are not willing to put into it.