No cocoa for you: manure stocks are running low as fertilizer prices rise

CHICAGO, April 6 (Reuters) – For nearly two decades, Abe Sandqvist used all the marketing tools he could think of to sell the back of a cow. Poop, after all, needs somewhere to go. An entrepreneur from the Midwest worked hard to gain the advantage of farmers for their harvest.

Now, faced with a global shortage of commercial fertilizers that has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more and more American producers are knocking on its door. Sandquist says they demand to get their hands on what Old MacDonald would have sworn: old-fashioned animal manure. read on

“I wish we had more to sell,” said Sandquist, founder of Natural Fertilizer Services Inc, a nutrient management firm based in Iowa. “But that’s not enough to meet demand.”

Register now to get FREE unlimited access to

Some livestock and dairy farmers, including those who previously paid for the removal of their animal waste, have found a productive side business by selling it to farmers. Equipment companies that produce equipment for manure distribution, known as “honey cars”, also benefit.

According to industry consultant Allen Compschnider, not only are more American farmers hunting for manure stocks for this spring’s planting season, but also some cattle feeders that sell waste sold off by the end of the year.

“Manure is an absolutely hot commodity,” said Kompschnider, who works for Nutrient Advisors in Nebraska. “We have waiting lists.”

According to the U.S. government, skyrocketing prices for industrial fertilizers will lead to lower corn and wheat crops among U.S. farmers this spring. This further threatens global food supplies as domestic wheat stocks are the lowest in 14 years, and the Russian-Ukrainian war disrupts grain supplies from these key suppliers. read on

While manure can make up for some nutrient deficiencies, it’s not a panacea, agricultural experts say. There are not enough stocks to replace all commercial fertilizers used in the United States. It is expensive to transport. And prices for animal waste are also rising amid strong demand.

It is also heavily regulated by state and federal authorities, in part because of concerns about impacts on water systems.

Manure can cause serious problems if it contaminates nearby streams, lakes and groundwater, said Chris Jones, a research engineer and water quality expert at the University of Iowa.

Livestock breeders say it is difficult to follow all state rules and keep track of how manure is applied.


Regardless of the shortcomings, demand is growing.

In Wisconsin, three dairy farmers told Reuters they had rejected requests to buy manure sent via text messages and Twitter messages.

Phinite, a North Carolina company that makes manure drying systems, says it appeals to manufacturers from such distant countries as Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Indiana.

Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, has noticed a shift in U.S. pig farms that supply its slaughterhouses.

“We are definitely watching farmers switch to manure with rising fertilizer prices,” said Jim Monroe, a spokesman for Hong Kong-listed WH Group Ltd (0288.HK).

The production of industrial fertilizers such as nitrogen requires a lot of energy. Last year, prices began to rise amid rising demand and declining supply as record prices for natural gas and coal caused a reduction in fertilizer producers ’production. Extreme weather and COVID-19 outbreaks have also shaken global supply chains. read on

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the situation by cutting fertilizer exports from Russia and its ally Belarus due to Western sanctions and delivery snags. This threatens to cut crops around the world at a time of record food inflation. In total, Russia and Belarus accounted for more than 40% of world exports of potassium last year, one of the three most important nutrients used to increase yields, according to Dutch lender Rabobank.

As of March, prices for commercial fertilizers have reached a record high: since 2020, nitrogen fertilizers have quadrupled, and phosphates and potash fertilizers have tripled, according to the London consulting company CRU Group.

One person left without is Dale Kramer, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on about 6,000 acres in Cambridge, Nebraska. Looking for alternatives, he has been unsuccessfully sniffing fattening grounds in search of manure since last August.

“A lot of people indicated their names for the same thing,” Kramer said.


With the growth of demand for manure prices have increased, which has brought unexpected profits for livestock farmers and cattle fattening.

Prices for quality solid manure in Nebraska alone reached $ 11-14 per ton, compared to the typical price of $ 5 to $ 8 per ton, said consultant Compschnider. The dry winter helped raise prices by leaving manure with less water, making it more concentrated and therefore more valuable, he said.

Iowa farmer Pat Reisinger is relieved to have the manure of pigs and dairy cows he grows to fertilize the corn, soy and hay he grows to feed these animals. He has sold some manure to one neighbor and is being called by others in need.

“If I sold more, I would have to turn around and buy commercial fertilizer, which doesn’t make sense,” Reisinger said.

The boom also raised machine-building companies that produce equipment for spreading solid manure, as well as so-called carts: wheeled tanks attached to trucks and tractors for transporting and depositing liquefied waste.

In Canada Husky Farm Equipment Ltd is sold out of trolleys. The company built its first device back in 1960 to make manure collection and spreading more efficient, according to President Walter Groza. Today, Grose sells directly to farmers and machinery dealers, and it can’t keep up.

“We have people looking for equipment right away, and we’ve sold out in six months,” said Groves, who sells multi-size carts. Larger tanks come with an average cost of $ 70,000.

CNH Industrial, an American-Italian giant of agricultural and construction machinery, said it had noticed high demand for New Holland spreaders – essentially a steel box that attaches to a tractor to transport and transport solid manure.

Kansas equipment dealer KanEquip Inc has sold out of New Holland spreaders, despite prices jumping 10% from the usual $ 30,000 price list, said regional manager Brindon Meinhardt. He said the dealer ordered another 10 to meet demand.


Even in states where large herds of animals make large amounts of manure, they are not enough to completely replace commercial fertilizers. Iowa, the leading producer of pork and corn in the U.S., has been making all its manure each year on land that occupies about 25 percent of the acres of corn, said Dan Andersen, an associate professor at Iowa State University who specializes in fertilizers.

On average, Iowa uses about 14 billion gallons of manure annually, said Andersen, known as @DrManure on Twitter. He expects Iowa growers to suck out an extra billion gallons this year from storage in on-farm tanks to replace expensive commercial fertilizers.

Part of the current supply problem is rooted in the evolution of the U.S. agricultural economy. As America’s livestock sector consolidates, there are geographic centers where animals are raised to produce eggs, milk, or meat and where most manure is produced. As a result, some places are too small and others too much, and they struggle with ways to get rid of it.

Last October, Pennsylvania dairyman Brett Reinford thought he lacked manure storage in the winter. So he made an offer to local farmers: come and get it, you can get it for free. He had no takeers.

Rewind six months, and Reinford is now sitting on liquid gold. “We keep it all and I wish we had more,” he said.

Manure could become even more valuable later this year as livestock and poultry numbers in the U.S. are dwindling.

The number of pigs in the United States has dropped to its lowest level in about five years as producers struggle with swine diseases and rising costs for feed and other materials. Meanwhile, bird flu since February has killed more than 22 million chickens and turkeys on U.S. commercial farms.

But even affected poultry farmers can benefit: their dead birds can be composted and applied as fertilizer, according to the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Management.

Register now to get FREE unlimited access to

Reports Pi. J. Huffstater and Tom Polansec of Chicago, as well as Bianca Flowers of Chicago and New York. Additional Report by Leah Douglas in Washington, DC; Edited by Caroline Staufer and Marla Dickerson

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Confidence Principles.

Leave a Comment