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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

The Black Gold of Dairy

Dairy Pipeline: October 2008

Beverly Cox, Extension Agent, Franklin County
(540) 483-5161;

As I write, spot prices for fertilizer are over $1000 for urea and potash while DAP (Diammonium phosphate) prices have soared in excess of $1300. For anyone involved in agriculture, these are scary figures. The good news is that you have homegrown fertilizer at your disposal.

While in the past disposing of manure may have seemed more of a liability than an asset, that is not true in today’s world. Now each 1000 gallons of manure provides roughly $39 in nutrients. For a 4000 gallon truck, that represents $156 in nutrients per load. Keep this in mind as you decide where to spread manure this fall.

It is important to use this resource to its fullest potential. By submitting soil samples now you can determine where manure can be used most efficiently. The best part about soil samples is they are FREE! Your local extension office has soil sample boxes and submittal forms available upon request. Instructions for proper sampling can be obtained online at

Dr. Mark Alley, Virginia Tech Extension Specialist in Crops and Environmental Science, also recommends submitting multiple samples per field this year. Careful review of these analyses may allow fertilizer rates to be varied within fields as a cost saving mechanism.

In combination with soil sampling, it is important to have your manure analyzed as well. A manure analysis allows you to allocate your manure where it is needed most (based on soil sample reports). Again, sampling bottles are available through your extension office and there is no charge for testing.

It is imperative to utilize all resources efficiently in today’s volatile market. Manure application is no exception. Potential returns on investment for sampling soil and manure are huge if purchased fertilizer is reduced by manure application. Take the time, submit samples, and save on fertilizer expense.

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