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Economics Tech Notes

Value of Nitrogen in Poultry Litter Compared to Commercial Fertilizer

According to soil test reports, in many cases pasture, hayland or cropland fields have high to extremely high levels of phosphorous and potassium because of high rates of animal waste applications in past years. In these cases, the soil test calls for only Nitrogen fertilizer to meet the needs of the plant. Because of growing awareness that high phosphorous levels result in water quality problems in streams close to these fields, it is recommended that only the nutrients needed by the plant be applied. A common perception is that the purchase of fertilizer would cost them significantly more than the cost of applying waste that they already have on hand, even if they have the opportunity to sell the waste.

This analysis compares the cost of spreading animal waste on hand to the cost of buying commercial fertilizer, when the producer has the alternative to sell the animal waste to either neighbors or vendors. In the tables below, compare the value of Nitrogen to the cost of Nitrogen from purchased fertilizer.

Cost of Nitrogen From Applied Waste

Cost of
Spreading

Price of Litter
if Sold (Forgone
Income)

Cost of
Litter
Applied

Cost of
Nitrogen if
Incorporated

Cost of Nitrogen
Surface Applied

$5

$5

$10

.18

.21

 

$10

$15

.27

.32

 

$15

$20

.35

.43

 

$20

$25

.45

.53

$10

$5

$15

.27

.32

 

$10

$20

.35

.43

 

$15

$25

.45

.53

 

$20

$30

.54

.64

$15

$5

$20

.35

.43

 

$10

$25

.45

.53

 

$15

$30

.54

.64

 

$20

$35

.63

.74

$20

$5

$25

.45

.53

 

$10

$30

.54

.64

 

$15

$35

.63

.74

 

$20

$40

.71

.85

 

Cost of Nitrogen in Purchased Fertilizer

Ammonium Nitrate 
(Cost/ton—spread)

$180/ton

$200/ton

$220/ton

$240/ton

Nitrogen
(Cost/lb.)

0.27

0.30

0.32

0.35

NOTE: If the cost of Nitrogen in waste applied is higher than the cost in the Purchased Fertilizer Table, you will be better off to sell your litter and purchase ammonium nitrate.