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Animal Feeding Operations

Animal Feeding Operations (AFO) and Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines AFConfined FeedingOs as agricultural enterprises where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland. There are approximately 450,000 AFOs in the United States.

A CAFO is another EPA term for a large concentrated AFO.  A CAFO is an AFO with more than 1000 animal units (an animal unit is defined as an animal equivalent of 1000 pounds live weight and equates to 1000 head of beef cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 swine weighing more than 55 lbs, 125 thousand broiler chickens, or 82 thousand laying hens or pullets) confined on site for more than 45 days during the year.  Any size AFO that discharges manure or wastewater into a natural or man-made ditch, stream or other waterway is defined as a CAFO, regardless of size.  CAFOs are regulated by EPA under the Clean Water Act in both the 2003 and 2008 versions of the "CAFO" rule.

USDA’s goal is for AFO/CAFO owners and operators to take voluntary actions to minimize potential air and water pollutants from storage facilities, confinement areas, and land application areas.  NRCS can help landowners achieve this goal by providing technical and in many cases financial assistance, for the adoption of practices that will protect our natural resources.

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP)

The objective of a CNMP is to provide AFO owners/operators with a plan to manage manure and organic by-products by combining conservation practices and management activities into a conservation system that, when implemented, will control soil erosion.

CNMP Definition

A CNMP is a conservation plan for an AFO that:

1.     Must include the following:

(a) The production area including the animal confinement, feed and other raw materials storage areas, animal mortality facilities, and the manure handling containment or storage areas, and
(b) The land treatment area, including any land under control of the AFO owner or operator, whether it is owned, rented, or leased, and to which manure or process wastewater is, or might be, applied for crop, hay, pasture production, or other uses;

2.     Meets Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) FOTG Section III quality criteria for Water Quality (nutrients, organics, and sediments in surface and groundwater) and Soil Erosion (sheet and rill, wind, ephemeral gully, classic gully, and irrigation induced natural resource concerns on the production area and land treatment area);

3.     Mitigates, if feasible, any excessive air emissions and/or negative impacts to air quality resource concerns that may result from practices identified in the CNMP or from existing on-farm areas/activities;

4.     Complies with Federal, State, tribal, and local laws, regulations, and permit requirements; and

5.     Satisfies the owner/operator’s production objectives.


Automation of the CNMP Development Process

CNMP planners are strongly encouraged to use Manure Management Planner(MMP) because it was designed to simplify and hasten the CNMP development process. MMP was developed on a state-by-state basis to include each state’s unique data and circumstances important to CNMP development and acceptance by state authorities. MMP automates the generation of high quality CNMP reports.

CNMP Advantages

  • The CNMP documents agricultural utilization of nutrients according to science-based management strategies. Such documentation meets the criteria for the “storm water exemption” of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on fields receiving applications of manure or organic by-products.

  • USDA and EPA have agreed that the CNMP is acceptable documentation for those seeking an NPDES permit, with the addition of “chemical handling” provisions. The AFO decision maker (i.e., controlling manager or producer) can submit the CNMP as part of an NPDES permit application. The national CNMP template provides an acceptable chemical handling checklist.

CNMP National Policy and Guidance Documents

  • View the General Manual (GM) 190, Part 405-Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans on the NRCS eDirectives website.


  • View the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Planning Field Handbook on the NRCS eDirectives website.

National Instructions

  • View Title 190-National Sectional III-Field Office Technical Guide on the NRCS eDirectives website.

Additional Information

Nutrient Management documents are available from the NRCS Distribution Center for Publications and Forms by calling (515) 270-4864, by sending an e-mail to, or by visiting the NRCS Distribution Center Web site.

Technical Service Providers (TSPs)

The Agency recognizes that TSPs will play a major role in meeting the CNMP workload stimulated by the Revised CAFO rule.

Feed Management

Feed management is a term given to the dietary manipulation of nutrients to reduce manure volume, nutrient excretion, and/or odors.  Nutrients fed in excess of animal requirements are excreted in manure.  Nutrients may be overfed to animals because of variation in the nutrients in the feed ingredients, or because of the tendency to feed for the production of the least productive animal, leading to all other animals being overfed.  Feed rations and supplements such as Phytase can drastically change feed conversion efficiency and nutrients excreted.  Careful monitoring and adjustments of individual rations should be done in order to match land availability and crop requirements.

Feed management is one of the six core elements of a voluntary Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP).  This element addresses feed management activities as a possible opportunity for an AFO owner/operator in the CNMP development process.   Feed management is a planning consideration in a CNMP for increasing diet formulation and manipulation options, reducing manure nutrients, and increasing nutrient uptake efficiency.