Biological Systems Engineering, Department of


First Advisor

Amy Schmidt

Second Advisor

Richard Stowell

Date of this Version

Spring 4-29-2022

Document Type



Ramos Tanchez, J. 2022. Assessment of Manure Treatment Technology Adoption and Feedlot Runoff Monitoring Opportunities. Biological Systems Engineering – Dissertations, Theses, and Student Research.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Mechanized Systems Management, Under the Supervision of Professors Amy M. Schmidt and Richard Stowell. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2022

Copyright 2022 Juan Carlos Ramos Tanchez


Livestock products contain valuable nutrients that enhance human health, and their production generates positive local and national economic impacts. The livestock sector also deals with large quantities of environmentally important nutrients in manure. The purpose of this thesis is to further the aims of researchers and educators working at the intersection of livestock production and the environment to identify and promote best practices for livestock production and manure management that are economically and environmentally sustainable.

The second chapter explored options to evaluate nutrient flows in feedlot runoff at the pen scale. Pen scale monitoring is an important consideration for research into management effects on nutrient flows. Thus, two runoff monitoring systems were designed for the “700 alley” section of the feedlot at the Eastern Nebraska Research Extension and Education Center. The first design utilizes an edge-of-field runoff monitoring system that utilizes flumes, automatic sensors, and automatic samplers to monitor runoff flow and composition, with an estimated cost of $13,100 per pen. The second option involves a runoff collection concrete tank with five different tank sizes, with larger tanks being able to hold runoff from a greater share of runoff events. To automate the tank systems, an Arduino-controlled automatic valve connected to an Internet of Things platform via Wi-Fi was designed and a prototype was tested. The estimated cost of the automatic tanks systems is between $2,200 and $3,300, depending on tank size.

In the third chapter, surveys and focus groups were conducted to understand manure treatment technology usage and the decision-making process behind the adoption of those technologies among swine and dairy producers in the Midwest. The surveyed dairy and swine producers indicated that they most valued technology with low management and maintenance demand, adaptability to specific farm conditions, and high performance capacity. The primary desired outcomes of treatment systems currently in use on the surveyed farms were compatibility with the preferred land application system, retention of storage or treatment capacity, and attainment of regulatory requirements. For future technology adoption, technologies that allow nutrient exports and reduce workload were favored in addition to the current operational outcomes. Initial cost, operational cost, and return on investment are the main barriers to upgrading the manure management system in swine and dairy farms; and management demand is an important barrier in swine operations. Changes in regulations and fluctuating availability of manure hauling services are the important trends affecting farm manure management. For future extension programming, university lead farmer discussion groups in manure management are recommended as producers value and trust information coming from their peers.

Advisor: Amy M. Schmidt and Richard Stowell