Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version

May 2007


Published in Applied Engineering in Agriculture Vol. 23(3): 357-365. Copyright © 2007 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Used by permission.


Open lot cattle production systems present unique challenges for nutrient planning processes. Previous estimates of quantities and characteristics of harvested manure from this type of facility are based upon data from the early 1970s. In addition, harvested manure is impacted by weather, feeding program, season, and pen management decisions. The objectives of this study are to characterize under commercial conditions for open lot beef systems: 1) harvested manure quantities and characteristics; 2) impact of factors such as feeding program, season, and management on harvested manure; and 3) mass balance for nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P). Data from six commercial feedlots (representing 6,366 head of cattle) suggest that 33% of excreted N (65 g/hd/d) and 91% of excreted P (32 g/hd/d) are harvested as manure on average and that current standard estimates published by ASAE (2005) and NRCS (1992a) overestimate harvested manure N and P. Additionally, significant variation was observed among feedlots. This variation is driven by ration nutrient concentration (P only), pen conditions prior to and during manure harvest (N and P), and management choices relative to use of manure in lot maintenance (N and P). The variation would suggest that nutrient planning estimates for open lots would need to be based upon farm specific data as opposed to typical or standard values. Finally, a pen-based mass nutrient balance for a beef cattle feedlot suggests that pen outputs as finished animal, harvested manure, and nutrient losses represent 31%, 23%, and 47%, respectively, of all pen N inputs and 38%, 57%, and 5%, respectively, of all pen P inputs. Inputs include nutrient content of all animals and feed entering a feedlot pen over a grow-out period.