Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version

January 2005


Published in Published in J. Environ. Qual. 34:149–155 (2005). Copyright © ASA, CSSA, SSSA. Used by permission.


As a part of the USEPA’s concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) final rule, all CAFOs are required to develop and implement a nutrient management plan (NMP). The USEPA’s emphasis on better management of nutrients appropriately targets a critical environmental issue associated with animal production. The concentration of animals in livestock feeding operations, often separate from feed grain production, requires importing of substantial quantities of feed nutrients. Due to the inefficiencies of nutrient utilization in livestock production, quantities of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) in manure greater than can be utilized in local crop production often result. With the focus of the USEPA’s NMP rules on internal farm manure management planning, nutrient concentrations resulting from animal concentration may not be adequately addressed by compliance with the USEPA rules alone. A review of two mandatory and two voluntary nutrient management strategies is made by comparing whole-farm nutrient balance for a case-study beef cattle feedlot. The results suggest that voluntary BMPs, such as modification to animal feeding program and exporting of manure, can have greater environmental benefits (30-60% reduction in P accumulation for case-study farm) than mandatory NMPs and buffers (5-7% reduction in P accumulation for case-study farm) for a typical beef cattle feedlot. Whole-farm nutrient balance procedures can also be valuable for reviewing the nutrient performance of livestock systems.