Manure, managed correctly, is a valuable natural fertilizer. Researchers and the cattle industry are joining forces to make sure those spreading the manure know how to do so in the “greenest” manner.

Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Texas AgriLife Research and West Texas A&M University cooperatively are conducting the project: “Development and Implementation of an Environmental Training Program for Manure and Compost Haulers/Applicators in the Texas High Plains.”

Dr. Brent Auvermann, AgriLife Extension environmental systems specialist, said the main purpose of the project is to demonstrate how best management practices can be used to protect water quality.

The project is operating under the authority and funding of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 319 nonpoint source water quality program.

“This is about nonpoint source pollution, which is any pollution you cannot trace to the end of a discharge pipe of some kind,” Auvermann said. “Diffuse runoff from agricultural fields falls into that category. So we are trying to prevent or mitigate nonpoint source water pollution through the use of beneficial management practices for manure and compost application.”

“Feeding cattle has been an integral part of the Texas High Plains economy for the past 40-plus years,” said Ben Weinheimer, Texas Cattle Feeders Association vice president. “Custom manure and compost haulers are important to the long-term success of cattle feeders.

Several companies in the region provide manure/compost removal, hauling and spreading services, Weinheimer said. These independent contractors market manure and compost, primarily to farmers in the region. In recent years, feedyards have been able to sell manure due to its increased competitiveness with commercial fertilizer.