Manure Management: An essential component of 4-H livestock projects

Final Report for EW05-015

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $59,927.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Davis
Colorado State University
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Project Information


Manure management is a critical component of sustainable livestock production. Our goal was to train extension 4-H leaders and youth in manure management. We have developed a 4-H Manure Management curriculum that includes the following topics: Livestock and the Community, Protecting Human and Animal Health, Protecting Water Quality, Protecting Air Quality, Composting Animal Manure, Manure and Compost Utilization, and Economics of Manure Management. The 4-H leaders will encourage youth to enhance their awareness and improve their skills in manure management. Behavioral changes may include increased composting, prevention of manure-contaminated runoff, and manure utilization at agronomic rates.

Project Objectives:
  • We developed a Manure Management curriculum for 4-H livestock participants.
    We pilot tested the curriculum and made revisions to improve it.
    We posted the curriculum on
    We distributed the curriculum to 4-H agents throughout the West.

According to EPA regulations, almost every 4-H livestock project could be classified as an Animal Feeding Operation (AFO). Although we don’t expect EPA to inspect 4-H projects, these projects do present an opportunity for education of future livestock producers in the essential practice of manure management.

Manure management practices are related to water quality protection, reduction of air quality problems (such as odor and dust), and improved soil quality. Therefore, manure management is a critical link in sustainable livestock production. Use of manure on-farm as a soil amendment and fertilizer also improves the integration of agricultural enterprises and restores nutrient cycles.

Manure management is an integral part of livestock and horse operations. Regulations are in place to ensure that the environment is not adversely affected by the high numbers of stock often associated with modern dairies, feedlots, and horse boarding and training facilities. To keep up with the current state of animal production, 4-H curricula need a manure management component. Teaching the concepts of Best Management Practices for manure utilization can begin early and be incorporated into the curriculum so that 4-H youth will fully understand the environmental principles behind the regulations, as well as, how to apply them to their own operations when they need to make decisions about farming and animal production.

In Colorado alone, there are 13,772 youth involved in 4-H livestock projects (2003 data), while other western states have an additional 142,102 youth involved in 4-H livestock projects. Prior to this project, the 4-H livestock curriculum did not include manure management at all. Therefore, many 4-H youth may believe that manure management doesn’t matter, since it is possible to be an excellent livestock participant without knowing the first thing about manure management and environmental impacts of livestock.


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  • Kathy Doesken
  • Adriane Elliott
  • James Pritchett

Education & Outreach Initiatives



We developed the manure management curriculum. Topics include:
o Livestock and the Community
o Protecting Water Quality
o Protecting Air Quality
o Composting
o Manure Utilization
o Economics of Manure Management

The curriculum underwent three different types of review followed by revision. First of all, we presented our draft 4-H Manure Management Workbook to the Front Range 4-H agents (20 participants) on Feb. 15, 2007 in a meeting in Greeley, CO. The “Front Range” of Colorado refers to the highly populated eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Roughly 3 million of Colorado’s 4 million residents live in this geographic area. Because of this, county 4-H programs in this area have high enrollments and are staffed by two or more 4-H extension agents. These Front Range 4-H agents meet every month to coordinate programming. Due to their high degree of organization and commitment, many 4-H agents in Colorado look to the efforts of these Front Range agents to pioneer new methodology and curricula.

When we presented our draft curriculum to this group, there was a lot of interest in the curriculum and in incorporating it into the species-specific curricula in use already. Based on this discussion and subsequent feedback, we made a decision not to print the curriculum. The Front Range 4-H Team suggested that web-based curriculum was a better use of resources. The idea is that not many 4-H participants or even leaders will be interested in an entire module on manure management. However, the 4-H agents believe it has more value taken in sections as part of existing species-specific curriculum. In this way, the different species groups can use the parts of the curriculum that are best suited to their interests and the specific challenges regarding their species. In addition, web-based curriculum will have widespread accessibility throughout the Western Region and beyond as compared to printed documents. Therefore, the funding that was allocated to publication was utilized for webpage design and layout.

Secondly, we presented our draft curriculum to 15 students at the State 4-H Conference on June 21, 2007 in Fort Collins. We used hands-on activities and informal interaction to assess student interest and understanding of concepts. After this conference, we added some additional hands-on activities to improve the experiential learning component of the curriculum.

Finally, two longstanding livestock 4-H agents in Colorado, Kipp Nye and Tom McBride, took the time to give us a thorough review of our draft of the 4-H Manure Management curriculum Youth Activity Guide. They were very helpful, especially in helping us to present the information to the students at the right level. The revision has now been completed, and the final curriculum is available at where it is widely available within the western region and beyond.

Outreach and Publications

We developed a manure management curriculum for 4-H projects available for download at

Elliott, A.L., K.C. Doesken, and J.G. Davis. 2008. Manure Management for 4-H Livestock Projects. Colorado State University; Fort Collins, CO. 38 pp. Downloadable pdf available at

We presented a poster at the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science meeting in 2008.

Davis, J.G., A.L. Elliott, and K.C. Doesken. 2008. Extension programming in manure management. pp. 148-150 In Proceedings, Western Section, American Society of Animal Science Vol. 59. Laramie, WY June 24-26, 2008 (presented as a poster).

Outcomes and impacts:

We are aiming for short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes.

In the short-term, we have enhanced awareness of environmental issues related to livestock production and increased knowledge of manure management practices among extension 4-H agents, volunteer leaders, and student participants.

In the medium-term, we are improving the skills of 4-H agents and leaders, in particular, to increase their ability to provide educational programs in manure management to 4-H youth. We have provided curriculum in order to achieve this aim.

In the long-term, we anticipate that 4-H agents and leaders will use the curriculum and encourage youth participating in the 4-H livestock programs to make choices that protect the environment from the excrement of their project animals. We expect that agents and leaders will be able to document behavioral changes in participating youth. Behavioral changes may include an increased number of youth who are composting manure, changes in the corrals to prevent manure contaminated runoff, and utilization of manure at agronomic rates.

When the principles of good nutrient management are introduced early in a youth’s life, they are more likely to practice these principles in their adult years. Livestock producers who utilize methods for handling manure that do not reflect Best Management Practices may choose not to change their management techniques in order to protect the environment. However, 4-H youth are more likely to practice what they have learned from reliable sources such as 4-H curricula, and may influence their elders as well. The inclusion of manure management in livestock 4-H curricula has the potential to have a significant environmental impact as these future leaders and business people move into the workforce.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
  •  We developed a 4-H curriculum on manure management.
     A new partnership with 4-H agents in Colorado came about through this process.
     The curriculum was posted to
     Postcards were mailed to each CSU county extension office notifying them that the curriculum was available on the web. We followed this with a second mailing that included a CD of the curriculum sent to each Colorado county.
     An article in the eNewsletter of the National Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center (a national list of more than 1000 livestock professionals) announced the availability of the curriculum to a national audience of livestock professionals.
     Ten CDs of the curriculum were sent to each state 4-H office in the western U.S.
     A poster was made describing the curriculum and displayed at the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science meeting in Laramie, WY in 2008.

Potential Contributions

We have enhanced awareness of environmental issues related to livestock production and increased knowledge of manure management practices among extension 4-H agents in the western U.S. Their skills are improving, and they are spreading their knowledge to volunteer 4-H leaders in order to increase their ability to provide educational programs in manure management to 4-H youth. Now 4-H agents and leaders can use the Manure Management curriculum to encourage youth to make choices that protect the environment from the excrement of their 4-H project animals. In the future, some of the participating youth will become livestock producers, and this new curriculum will broaden its impact as these future leaders and business people move into the workforce.

Future Recommendations

To fully implement Manure Management curriculum as a component of 4-H livestock projects, it will be necessary to integrate appropriate parts of the curriculum into species-specific curricula in each state.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.