Composting Recommendations and Marketing Evaluation for Livestock Operations in Cold Semi-Arid Environments

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $49,315.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Thomas Bass
Montana State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: general animal production
  • Farm Business Management: value added
  • Soil Management: composting


    This project validated composting recommendations for manure and mortality in Montana’s cold semi-arid environment, including documentation of storm water runoff from the composting sites (a consideration for future water quality studies). Manure and mortality composting were evaluated separately. In addition, the project evaluated the ability of producers at two sites to market manure compost as a value-added product from their animal feeding operations (AFOs). Exporting manure nutrients in the form of compost provides for better nutrient balance on the operations and enables homeowners and gardeners, commercial nurseries and landscapers, organic producers and others to utilize this organic-based fertilizer and soil amendment.

    Recent increases in energy prices are stimulating interest in the use of less energy intensive forms of fertilizer and soil amendments. Manure and manure-based products, such as compost, are two alternatives to traditional energy intensive products.

    Project objectives:

    1) Compost manure and mortality for one season

    Track temperatures, time to reach benchmark temperatures and nutrient content; observe if run-off occurs from the composting site after storm events; and evaluate finished product quality (nutrient analysis and end user evaluation) at two sites, Bozeman and Havre.

    2) Examine markets

    Allow producers to sell, trade or give away compost; document end users, price paid per unit of material and end user opinion of quality.

    3) Produce MontGuide Extension publications on manure and mortality composting, including guidance and case studies

    a) Manure composting
    b) Mortality compost supplement

    4) Conduct two educational events (one at each site), ie: demo/field day

    5) Submit professional papers to SARE, CSREES Water Quality and Western Section American Society of Animal Science (ASAS) conferences. Assume presentations at these meetings to disseminate information to other educators and technical service providers.

    6) Complete reporting requirements in late winter; give presentations at conferences; continue distribution of materials regionally. Close grant in June 2011, as soon as Western Section ASAS paper is given.

    This was not a singular research project, but a multi-component demonstration and education project. The project employed several methods towards the goal of locally validating and demonstrating compost techniques, in order to create relevant educational products. Therefore, Performance Targets are described in the Methods Section and answered in Accomplishments. More detailed narratives on the demonstrated research components are also provided under Accomplishments.

    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.