As the title says, I recently added a link to a web version of the manurwkst.xls manure value spreadsheet that has been used in educational workshops around the state.

Also, at the request of the leadership of the Minnesota Custom Applicators Association, I developed a spreadsheet for estimating costs and returns for a custom manure application business. Since the spreadsheet is fairly complex, I have added two short youtube videos explaining how to fill it out.

Machinery cost updates

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The latest update of the machinery cost publication and spreadsheet were uploaded to the web page today.

A new staff paper was recently added to the Renewable Energy page -

Lazarus, W.; Goodkind, A.; Gallagher, P. & Conway, R. "Carbon prices required to make digesters profitable on U.S. dairy farms of different sizes," Staff paper P11-1. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics, 2011, Online at:

A PDF report and an Excel spreadsheet have been developed with crop costs and returns projected for 2011. They are posted on the Crop and Livestock Economics page, . The format is similar to the 2010 version that was developed last year. It will most likely surprise no one that net returns are up as a result of the higher crop prices. The report includes information on the food and feed crops as well as on corn stover collection costs and on dedicated biomass energy crops. The spreadsheet includes data only for the food and feed crops.

The digester_econ.xls spreadsheet on my web page has been fairly popular because of all of the interest in greenhouse gases and the destruction of methane that a digester provides. One limitation of this spreadsheet has been that it didn't provide much information on how much biogas a digester might produce. Last week I updated this spreadsheet and added a sheet that calculates biogas output based on the Chen-Hashimoto formulas that are also described in the EPA AgSTAR's Farmware software user instruction paper. As far as I can tell, my spreadsheet version gives a result close to what the Farmware software itself gives.

Of course, why use the digester-econ.xls spreadsheet at all when Farmware is available? That is a fair question. I developed the spreadsheet originally because it was called for under a contract with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, several years ago before the current Farmware version was available.

Now that Farmware is available, my view is that the "spreadsheet vs. Farmware" choice is a matter of personal preference, sort of like the old "Ford vs. Chevy" question. The formulas are all available for viewing in the spreadsheet, so if you are trying to understand the calculations, that might be useful. But, Farmware is applicable to all of the major livestock species and digester types, while the spreadsheet is applicable mainly to dairy and to plug-flow or mixed digesters.

Topics A-Z

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One thing we have discussed in the U of MN Department of Applied Economics is how to make the research/outreach part of the department web page more user-friendly by adding a list of topic keywords. We have not implemented that feature yet in the department web page, but I am trying it out on my personal web page The topic keywords are ones that I think relate to my activities and projects in one way or another. Please try it out if it strikes your fancy!

Last year retired extension educator Bob Koehler, applied economics graduate student Will Meland, and I developed a spreadsheet we called MANURWKST.XLS for determining and maximizing the fertilizer value of livestock manure.

MANURWKST.XLS was used in around 25 educational workshops around Minnesota last year and more are going on this year. One minor issue that came up recently in discussions with the dairy extension group was that the default data in MANURWKST.XLS relates to a swine situation. While the point of a spreadsheet is for the user to enter their own data, and MANURWKST.XLS can be used for swine, dairy, beef, or poultry, it is useful to have default data that relates to the user's own situation to use as a starting point. So, I have added a second version, MANURWKST_DAIRY.XLS, with a dairy scenario.

While most of the interest in manure handling economics appears to be about its fertilizer value, some users are interested in calculating the cost of distributing and applying liquid and dry manure with different types of equipment. I recently posted a companion spreadsheet, MANURCST.XLS for doing these cost calculations. It can be used for three types of equipment: 1) dry manure, 2) liquid manure applied with a tank applicator, and 3) liquid manure applied with a drag hose system. Costs can also be calculated for an agitation pump and tractor for liquid manure, or a loader tractor or skidsteer for dry manure. Separate nurse tanks and satellite storage tanks in the field can also be costed out.