Nutrient management plans (NMPs) are farm management tools that were initially created to help farmers manage the timing, amount and placement of fertilizers in their pastures for the environments sake. In today’s world though, the NMP can do much more than help protect the environment. It can also protect your pocket book.
It is always a good idea for any person who fertilizes with commercial phosphorus or manure to have a NMP in place for their farm. In some regions, if a person does not have a NMP in place for their farmland then they cannot legally use commercial phosphorus or manure as a fertility source for their pastures.  With the price of necessary farm inputs on the increase the use of manure as fertilizer source becomes even more important.
For example, to meet a yearly input of 200 1bs. Nitrogen (N) per acre using Ammonium Nitrate ($425/ton) as your fertilizer source is going to cost you $128 per acre for N fertilizer alone. Whereas, meeting 200 lbs. N per acre using poultry manure ($10/ton) as your fertilizer source will only cost $33 per acre for N fertilizer costs. This equates to a savings of $95 per acre in N fertilizer costs alone.  
So, if your fertilizing 10 acres there will be a potential savings of $950 and if you’re fertilizing 100 acres your potential savings will be $9,500. In this day and age that’s a big difference maker in the farm budget. If you’re only using 120 lbs. N per acre per year on your farm the savings decrease to $57 per acre. However, a savings of only $57 an acre isn’t anything to bock at or disregard.  
To make the deal even better there will still be savings associated with the difference in cost between using commercial and manure nutrients like phosphate and pot-ash. Beyond the savings associated with pasture fertilization there will also be savings associated with having a pasture by pasture inventory of available nutrients. The pasture by pasture inventory will save in fertilizer inputs by letting you know which fields may need more fertilization and which fields may need less.
There are other benefits associated with having a NMP in place on your farm. Also, the use of a NMP on your farm is the best way to incorporate a few more no-cost best management practices into your farming routine. If you already know that you want an NMP consultation you can sign up for a free NMP with your local conservation district by visiting their office or calling them.
John Pennington is an agriculture extension specialist with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.


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