SEARCH Website

The Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center external link, a National Facilitation Project of the NIFA National Integrated Water Quality Program, and The National Center for Manure & Animal Waste Management external link, funded by the USDA Fund for Rural America, are important projects helping USDA address this issue.

The goal of the National Water Program is to protect or improve water resources throughout the United States and its territories through research, education and extension efforts. The National Water Program has identified Animal Waste Management as a theme on which to focus these efforts.

What are NIFA and the Land Grant System Doing to Improve Animal Waste Management?

montage of livestock Research
NIFA and the Land Grant System is collaborating in many innovative research efforts to reduce the water quality impacts from all livestock and poultry feeding operations, ranging from small farms to Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Phosphorus and pathogen transport from animal operations and the land application of manure are the primary water quality impacts from these operations and are therefore the focus of considerable research. Researchers are designing, improving, and testing animal waste best management practices (BMPs) to prevent excess nutrients and pathogens from entering surface and ground water. Alternative manure collection, treatment, and storage technologies and new uses for manure are being investigated and implemented to prevent water quality degradation. Improvements in feeding programs, feed additives, and biotechnology are being investigated to reduce the amount of nutrients in animal manures. Other researchers are examining the fate of hormonal and growth promoter pollution as well as mortality managment. These advances have the potential to increase profitability while protecting water quality. All aspects of animal waste management are being explored to help farmers and local decision makers utilize the nutrient resources available in animal manure as an economic advantage in crop production while remaining environmentally sustainable in the long-term.

Through the Land-Grant University System partnering with NIFA, the numerous college-level courses and degree programs offered pertaining to agriculture and animal waste management help to educate students, citizens, farmers, and future livestock/poultry producers on wise animal waste management practices that will improve or protect water quality.

Extension programs within NIFA are providing technical assistance, tools, and training to farmers to ensure that animal waste BMP’s and alternative technologies are implemented in their animal operations to protect or improve water quality. Extension staff also work with local communities, state agencies, and federal partners in developing educational programs that help stakeholders achieve their goals. Numerous Extension programs are working with farmers and citizens to assess and prevent contamination risks due to animal waste. Other Extension programs are working to put together producers of manure with those in need of manure (animal waste resource trading opportunities) in order to best utilize this resource and prevent contamination of surface or ground water.

These efforts are resulting in more animal waste being stored, handled, and applied to land appropriately thereby improving and protecting water quality.

Why is Animal Waste Management Important?

Animal waste from farms and livestock/poultry and dairy production operations can severely threaten water quality if not managed properly. Animal waste from the 1.3 million farms with livestock and poultry (U.S. EPA estimate) across the nation has the potential to contribute excess nutrients, pathogens, organic matter, solids, and odorous compounds to the environment. This pollution can cause eutrophication of surface waters, degradation of ground water quality, and threats to human health.

Historically, manure generated by livestock has been returned to the soil to improve its tilth and fertility. The USDA and USEPA recognize that land application is the best method of utilizing animal manures, however, recent trends have raised concerns of increased water quality impairment. In order to stay economically competitive, most commercial livestock and poultry operations have increased the number of animals. Often, more manure is generated than can be safely applied to the soil immediately surrounding that facility. Consequently, waste treatment technologies must be upgraded, and animal waste BMPs must be implemented and used more efficiently. The U.S. EPA released a new ruling external link on CAFOs in December of 2002 to strengthen this regulatory program. Operators of CAFOs need assistance interpreting and meeting the requirements of this ruling, and other farmers need education on nutrient management, BMPs, and water quality concerns to implement practices that will improve and protect water quality.

More information on how Animal Waste Management is being addressed throughout the country is available via these Regional Water Programs (these external links will open in a new window):

Great Lakes Heartland Mid-Atlantic Northeast States & Caribbean Islands Northern Plains and Mountains Pacific Northwest Southern Southwest States and Pacific Islands

The following people generously volunteered their time and expertise to assist with the development of the Animal Waste Management area of this website:

* Richard Hegg, NIFA *
* Joe Lally, Iowa State University *
* Mark Risse, University of Georgia *
* Mary Ann Rozum, NIFA *

This National Theme website, Animal Waste Management, was developed and is maintained by Kelly Addy ( and Aimee Mandeville, University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI 02881.