All too often, Nutrient Management Plans are filed away in a dark corner of a filing cabinet, says Karl Rockeman, North Dakota Department of Health environmental engineer. The North Dakota Department of Health works with permitting and water quality issues in the state. He says all of the animal feeding operations permitted by the state’s Department of Health in recent years have had a Nutrient Management Plan at one time.

Writing in the first issue of the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Nutrient Management News, Rockeman says that while all parts of a Nutrient Management Plan should be kept up to date, there are three very important pieces of information that department staff focus on at each inspection.

  1. Manure spreading records. Rockeman says this is as simple as “where, when and how much.” Most crop producers keep good records when applying commercial fertilizer, but they often overlook recording information when applying the nutrients from manure. He says even if the tonnage of each load is not known, keep track of the number of loads.

  2. Soil nutrient test results. Current soil tests really tell the story of how the manure nutrients are interacting with the crop, Rockeman says. He recommends sampling every year, although he says soil tests are considered current if they were taken in the last three years for all but the largest operations in states like North Dakota.

  3. Manure nutrient test results. A manure sample should be taken when the manure is applied. Most soil test labs also analyze manure nutrients, so Rockeman recommends producers should contact their agronomist to find out if the manure samples can be sent with the regular soil tests.
“Make sure the field identification is the same for all three items (listed above),” Rockeman says. The manure records and soil tests need to use the same location identification.

Producers can contact the North Dakota Department of Health at 701-328-5210, or visit for more information.

The new NDSU newsletter, Nutrient Management News, can be found online at their website: