An Iowa State University animal science professor predicts fewer large-scale livestock operations will be springing up in Iowa.

Maynard Hogberg, the head of Iowa State’s animal science department, says an ISU report released this week concludes the demand for manure as fertilizer for farm fields may change the structure of the livestock business. “There isn’t going to be unbridled growth of the size of units mainly because on the environmental side the price of energy has gone up which has driven the price of commercial fertilizer up,” Hogberg says. “The manure is going to be looked upon as a resource rather than a waste.”

Current Iowa law requires that large-scale hog confinements draw up “manure management plans” which specify where that manure will be spread on farm fields.

Hogberg suggests the “recycling” of manure will become even more important in Iowa as the price of commercial nitrogen rises, so that farmers who’re now just raising crops may raise livestock again just to get the manure as a byproduct. “By and large what we see, and it may be kind of a subtle thing, we see livestock production systems for the most part are going to be sized according to the land availability, so you have more of an integrated crop production/livestock production system,” Hogberg says.

Hogberg predicts there’ll be a “few larger units” but he says the “main thrust” of animal agriculture in Iowa will shift to medium- and small-sized operations — a dramatic reversal from previous trends.