Composting Dairy Manure

Sustainable Conservation’s Director of Business Partnerships, Ryan Flaherty, led development of “Compost: Enhancing the Value of Manure,” which showcases the potential of composting dairy waste as a strategy for reducing farming’s climate impacts in ways that make good business sense. Full report | Executive Summary

We’ve been working with California dairies for over 15 years, and we know that spreading manure nutrients across a larger land base is critical to protecting groundwater quality. Based on our experience and extensive research, we identified compost as a low tech, economically-viable option for dairies to export their excess manure resources to other areas of the Central Valley. Fortunately, composting dairy manure creates a high-quality soil amendment, kills pathogens, reduces nitrates that threaten water quality, and produces a more compact product that can be easily transported for use on food crops across the state. Composting dairy manure is a solution that can be combined with a suite of on-farm management practices, and can help achieve multiple environmental benefits, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions and boosting healthy soils in addition to protecting water quality.


Sustainable Conservation helps policymakers, regulators and the dairy industry understand why composting manure is a win-win solution for dairies and the environment, helping producers and agencies meet environmental targets while contributing to the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Informing Smart Regulations for Dairy Composting Practices

We’re now coordinating and fostering collaboration between regulators, agencies and other stakeholders to understand the true benefits and environmental impacts of composting dairy manure. California is focused on reducing our air, water quality and greenhouse gas emissions, and manure compost has great potential to help achieve these goals.

However, existing and proposed regulations and permitting requirements need to be aligned and improved to ensure dairy farms can reduce their environmental impacts by producing and selling high-quality manure compost. As agencies and lawmakers collaborate with a full understanding of compost’s benefits to and impacts on the environment, we can work together to improve California’s climate and water by expanding the market for dairy manure compost.