Nutrient Loading Calculator

This software program helps land managers estimate the amount of nutrient added to a site from various livestock feeding strategies.


The Nutrient Loading Calculator (NLC) is a Windows-based (Excel) program that is available to download. It was developed by the Alberta government and Agri-Food Canada in collaboration with prairie provincial agricultural departments.

The NLC is designed to help land managers plan feed and cow management strategies. The calculator can be used to plan 3 different feeding systems:

  • whole bales
  • windrows on the ground
  • feeding in a movable trough

There are 2 versions of the calculator available to download: Cow to Feed and Feed to Cow. For each feeding system, the NLC program estimates the amount of feed needed for the herd over the desired feeding period.

The NLC helps land managers avoid excessive nutrient buildup in a field because of the feeding strategy being used. Knowing the amount of nutrients deposited by a feeding strategy, land managers estimate the amount of nutrients that are added to a field, so they can take advantage of the added nutrients. These include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur added to the soil from the various winter feeding systems.

The calculator assumes that all nutrients in the feed are deposited on the landscape in the form of manure, urine and waste feed – excluding the nutrients removed as livestock weight gain. It does not estimate nutrient distribution on the site. It allocates all the nutrients to the feeding area itself, and doesn't address nutrients deposited in shelter/bedding areas, watering sites, and other land outside the feeding area. The land manager can visually estimate manure distribution and adjust nutrient deposition accordingly.

User guide

This reference guide provides background information on the NLC and sources of data used to create the calculations. The document explains the information required for using the calculator, and the differences between the 2 Excel worksheets. It also discusses the process used in the spreadsheets and some of the more complex calculations. Review this reference guide prior to using the worksheets and keep it on hand if questions arise when using the spreadsheets.

View online or download the Detailed Documentation about the NLC Calculator.


NLC is a feed strategy and nutrient management planning tool. The program uses book values for feed and manure nutrient content, nutrient absorption and nutrient release. There is a risk of over- or under-estimating nutrient deposition rates based on using book values. Producers are encouraged to use their own feed analysis values to improve output relevancy for their operations. Regular soil sampling and analysis is the best way to monitor and manage soil nutrient levels.

Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation, having no control over individual soil tests, feed tests and environmental conditions makes no representations or warranties, expressed or implied, as to the predicted feed requirements, feed nutrient content, or nutrient deposition generated by this system and assumes no responsibility or liability for use of the program.


By downloading this software, you are agreeing to be bound by the terms and conditions of this agreement as set out below. If you do not agree to be bound, do not download this software.

  • The software and any written materials that might accompany the electronic version of NLC ("written materials") are proprietary to and all rights except those expressly given herein remain with His Majesty the King in right of Alberta ("Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation").
  • The software and written materials are protected by Canadian copyright law and international treaty provisions.
  • You are hereby authorized to transfer the software to a single system.
  • You may not copy written materials.
  • You may not rent or lease the software but you may transfer all of your interest in it, accompanied by written materials, if you retain no copies and the recipient agrees to the terms of this agreement.
  • You may not reverse engineer, decompile, disassemble, or create derivative works from the software.
  • In no event will Alberta Agriculture and Irrigation be liable to you for any claims, costs, losses or damages, including without limitation, lost profits or lost data arising out of the use or inability to use the software or any data or any advice supplied therein.

Download software

Step 1.

Check system requirements.

The estimated NLC file size is 205 KB. To use the NLC program you’ll need:

  • Microsoft Excel or another spreadsheet program capable of handling a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Note: Microsoft Works is not sufficient.

Estimated download time: approximately 1 minute on a 28.8K modem.

Step 2.

Review the NLC user guide and notes above.

Step 3.

Download one of 2 versions of the NLC to your computer.

  • Click one of the 2 buttons below to download an Excel file to your computer.
  • You will be prompted to Save the file. You can save it either to your desktop for easy access, or to a location on your computer where you store management tools.

Cow to Feed version

The Cow to Feed version first identifies cow management factors such as the number and size of cows, their daily feed requirement, and the number of feeding days. The user also manually estimates the number of acres required or to be used for feeding. Based on this data, a Cow days per acre (CDA) value is calculated. A net feed density is automatically calculated, based on the CDA and daily feed requirement of cows.

The user then enters feed information, including type(s), nutrient content, and management. At least one management factor is automatically calculated to ensure that feed management results in the same feed density previously determined. Based on the information entered in the calculator, an estimate of nutrient accumulation on the site is provided.

Download Cow to Feed software

Feed to Cow version

The Feed to Cow version first requires users to enter the various type(s) of feed imported onto the site, the nutrient content of the feed and how this feed is managed. Secondly, cow management factors are entered, such as the number and size of cows, their daily feed requirement and the number of feeding days are entered.

CDA is then calculated based on the previously determined feed density divided by the cows daily feed requirement. The number of acres required to place feed is automatically calculated based on the feed density and the cow days per acre. Finally, the density of the supplementary feed is also calculated based on the amount of feed used and the acres. Based on the information put into the calculator, an estimate of nutrient accumulation on the site is provided.

Download Feed to Cow software

Step 4.

Run the Nutrient Loading Calculator:

  • Double-click the file – cow-to-feed-calculator-ver2-1 or feed-to-cow-calculator-ver2-1 – in the location where you saved it, then follow the instructions.
  • Enter the information needed to calculate an estimate of nutrient accumulation.

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Fill out the online form below to get future updates about the program.

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For inquiries about the NLC:

Phone: 780-980-7587
Fax: 780-980-4237
Email: [email protected]

Trevor Wallace, P.Ag.
Agriculture Business Centre
6547 Sparrow Drive
Leduc, Alberta  T9E 7C7

Or contact the author:

Email: [email protected]

Science and Technology Branch
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
6947 Highway 7, PO Box 1000
Agassiz, British Columbia  V0M 1A0