Prevent manure spills, run-off

By Scott Gunderson, Manitowoc County UW-Extension Dairy Agent

and Jerry Halverson, Manitowoc County Soil and Water Conservation Department Director

Over the next two months, millions of gallons of manure will be transported from manure storage facilities and applied to farmland to be used by crops in the 2010 growing season.  This is an essential part of animal agriculture, and the nutrients from this manure are an excellent source of fertilizer for crops.  Making sure that the nutrients from the dairy manure get applied and incorporated into the soil and do not cause surface or groundwater contamination is critical.

The following information was taken from two guides published by the Manitowoc County UW-Extension Office and the Manitowoc County Soil and Water Conservation Department.  The first portion deals with preventing manure spills from manure storage facilities, while the second part  deals with preventing manure run-off from fields both during and after application and incorporation.

Preventing manure spills from storage facilities

Monitor manure level in the facility.

Keep manure level at least one and one-half (1½) feet from the top of the storage facility.

A contingency plan shall be implemented when the manure level reaches 1½ feet from the top of the manure storage facility.  The plan should include how to handle unexpected volumes of animal waste that could cause the system to overflow before scheduled emptying can occur.

Consider the following:

Available neighboring manure storage facilities with storage space available.

Land that is flat and far away from streams, ditches, lakes, bedrock, tile inlets, and sinkholes and that complies with your Nutrient Management Plan.

Neighboring farm fields.

Emergency application shall meet local and state regulations.

Routinely inspect storage facilities for leaks.

Maintain pumps and check valves regularly.

Remove enough manure (between emptying cycles) to avoid overflows.

Preventing manure run-off during and after application

The following ideas are recommended in order to ensure that manure stays on farm fields and does not run off and contaminate water.

Identify and inform applicators and employees of critical sites including: wells, channels, ditches, waterways, streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, tile inlets, broken tile lines, sinkholes, and bedrock near surface.

Watch the weather forecast prior to, during, and after application.

Till the soil around the entire field a distance of fifty feet from the edge of the field

Loosen the soil across the entire field prior to application if soil is compacted (e.g. extended dry periods, headlands, and corn that was harvested for silage).

Check equipment prior to and during use.

Properly train and inform all individuals involved in manure application and incorporation.

Hire a reputable contractor if you do not apply the manure yourself.

Monitor application equipment constantly.

Apply manure based on crop need.

Incorporate manure near critical sites immediately (i.e. directly behind the applicator)

Incorporate manure near non-critical sites as soon as possible to decrease odors (by up to 90%), decrease the possibility of runoff and increase the nitrogen credits from manure.

Think ahead—if it looks bad, don’t do it!

Follow requirements indicated on spreading maps provided by the county Soil and Water Conservation Departments.

For more detailed information, farmers, crop consultants and custom manure applicators are encouraged to contact the Manitowoc County UW-Extension office (683-4175) and request the following documents:

• Preventing Manure Spills and Run-Off

• Responding to Manure Spills and Run-Off

• Manure Spill and Run-Off Emergency Response Plan

These documents are also available on the Manitowoc County UW-Extension website: