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Spring Manure Issues for Small Unpermitted Dairies and Open Beef Feedlots
Dr. Dan Andersen, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering
Another spring is arriving, and with it a time of preparation - spring planting, calving, and the like. There is lots to do to get ready, but now is also the time to inspect your farmstead to make sure you are prepared for the challenging conditions that snowmelt and spring rains can provide.
Spring in Iowa usually is a wet, muddy, hectic season, and while it is always exciting to see the landscape turn green with growth in fields and our pastures, it’s also a challenging time to manage our manure at dairies, beef feedlots and other outdoor facilities. The snowmelt and rainfall can cause wet conditions and runoff from our cow yards (loafing pens), farmsteads, and cattle lots. These cool, consistently wet conditions are some of the hardest challenges to proper management and control of our manure and runoff. So do your part to help protect Iowa’s waters and perform a self-assessment of your farm. Take a walk around your facility and inspect the cow yard, feedlot, manure storage structures, manure stockpiles, and feed storage areas to make sure that that everything is in working condition and your manure nutrients are not reaching waters of the state.
There are some great tools available to help you understand what to look for as you walk around your farm. To help get you started, check out What To Expect When DNR Inspects and the Feedlot EMS worksheet, created by the Iowa Beef Center. These documents tell you what the Iowa DNR is looking for and provides some descriptions about what to look at on your farm and how to assess the environmental risk it presents to water quality.
Take the time to make the trek around your farm, take a look at the cow yard - are there signs of water flowing from it, where does it go? Do the same with your manure storage structures and manure stockpiles, do you see any signs of water carrying manure away from your farm, or are they working like they should? Finally, take a peek at your outdoor feed storage areas - make sure your feedstuffs are staying put and clean up spilled feedstuffs. As you tour your farm take pictures on your phone and when you’re back at the house, look at them as you go through the Feedlot Assessment Worksheet.
Finally, a reminder of a few best management practices for spring:
- Make sure to keep clean water clean, use clean water diversions and gutters on your roofs to keep the clean water from entering your cattle yard and becoming a problem.
- Keep those lots clean, scraping frequently gets the manure off the lot, helping keep the pen in better condition and reducing what the rain can move.
- Think about where you are putting your stockpiles and compost piles to prevent runoff from entering streams. Try to find nice flat areas away from where water pools or channels.
- Keep your feedstuffs dry. Spring rains can be frequent, keeping as much of your silage or feed pile covered as possible and only opening enough for a day or two minimizes what the rainwater can come in contact with.
- Finally, keep the farmstead clean. Clean-up spilled manure, feed, silage, and bedding. Perception is reality, if your farm looks clean people will identify that you are managing to keep the water clean and your animals healthy and happy.
- Interested in seeing if your farm is impacting water quality? Water testing kits are being hosted at 19 extension offices that you can check out and use! More information is available on the Small Feedlots and Dairy Operations web page on the IMMAG site. and a video demonstrating the kit can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYr_peACz6I
The March 1 deadline for renewing your manure application certificate has come and gone, so if you are a commercial manure applicator and were licensed in 2014, you will have to pay the late fee of $12.50 in addition to the regular certification fees. If you are a confinement site applicator who is renewing your license in 2015, you will also have to pay the late fee in addition to the regular certification fees. All new applicators (not previously certified) or confinement site applicators completing continuing education for their 3-year license do not have to pay the late fees. If you missed training opportunities in January or February your two options to meet certification requirements include 1) contacting your County Extension Office to make an appointment to watch the appropriate training video; or 2) contacting your local DNR field office to schedule an appointment to take the certification exam. All certification requirements must be meet prior to applying manure this spring.
The IMMAG Events page is a compilation of manure management related events. Please check the events page often for new listings.
The Waste to Worth 2015 conference will be held March 30 through April 3 in Seattle, WA.
The April Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center webinar will be held on April 17 at 1:30 p.m. This webinar will expose participants to management and fate of manure and nutrients in tile-drained agricultural landscapes. For more information see Manure and Nutrient Management in Tile Drained Lands.
North American Manure Expo will be held in Chambersburg, PA on July 14-15, 2015. Look for this event and additional details on their Facebook page.
Iowa Manure Management Action Group
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