Farm Horizons, Feb. 2011

Manure application management

By Lori Brinkman
Carver County Asst. Feedlot Administrator

Navigating the waters of feedlot regulation can be daunting at times. Forms, checklists, and permitting guidelines cause headaches for the most seasoned feedlot administrator. Farmers have also gotten a taste of increased paperwork as it relates to feedlot management in recent years.

In 2007, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency increased efforts to document manure management at feedlots of greater than 100 animal units. Level I and Level II Land Application of Manure inspections have been standard during open lot inspections in Carver County for the last three years. The inspections ask landowners to present recent manure analysis information, application records, including rate of application and field IDs; and soil nutrient analysis.

Level III inspections are conducted randomly by selecting a field that has received an application of manure. A Level III inspection documents whether setbacks to sensitive features such as lakes, streams, unbermed drainage ditches, open tile intakes, or wetlands have been observed. It also documents other aspects of proper manure management including rate and method of application, locations of manure piles if applicable, and the ground surface receiving manure, such as frozen, snow-covered, vegetated, or non-vegetated. The Pollution Control Agency has land application compliance goals in place for the next five to 10 years.

While this may catch some producers off guard and frustrate others, it should be no surprise. Manure and nutrient management has been a hot topic among feedlot operators for at least a decade, and greater regulation of manure application is already a reality for many producers.

The positive news is, paperwork aside, manure and nutrient management is a good thing. Manure adds nutrients and organic matter to the soil and can significantly increase crop yields. Injecting or tilling manure into the soil can reduce nitrogen loss, thus reducing fertilizer costs. These are practices that many farmers know and regularly implement.

However, manure management goes one step further. Consider manure a plant. Some plants are highly valued as a landscape flower, but out of place can be detrimental, and proper management is required to avoid negative economic effects. Excess manure nutrients and fecal bacteria in water also have negative effects, and proper management is required.

There are several resources to assist farmers to improve manure and nutrient management on their farms. Contact your county feedlot administrator, Soil and Water Conservation District, or Natural Resources Conservation Service to understand setback requirements, especially on frozen and snow-covered soils, and fields with sensitive features. A meeting to discuss proper management is much more pleasant than a meeting to discuss a violation.

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