Farm Horizons, October 2013

Manure management and a visit to the doctor

By Lori Brinkman
Assistant Carver County Feedlot Administrator

If you have been to the doctor’s office recently, you’ve likely noticed some changes to the typical medical examination routine. Being a mother of three young kids, I get there a few times a year.

My most recent visit began with the typical front desk check in; waiting room wait; height, weight and temperature check; and, finally, the wait for the doctor to enter the examination room.

The doctor entered the room and began the exam, apologizing that the clinic was having some technical difficulties with their computer system, but she would do her best to make everything move along smoothly. Her laptop was working a little slowly while she was entering all of the data required for the exam, and her frustration was evident. She politely apologized, and I was apathetic to her requirement to use the computer system for the exam.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was the nurse instructing her to log out of her computer so that the system could be rebooted. She obliged and restarted the system. She continued with the exam until it was complete, asking a few additional questions about fire alarms; carbon monoxide detectors; seatbelt, bike, and gun safety; finally, giving my daughter a clean bill of health.

Suddenly, there was another knock at the door. It again was the nurse instructing the doctor that she could now log back into the system and finish the exam.

The door closed, and, looking a little frustrated, the doctor said, “I wonder what we were supposed to be doing with our time while we waited for the computer system to start working?”

I appreciated her genuine concern for the health of my daughter, in spite of the additional paperwork and technical difficulties.

You might be asking yourself what that story has to do with feedlots and manure management. Read on.

When I got to work, I began going through messages. One message was a complaint concerning surface application of manure within 300 feet of a lake. It was the second noted complaint on that field by that landowner. In my opinion, there is a good chance that the complaint is valid, since the complainant is pretty concerned about the water quality of the lake and has educated themselves on what the setback requirements are; although, a follow-up inspection will be the final determination.

If the complaint is valid, what will be the next step? The landowner has already submitted a manure management plan. Will more record keeping, an updated manure management plan, or maybe more inspections do the trick to protect the lake from excess nutrients entering it?

Whatever the answer, I will make a site visit to the location of the complaint. I will conduct an evaluation and make my determination.

In addition to the evaluation, I will complete a Level III Land Application of Manure Inspection form, enter the data into the Minnsota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) database, draft a Notice of Violation to the landowner with conditions, and put it in the mail.

The goal will be to head off future issues before they occur, similar to the goals of increased record keeping at the clinic.

It will be up to the feedlot operator to make sure they are aware of the sensitive areas on the land that they apply manure and consider the negative consequences of manure nutrients entering the water. Hopefully, they heed the notice this time. If not, additional steps may be required.

If you are hauling manure this fall, know your sensitive areas and the setbacks. If you aren’t sure, call your local Environmental Services Department for assistance. Cleaner water is possible.

As for my management requirements, tonight, I’m double-checking the batteries in our alarms, the lock on the gun safe, making sure the kids’ bike helmets are the right size, and I plan to go shopping for my own bike helmet.

Stay safe this fall, and happy hauling.

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