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Follow guidelines when applying winter manure
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Livestock producers who make winter manure applications must follow required industry guidelines to reduce any pollution risks.

Ohio State University Extension is collaborating with Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Ohio Livestock Coalition, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Soil and Water Conservation, Ohio Federation of Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Ohio Department of Agriculture, in outreach efforts related to manure management issues and application guidelines. Letters and educational materials, such as fact sheets, are being mailed to livestock producers throughout Ohio.

“The collaboration is in response to a rash of calls to Soil and Water Conservation District offices and Ohio EPA have been receiving regarding concerns over manure applications on frozen or snow covered soils,” said Jon Rausch, OSU Extension animal manure management program director. “There’s a greater risk of pollution, such as run-off, with manure applications during freezing/thawing events. Producers need to stay within application guidelines to reduce those risks.”

Rausch said that many livestock producers apply manure in the winter because their operations do not have enough manure storage to get them through the winter. Producers also take advantage of the availability of labor and equipment and the reduction of compaction on frozen soils to apply manure.

“Manure is applied to the soil as a fertilizer and to improve fertility,” said Rausch. “Producers should be applying manure at a rate suitable for plant utilization and not for disposal, especially with the price of commercial fertilizer continuing to increase.”

Manure application on frozen and snow-covered soil is not recommended. However if application is necessary, based on NRCS Practice Standard 633, all of the following criteria must be met:

•Application rate is limited to 10 wet tons/acre for solid manure more than 50 percent moisture, and five wet tons/acre for manure less than 50 percent moisture. Liquid manure application rate is limited to 5,000 gallons/acre.

•Applications are to be made on land with at least 90 percent residue cover (e.g., good quality hay or pasture field, all corn grain residue remaining after harvest, all wheat residue remaining after harvest).

•Manure shall not be applied on more than 20 contiguous acres. Contiguous areas are to be separated by a break of at least 200 feet.

•Use areas for manure application that are furthest from streams, ditches, waterways and surface water to prevent run-off.

•Increase the application setback distance to a minimum of 200 feet from all grassland waterways, surface drainage ditches, streams, surface inlets and bodies of water. This distance may need to be increased based upon local conditions.

•Additional winter application criteria apply for slopes of more than 6 percent. Manure should be applied in alternating strips 60 to 200 feet wide generally on the contour. Generally, manure should not be applied to cropland over 15 percent slope or to pastures over 20 percent slope.

Rausch said that following winter manure application guidelines is important because any pollution violation could result in the loss of the winter application option.

“For many producers, it could become economically challenging for them to find ways to store manure through the winter,” said Rausch. “It’s not worth it to take those kinds of risks, especially when the outcome has the potential of impacting all of animal agriculture by banning winter application in Ohio.”

Published in the January 11, 2006 issue of Farm World.

1/11/2006