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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Manure > Manure handling: Do it safely and environmentally soundly

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Manure handling: Do it safely and environmentally soundly

Kevin A. Janni

Concrete lined manure storage for barn with sand line and wire fence.

Fall is when many dairy farmers agitate and land apply stored manure and milking center wastewater. Many farmers try to complete manure agitation and land application as quickly as possible and make the best use of valuable manure nutrients. There are numerous things to consider before and during stored manure agitation and land application to accomplish these tasks in a safe and environmentally sound manner.

Manure is stored in earthen lined basins, above ground tanks or below ground pits either beside the barn or under the barn. This year stored manure agitation and land application may be a bit different for some farmers with uncovered manure storage structures. These uncovered manure storages may have more water in them because of the above normal rainfall we had this year. Annual precipitation, storm events and freeboard between the top of the manure and the top of the manure storage are considered when sizing uncovered manure storages. In Minnesota manure storages are designed to hold 24 to 26 inches of precipitation and five inches of rain from a 25-year, 24-hour storm. Several Minnesota storms had rainfall events that dropped over 5 inches of rain. So depending on location, some farms will have more material in their uncovered manure storages this fall. This may mean that it will take more time to agitate and land apply the manure. Nutrient levels may also be down slightly this year because of dilution.

Earthen lined manure storage with natural crust.

Manure land application must follow a farm’s manure management plan. Manure nutrients are applied at rates that match nutrient needs of crops. Application rates are based on either past manure tests and application records or table values when historical records are unavailable. Manure characteristics and nutrient levels depend on bedding selection and manure treatment options such as solids separation.

Check weather forecasts for predictions of precipitation when planning manure application to avoid land applying manure prior to a large or intense rainfall event. Large or intense rains can lead to surface runoff over fields or down open tile inlets which carry away valuable crop nutrients in manure and contribute to surface water pollution. The National Weather Service offers a new activity planner forecast for the upcoming seven days. This tool and other weather forecasts can help you avoid land applying manure prior to rainfall events.

To agitate and land apply manure quickly in an environmentally sound manner it is good practice to:

Both environmental safety and human safety are important during manure agitation and land application. All manure storage facilities present safety risks that need to be recognized and managed. Here is a list of hazards and safety risks associated with stored manure agitation and land application.

Agitation and land application is an important job of many animal operations. Producers need to consider many things to accomplish these tasks in a safe manner that uses nutrients to best advantage.

October 2016

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