Manure application and recordkeeping - what are the expectations for my farm?
Compliance. It’s a word we hear a lot, and for each of us it probably conjures up a different image—rule following, guidelines, or even the law. I often hear that word and think of feedlot regulations. More than likely, that’s due to my role on a local Feedlot Review Committee. Compliance with feedlot regulations is an important aspect of responsible farming. I have found more often than not that farms out of compliance aren’t doing so on purpose; they don’t even know they are out of compliance. A big area of confusion and a common cause of non-compliance is manure application records. Records can be incomplete, out of date, or not maintained.
The major objective of keeping manure records is for nutrient management. Detailed records, especially on nitrogen levels, help farms optimize nutrient use and could save money. Adequate records ensure good nutrient management and are an important part of the farm’s overall manure management plan. Up-to-date records are also an aspect of feedlot ordinance compliance. Feedlot ordinances are enforced by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and in some counties by local authorities as well.
There are many components that can and should be included on accurate manure application records. The most basic level includes locations of applications and the amount of manure applied. There may also be records required for manure and soil testing, manure transfer, and application of manure near sensitive features.
Which records do I need to keep?
The level of records required in a manure management plan is determined by the number of animal units (AU). MPCA defines an animal unit as a 1,000-pound animal. A mature dairy cow over 1,000 pounds is 1.4 AU; a mature dairy cow under 1,000 pounds is 1 AU; a heifer is 0.7 AU; a calf is 0.2 AU. If any other livestock are kept on the farm, such as horses, sheep, goats, pigs, or poultry, they also contribute to the farm’s total animal units.
Record keeping is required for all feedlots registered for 100 animal units or more. Sites with 100 to 299 AU follow one set of recordkeeping guidelines, and farms with 300 or more AU follow an additional set of guidelines. If your farm is registered for 100 AU or more, you are required to have manure samples taken every 4 years if the manure storage area holds manure from 100 AU or more.
Recordkeeping for 100 to 299 AU
Sites registered for 100 to 299 AU have a shorter list of items to keep records on. These items are a current manure analysis, application information if manure is incorporated within 24 hours near sensitive features and plant-available nitrogen (N) per acre. The manure analysis should have been conducted within the last 4 years. Application information should include field IDs and the number of acres for each field and the amount of manure applied per acre for each field. Sensitive areas include streams, lakes, protected wetlands, and ditches, among other areas. For feedlots under 300 AU, nitrogen is the only nutrient with required records.
Recordkeeping for 300 or more AU
Sites registered for 300 or more AU are required to keep more thorough records. These include the four items mentioned above (manure analysis, application information, incorporation in sensitive areas, plant-available N per acre) as well as manure management plans (MMP), manure transfer records, dates of applications, soil phosphorus test results, and plant-available P2O5 per acre. Manure management plans cover the complete use of manure on a farm, including storage, testing, and nutrient management. Manure transfer records should include the amount transferred, dates transferred, the recipient names and addresses, and a Field ID (the minimum requirement for Field ID is county, township, and section). Soil phosphorus test results need to be from the last 4 years. P2O5 records need to include what’s released per acre from manure and commercial fertilizers.
The required records listed above are for those farms not in a Designated Water Supply Management Area (DWSMA). Such sites have some additional regulations, which you can learn more about by visiting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.
In my experience, most county feedlot officers are willing to help producers who have questions about their recordkeeping. There may also be opportunities for assistance from your local Soil and Water Conservation District. If you have questions or aren’t sure where to start, consider contacting one of those groups for assistance.
Accurate recordkeeping is critical to proper manure and nutrient management. It is also an important component of feedlot ordinance compliance. Manure application records not only serve to meet requirements, they are also an important tool in proper land management. Keeping records accurate and up-to-date plays an important role in the success of your farm.
A special thank you to Amber Mielke, Stearns County Feedlot Officer, for providing information used in this article.
Feedlots - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Land application - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency