Manure Manager

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A top 10 list on preparing for fall manure application

September 23, 2009  by Angela Rieck-Hinz

1 Review manure management plans.
2. Know and follow land application separation distances.
3. Make sure your manure applicator certification is current.
4. Develop an emergency action plan.
5. Take manure samples.
6. Sample soil.
7. Calibrate your application equipment.
8. Think timing, timing, and timing.
9. Consider the neighbors.
10. Be safe.


1 Review manure management plans.
Prior to land application, review your manure, nutrient, or
comprehensive nutrient management plan, make any necessary updates such
as adding new fields. Review the plan, application methods and
separation distances with employees and/or commercial manure
applicators. Also consider evaluating fields for application. Because
winter application of manure is prohibited for confinement feeding
operations with liquid manure, plan ahead in the event you may have to
apply manure under emergency situations in the winter. Save fields with
the flattest slopes and P-Index ratings of two or less for emergency

2. Know and follow land application separation distances.
Confinement site operators are subject to land application separation
distances to neighbors and public use areas, but all animal feeding
operations, regardless of size, are subject to separation distances
from designated areas (water sources).
Get a copy of an aerial photograph of your fields and the neighbors’
field to which you apply manure. Map out neighbors’ houses, churches,
businesses, school, cemeteries and other public use areas as well as
all designated areas such as sinkholes, wells, including abandoned
wells, cisterns, designated wetland, water sources, high quality water
resources, agriculture drainage wells, and tile inlets to agriculture
drainage well. Identify all other sources of concern for manure
application. Sketch out separation distances. Train your employees to
read the maps and stay away from areas where manure application is not
allowed. If needed, flag out the areas in the field. Share copies of
the maps with your commercial applicator. Make sure you understand the
definitions for incorporated and injected manure. Make sure you
understand separation distances for designated areas (water sources)
must have the manure injected or incorporated on the same date it was

3. Make sure your manure applicator certification is current.
If you are required by law to be certified to handle, haul, transport
or land-apply manure make sure you certification status is current.


4. Develop an emergency action plan.
Manure spills happen, so plan accordingly. Train employees in manure
spill response. Ask your commercial manure applicator if they have a
plan of action in the event of a spill. If they don’t have a plan,
demand it. Keep important phone numbers and contact information for
excavators, neighbors with pumps and tractors, and local officials and
emergency response units up-to-date and posted where everyone knows
where to find them. Be aware of safety issues regarding gases when
pumping and agitating manure. NEVER enter a building or manure storage
when pumping or agitating manure.

5. Take manure samples.
Taking manure samples prior to land application will give you nutrient
analysis results for planning application rates this fall. Sampling
during land application or manure agitation may provide better results
to use in future planning, but will not provide nutrient analysis
results to use in planning application rates for this fall. It is
important to build a history of nutrient analyses for manure sampling
to help better manage the nutrients in manure for crop production.

6. Sample soil.
Will you need to update an MMP in the next year or two where you need
soil samples to re-do your P-index? If so, taking the required soil
samples this fall will keep you from getting caught needing to update
the MMP at a time you can’t get soil samples taken. Samples should be
taken prior to manure application. For a MMP, one soil sample can’t
represent more than 10 acres unless you are updating an existing
P-index and have been applying manure at less than the P removal rate
of the crop, then one soil sample can be taken for up to 20 acres.

7. Calibrate your application equipment.
When the co-op applies fertilizer for crop production, do they know how
much they are spreading? Yes! Why not do the same for your manure
nutrient source? Calibrating manure application equipment takes a
little time, but in the long run it will help you meet the correct
application rate and make better use of your manure nutrients.

8. Think timing, timing, and timing.
A new law has been passed in Iowa prohibiting the application of liquid
manure from confinement facilities on snow-covered or frozen ground
during certain times of the year. However, regardless of the source of
manure, or the size of operation, application of manure under these
conditions is not recommended due to the increased risk of nutrient
loss and movement to surface waters.

9. Consider the neighbors.
There is no doubt about it, the number one complaint about manure
application is the odor. Right or wrong there is a perception of “if I
can smell it, someone must be doing something wrong.” Work with your
neighbors to let them know about your manure application plans. If
possible, tell them how long it might take, how you plan to apply the
manure, and how long they might expect to smell the manure. Inquire
about any outdoor events in the neighborhood such as weddings, Friday
night football games, cookouts and such to avoid manure application
prior to those events. Good communication is the key.

10. Be safe.
Fall is a busy time of year for farmers and commercial manure
applicators. Many manure spills happen because people are in a hurry or
are tired from long hours of application work. Get plenty of rest, take
breaks and slow down. Take time to inspect equipment. This will help
protect employees and reduce the chances of equipment malfunction.
Observe all laws of the road and watch out for the “other driver”. They
may not realize you are moving at a much slower rate of speed or how
long your tractor and tank wagon are when they go to pass you on the
road. Check “slow moving vehicle signs” and replace as needed. Check
lights to make sure they are working and are visible. Install
additional lights as needed to improve your visibility and to help
people see you.

Angela Rieck-Hinz is with the department of agronomy at Iowa State University.


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