Manure Manager

Farmers urged to empty manure storage structures

October 13, 2009  by  Marg Land


Farmers urged to empty manure storage structures
Wisconsin agriculture and natural resource officials are urging livestock
producers to take steps now to properly manage manure in coming months and to
avoid taking short cuts.

October 13, 2009, Madison,
WI – Wisconsin agriculture and natural resource officials are urging livestock
producers to take steps now to properly manage manure in coming months and to
avoid taking short cuts.

Reports that financially
stressed farmers may be delaying emptying their storage structures as a
cost-saving measure are stirring concerns of an increased risk later of manure
spills and other problems.


“Producers are struggling
as it is – they don’t need the additional stress, cost and labor that can come
from having a manure spill, an overtopped storage structure or runoff into
lakes and streams,” says Rod Nilsestuen, who leads the Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

“We urge all producers to
make sure they are taking the steps now and before winter to properly manage
manure and avoid problems later.”

The state agriculture
department is joining with the Department of Natural Resources, the University
of Wisconsin-Extension
, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
and the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin (PNAAW) to
reach producers with an important reminder of the necessary steps and
information about available help to manage manure. The partners are using radio
advertisements, press releases and other outreach activities. More information
about the effort and the steps to take can be found online by clicking here.

Almost half of Wisconsin’s
dairy producers use storage and liquid manure spreading systems to efficiently
handle and manage manure. The cost of agitating, hauling, and incorporating
manure into farm fields runs from $100 to $250 per cow per year; with Wisconsin
farms averaging 87 cows, the total could run $8,700 to more than $21,000 a
year, according to Kevin Erb, UW-Extension’s advisor to the applicators

Reports from manure
haulers, producers themselves, and county agriculture agents suggest that
producers, stressed by low prices, tightened credit, and fluctuating feed,
fertilizer and other costs, may not be asking their bankers for money to cover
the costs of properly handling and spreading the manure produced on their farm,
he says.

“We’ve heard that some
farmers may be delaying manure applications that would normally be going out in
early fall on wheat and silage fields,” Erb says. Delaying manure applications
now will increase the likelihood of overflowing manure storage that will
trigger a lot of extra work and cost for them, he says.

“We have only a limited
amount of time when we can safely apply manure – and we can’t control the
weather to extend the window,” Erb says. “If the manure storage is not
completely emptied in the fall, farmers may face the difficult choice of letting
it overflow in spring or spreading on fields at one of the highest risk times
of the year.” Both options could result in fish kills, contaminated drinking
wells, fines and upset neighbors.

“Properly managing manure
is a critical part of a well-run farm,” says DNR Secretary Matt Frank. “And
farmers play a critical part in helping Wisconsin protect public health and our

Pat Leavenworth, NRCS
State Conservationist for Wisconsin, says that farmers should take four key
steps in coming weeks and months, and can tap into state and federal programs
to get help for some steps.

  1. Empty your manure storage.
    Maximize storage capacity for winter by emptying storage facilities and
    properly applying manure. Do not spread manure when rain is forecast.
  2. Plant fall cover crops.
    Reduce nutrient losses from fall applications by planting a cover crop that can
    make use of the nitrogen in manure and reduce erosion.
  3. Develop a nutrient
    management plan. Make wise use of nutrients and reduce risks by tapping into
    technical help and resources to prepare a plan.
  4. Develop a winter spreading
    plan. For farms with limited or no storage, work with your local conservation
    staff or professional agronomist to help identify fields with a lower risk of

For more technical or program
information on manure management or winter spreading plans, call your local
NRCS office or county land conservation office, Leavenworth says.

More information on manure
runoff, the prevention campaign, and efforts to find new ways to manage manure
can be found online at


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