Manure Manager

Features Regional Regulations
Winter manure spreading, a necessary evil


January 21, 2011
By Dr. Sarah Dinh Penn State Dairy/Environment Extension Educator Lancaster County

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January 10, 2011 – The
winter spreading of manure is not something that is popular with many
environmental folks. This has recently come to a head in Iowa where they are
allowing producers to spread manure in the winter for five more years with
approval by the state. However, a local advocacy group, that has been fighting
this ruling, is vowing to take note of every bit of manure spread and report
any problems.
January 10, 2011 – The
winter spreading of manure is not something that is popular with many
environmental folks. This has recently come to a head in Iowa where they are
allowing producers to spread manure in the winter for five more years with
approval by the state. However, a local advocacy group, that has been fighting
this ruling, is vowing to take note of every bit of manure spread and report
any problems. 

The winter months, when
the ground is frozen, are the months that see the most manure runoff because
the manure and its nutrients do not have an opportunity to be incorporated into
the soil. Therefore, they sit on top of the soil until the ground thaws.
Therefore, any sudden precipitation or snowmelt can lead to manure runoff into
local waterways.

In Pennsylvania, winter
manure spreading is still allowed, but with certain regulations. For example,
the maximum that can be spread is 5,000 gallons of liquid manure or 20 tons of
dry manure per acre or applied to the phosphorus removal rate of the coming year's
crop. There needs to be 40 percent crop residue, a growing cover crop, or
pasture for manure to be spread on any field.  There may be other rules that apply once the new Manure
Manual regulations come out this spring, and the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA)
is still working with Pennsylvania to try to eliminate winter
spreading all together.

Although many do not like
winter manure spreading, including many farmers, building enough storage to
last through the entire winter is very costly. For example, an average concrete
storage big enough for four months of storage on a 100 lactating cow dairy can
cost around $50,000. With milk prices and feed costs the way they are finding
that kind of money is difficult. There are cost-share programs available to
alleviate the installation costs, but even coming up with the money to cost
share is challenging for many small dairies. 

This is a very difficult
issue with no good solutions, but for now responsibly spreading manure any time
of year is a must.


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