Even in normal years the most ideal window for spreading stored manure can feel brief. And this year has been anything but normal. With a wet spring delaying planting and ultimately corn harvest, along with the arrival of an early winter, it seems the prime time to spread manure has all but disappeared. In many cases fields are now frozen and snow covered with corn still left to harvest and manure left to be spread. As we move towards December we can expect thawing, rain, refreezing, and more snow on top of an ice crust.
Permitted farms are largely prohibited from spreading manure once frozen and snow covered soil conditions begin. So what can livestock farmers do? If you operate a permitted farm you should contact your local DNR office to discuss what options are available given this year’s unique set of circumstances.
If you are a livestock farm of any size you should:
- Follow your Winter Manure Spreading Plan as part of your regular Nutrient Management Plan.
- Avoid spreading manure before weather events that may result in runoff. Along with checking the weather, you can use the online Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast (www.manureadvisorysystem.wi.gov) to assess the risk of runoff in your specific location.
- Weather permitting, choose to spread on riskier fields now to avoid spreading on them later in the winter when there is greater potential for runoff. Riskier fields include those most prone to runoff because of their slope or proximity to water resources or karst features. If you are unsure of your riskiest fields contact your local Land Conservation Department to determine what fields are suitable.
The good news for most locations is that the soil does not currently contain frozen water (concrete frost) and there is no crust of ice on the soil surface, which means that water is still able to infiltrate and manure can still bind to the soil. In addition, the snow is still relatively shallow and is not densely packed, also allowing applied manure to make contact with the soil.
When harsher winter soil conditions (concrete frost, ice crust, deeper snow) do occur, the risk of water and nutrient loss will greatly increase. If you are a farmer with manure storage capacity of six months or more, you should use this time to make sure that your pit is empty enough to prevent a ‘must spread’ situation before this time of greater risk arrives.
For more information, visit UW-Discovery Farms at: http://www.uwdiscoveryfarms.org/OurResearch/ManureManagementConsiderations.aspx
Or contact us at:
715.983.5668 or firstname.lastname@example.org