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Winter manure regulations in effect

Learn the regulations on winter manure spreading in your state.

5 Min Read
Rear view of a tractor spreading liquid manure on a winter day
WINTER SPREADING: If you spread manure in winter, be aware of the rules in your state. Some ban winter manure spreading outright, while others have specific rules for doing it. SimplyCreativePhotography/Getty Images

Winter is upon us, and that means winter manure-spreading regulations are going into effect.

Not all states have the same regulations. Some states ban winter manure spreading outright, while others allow it under certain conditions.

Read up on the winter manure-spreading regulations for your state:

Connecticut. There is no winter manure spreading ban.

Delaware. The ban is in effect from Dec. 7 to Feb. 15. Liming, free of nitrogen or phosphorus, is permitted. Outside of that time frame, applying nitrogen or phosphorus fertilizers is prohibited if the surface area is covered by snow or frozen.

Maine. The ban is in effect from Dec. 1 to March 15. You may be eligible for an exemption. Read more here.

Maryland. The ban is in effect from Dec. 16 to March 1. Farmers may resume spreading March 1 based on their nutrient management plan recommendations, and as long as fields are not saturated, snow-covered or hard-frozen. 

The department is authorized to work with farmers to prevent overflows from storage structures to minimize effects on water quality. In these instances, farmers must contact the Nutrient Management Program for emergency authorization before spreading occurs. 

Temporary field-stockpiling of “stackable” poultry litter and other qualifying organic nutrient sources is allowed if the moisture content is 60% or less. Farmers may not apply stackable organic nutrient sources to fields in winter under any conditions. 

For more information, visit the department’s Nutrient Management Program website

Massachusetts. There is no winter spreading ban. However, the Department of Food and Agriculture offers these recommendations:

  • If winter application is required, only spread manure on sod-covered fields where it won't run off easily.

  • Don't spread in early spring, as soil is often saturated.

  • Don't spread on sloped lands or areas where manure could seep into water sources.

  • Don't spread manure within 200 feet of a water source unless it is incorporated into the soil within 72 hours.

Michigan. There is no winter manure ban, but the following guidelines should be followed:

  • Solid manure should only be applied to areas where slopes are 6% or less.

  • Liquid manure should only be applied to soils where slopes are 3% or less.

In either situation, provisions must be made to control runoff and erosion with soil and water conservation practices, such as vegetative buffer strips between surface waters and soils where manure is applied.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are banned from winter-applying manure for the first three months of the year, unless the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is notified and along with these stipulations:

  • Frost is less than 2 inches.

  • Snow is less than 4 inches.

  • Soil tests are low for phosphorus and nitrogen.

  • The application site is more than 100 feet from water.

  • Manure is immediately injected or incorporated into the field.

New Hampshire. There is no official ban, but the Department of Agriculture, Markets & Food recommends farmers not apply nutrients during winter when ground is frozen or snow-covered because of the high risk of runoff.

New York. There is no official ban. However, there are guidelines pertaining to CAFOs that must be followed. There are no specific regulations for farms outside the CAFO permit program related directly to winter manure spreading, but under the state’s Environmental Conservation Law, farms are not allowed to create a water quality violation. 

Ohio. Ohio has adopted the Natural Resources Conservation Service 590 code revised in 2000 for the entire state, with the exception of the Grand Lake St Marys watershed. In the GLSM watershed, there is a winter ban on manure application, regardless of farm size, from Dec. 15 to March 1.

In the remainder of the state, permitted farms are not allowed to apply manure in the winter unless it is an extreme emergency, and then movement to other suitable storage is usually the selected alternative.

For non-permitted operations, if the manure can be incorporated at application time, or incorporated with 24 hours after application, frozen ground application is allowed. The old rules allowing manure application in the Western Lake Erie Basin are now assumed to be overruled by the revised 590 standards.

Winter manure application standards limit solid manure application amounts to 5 tons per acre and liquid manure application amounts to 5,000 gallons per acre. These have 200-foot setback distances from ditches, streams and creeks and must be on slopes of less than 6% and less than 20-acre areas in size without additional buffers.  

Pennsylvania. Manure spreading is discouraged between Dec. 15 and Feb. 28, any time the ground is snow-covered, or if the soil is frozen 4 inches or deeper. The following guidelines are for farms operating under a Manure Management Plan. Concentrated animal operations or CAFOs should consult their nutrient application plan:

  • Maintain a setback of 100 feet from streams, lakes, ponds, sinkholes, drinking water wells and aboveground inlets to agricultural drainage systems.

  • Don't spread on slopes greater than 15%. These would be soils listed with “D" or “E" codes on a soil survey map.

  • Limit winter application rates to less than or equal to 5,000 gallons an acre of liquid manure, 20 tons per acre of solid non-poultry manure or 3 tons per acre of solid poultry manure. You can also use a nutrient balance sheet to determine the phosphorus-balanced rate of manure for the next crop and apply equal to or less than that rate.

  • Don't spread on fields with less than 25% crop residue cover unless a cover crop has been planted there.

  • Prioritize winter spreading on fields with living plant cover, such as cover crops, hayfields or pastures.

  • List fields that will receive winter manure applications in the “Winter Application Worksheet" of your Manure Management Plan. Also, make a note of the fields that will receive winter spreading on your farm map and indicate the slopes in those fields.

Vermont. The ban is in effect from Dec. 15 to April 1. An exemption may be considered for emergency situations only, such as structural failure of a waste storage facility. If a farmer anticipates having an issue before or during the ban, call Nate Sands for assistance with planning winter manure management at 802-224-6850.

About the Author(s)

Chris Torres

Editor, American Agriculturist

Chris Torres, editor of American Agriculturist, previously worked at Lancaster Farming, where he started in 2006 as a staff writer and later became regional editor. Torres is a seven-time winner of the Keystone Press Awards, handed out by the Pennsylvania Press Association, and he is a Pennsylvania State University graduate.

Torres says he wants American Agriculturist to be farmers' "go-to product, continuing the legacy and high standard (former American Agriculturist editor) John Vogel has set." Torres succeeds Vogel, who retired after 47 years with Farm Progress and its related publications.

"The news business is a challenging job," Torres says. "It makes you think outside your small box, and you have to formulate what the reader wants to see from the overall product. It's rewarding to see a nice product in the end."

Torres' family is based in Lebanon County, Pa. His wife grew up on a small farm in Berks County, Pa., where they raised corn, soybeans, feeder cattle and more. Torres and his wife are parents to three young boys.

Jennifer Kiel

Editor, Michigan Farmer

While Jennifer is not a farmer and did not grow up on a farm, "I think you'd be hard pressed to find someone with more appreciation for the people who grow our food and fiber, live the lifestyles and practice the morals that bind many farm families," she says.

Before taking over as editor of Michigan Farmer in 2003, she served three years as the manager of communications and development for the American Farmland Trust Central Great Lakes Regional Office in Michigan and as director of communications with Michigan Agri-Business Association. Previously, she was the communications manager at Michigan Farm Bureau's state headquarters. She also lists 10 years of experience at six different daily and weekly Michigan newspapers on her impressive resume.

Jennifer lives in St. Johns with her two daughters, Elizabeth, 19, and Emily 16.

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