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Wet Weather Raises Manure Management Worries

Wet Weather Raises Manure Management Worries

Follow steps to prevent runoff and snowmelt from straining systems.

The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources is warning livestock producers to watch their lagoons.

The wet weather and runoff could strain storage and management systems.

Check out DENR's fact sheet "Wet Weather Manure Management System Management Practices, March 2011" at

"To keep clean water out of manure containment systems, producers should also ensure clean water diversions are in good working order and free of ice," advise Erin Cortus, SDSU Extension environmental quality engineer/specialist.

Taking this step can prevent ice jams that can cause clean water to come into contact with manure and enter a manure management system, Cortus says.  

"Similarly, we'd encourage producers to watch for ice buildup in manure transfer areas like piping between pens and in manure settling channels or sediment basins, so that the manure will flow to areas where it is contained," Cortus says. "To allow for normal winter operation in open lots, the General Permit allows snow containing some manure to be removed from a feeding operation and to be land-applied on land with slopes less than 4%."

The law requires buffer zones of at least 100 feet be maintained to any drainage, and the department recommends producers follow the Natural Resources Conservation Service Nutrient Management Standard 590.

"That requirement allows no more than 10% of the annual solid manure production to be applied in the winter," Cortus says. "By removing snow from around feed bunks, watering areas, lot areas, and sediment basins, the amount of water the manure containment system will have to handle will be reduced during spring melt."

Producers whose manure storage systems become full before land-application conditions are ideal can apply excess to wet or frozen land. However, there are application guidelines that lessen the potential environmental impact of this practice.

"This action is preferable to an overflowing manure containment system, but it is important to start watching your fields now so you can determine the best fields available if you have to land-apply manure," Cortus says. "If applying on frozen or wet soil is the only option, look for the driest fields available that are flat or that have less than 4% slope. Consider vegetated or no-till land, and remember to maintain at least a 100-foot buffer zone from any drainage."

Even if you are not required to have a General Permit, you are responsible for discharges from your property. All producers must inform the South Dakota DENR of any accidental discharge within 24 hours by calling 605-773-3351 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. During other times, producers should call 605-773-323.  

For more information, contact Cortus at 605-688-5144 or

Source: SDSU AgBio Communications

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