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Animal owners may love the products of our toil whether it be home grown meat on our dinner plate, lotion made from our goat’s milk, or going on a relaxing trail ride. However, along with those benefits comes a lot of waste in the form of manure. Manure can reduce a property’s value while putting the health of the property owner, farm, and animals at risk. What are some of the best practices for managing the manure that your animals produce? Let’s take a look at our best management practices for manure handling, storage, and use.
Manure, if not properly managed, can leach into ground and surface water causing pollution. Animals produce a lot of manure and without regular management it can become overwhelming quickly. Ideally manure should be collected every one to three days to reduce polluted run-off, fly breeding sites, and muddy areas. Using certain types of footing material can make cleaning sacrifice areas easier with minimal material loss. Federal and State laws forbid discharging any animal waste into water.
Whatever the method of manure storage being used, the pile should be covered during wet periods and set on an impervious surface to limit leaching and runoff. If you plan on using a front loader to turn or move the pile make sure the roof of the structure is tall enough. The Marion SWCD can assist property owners in developing a manure composting/storage facility.
Applying manure to fields and pastures may help with the soil’s tilth, water holding capabilities, resistance to erosion and production of beneficial organisms. Crop nutrient needs should be the regulator for how much manure is applied. The goal is to maximize nutrient use with minimal environmental hazard. Nutrients in manure vary between animals, so conduct soil tests and then choose the proper animal manure accordingly.
Maintaining a pasture to its maximum potential requires management that does not allow animals to overgraze, trample, or compact the soil. Putting too many animals on the land will put increased stress on the pasture and can quickly turn the pasture into a muddy, weedy field. Improving or protecting the health of your pasture can help increase the property’s value, while reducing the amount of polluted runoff that leaves the land. A healthy pasture will also support animal health by providing nutritious forage that will better their chances of staying disease-free
Mud can be caused by a number of activities and conditions, including increased surface water, high traffic areas, highly organic soil, and the lack of ground cover. If not managed properly, mud can be hazardous to animal health, causing sickness and parasites. In addition, runoff from a muddy property will have high levels of sediment that contribute to water pollution.
Reducing the amount of rain and water that runs through a pasture and animal yard will greatly reduce mud production. Ideally you want to divert water to a wetland, stream, ditch, bioswale or other safe outlet before it passes through animal areas. Here is a list of additional techniques for reducing mud production on a property.
Students with livestock are invited to participate in the Ag Conservation Education (ACE) program. By participating in ACE, students learn techniques for managing manure and mud and receive a tarp for covering manure. Upon successful completion of the program, students receive a certificate that can be listed on their resume, record books, and award applications. There is no cost to participate in ACE.