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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

December 31, 2019 - 8:04am --

Winter may seem like the ideal time to haul manure. After all, we won’t get stuck or leave ruts in frozen soil. Winter is also a time when many livestock that are typically on pasture are housed indoors where manure accumulates and must be scraped and stockpiled or pen-packed. However, manure application on frozen or snow-covered fields could cost you on several fronts.

First, we all need to adjust our perception of manure. It’s not simply a waste product, but part of a nutrient recycling process. Whether you purchase your feedstuffs or grow it yourself, a major cost of crop production is commercial fertilizer.

We don’t treat commercial fertilizers like waste. When an unexpected downpour happens right after planting, many farmers envision all those fertilizer dollars washing away. Don’t let your manure “dollars” wash away too. Manure contains Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium as well as micronutrients and organic matter. It is fertilizer that you paid for in the form of feed.

Surface applied manure to frozen or snow-covered ground is a setup for all those valuable nutrients to be washed away when the snow melts or a winter rain rushes across saturated soils. NRCS 590 standards limit winter application to 5,000 gal. or 5 tons of solid manure per acre. A 200-foot setback from waterways is also implemented during winter. For those living in the Western Lake Erie and other protected watersheds, manure application is prohibited in the winter. For the rest of Ohio’s non-permitted farms these are currently only recommendations. However, if your manure nutrients are directly responsible for polluting waterways, there is the potential for 3 separate government agencies (ODA, EPA, and ODNR) to issue fines.

So, what do we do? We have excess manure and winter weather can last more than 3 months in Ohio. NRCS 590 also includes some exemptions. If you are able to inject liquid manure, incorporate surface applied manure within 24 hours or have a well-established living cover crop during winter months, you are permitted to apply manure. One final exemption for emergency situations requires written permission from the chief of the division of soil and water resources. Having documentation of compliance will benefit you should extreme weather events move your nutrients into waterways.

Manure storage structures are an option that require some planning. These range from massive lagoons to smaller solid manure piles with proper design to prevent nutrients from leeching out of the system. Manure is then stockpiled until weather conditions are favorable.  The Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office offers free consultation for the design and planning of structures that will meet code and your storage needs. Their level of involvement in the project is determined by you. They can also help you create a Nutrient Management Plan. Have farm maps, soil samples from within the past 3 years and preferably manure sample records handy.

If cost of construction is a barrier, consider applying for the EQIP federal cost sharing grant through the NRCS. If awarded, they will help with planning and pay for part of the costs. Applications can be submitted anytime but are only reviewed a few times throughout the year. Contact your local NRCS office for details.

On a similar note, if you choose to permanently increase your setbacks from waterways, the Conservation Reserve Program offers rental payments in exchange for removing that land from production. Signup has already begun and runs through February 28,2020. Contact your local FSA office.

Changing gears, winter programs are here! The BEEF 509 program is held to discuss the production of a high-quality and consistent product. The program will take place on two consecutive Saturdays, February 22 and 29, 2020 at The Ohio State University's Animal Sciences building in Columbus, OH. It is critical to attend both sessions as participants are assigned to teams they will work with throughout the program. Apply online or call the OCA at 614-873-6736.

Wayne and Ashland Counties’ Dairy Service Unit offers two scholarships each year to exceptional youth. First, the DSU Scholarship is awarded to students pursuing education beyond high school in a program focusing on agriculture that applies to the dairy industry. It is available to 2020 high school graduates and to first and second year post-high students already enrolled in a program. Multiple awards may be given with the highest level being $1,000.

The second award is the Outstanding Dairy Youth Award. This individual must be nominated by a 4-H advisor, vocational agricultural instructor or FFA advisor and the winner will receive $250. Contact the Wayne County Extension Office 330-294-8722 or visit our website for more information.


Matthew Nussbaum is an OSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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