DECORAH — A dairy producer about 11 miles north of Decorah contacted the DNR this week seeking permission for emergency winter manure application.
The producer was building water holding tanks at Foresight Farms when he discovered a leaking water line had nearly filled his manure storage structure. He pumped some of the diluted manure to another storage area but still needs to land apply about 600,000 gallons in order to make room in his manure pit to last until spring.
According to DNR records, the Foresight Farms operation has 1,025 head of confined Holstein dairy cattle and 625 head in an open feedlot. The confinement structure was built in 2008.
Working with DNR’s Manchester field office, Foresight Farms owner Dave Wise picked several fields in his manure management plan previously identified for potential emergencies.
“Dave plans to apply manure this week,” said Brett Meyers, DNR environmental specialist, “but it will depend upon field conditions. It’s important to pick relatively flat fields with no underlying tile intakes, and avoid applying before a rain.”
Meyers said Wise “did everything right by preplanning for an emergency, notifying us and reviewing the plan to ensure the fields meet state requirements and have a low risk of runoff. Still it’s a reminder for other producers to check for water leaks and inspect pits regularly to make sure they have capacity over winter.”
The Foresight Farms dairy operation is in an area where soils are shallow over bedrock, Meyers said. Snow cover and frozen ground prevent injecting or incorporating the manure, increasing the chances for runoff to reach a stream. He said he will inspect crop fields after manure application starts, looking for any problem areas.
Except in an emergency, producers with 500 or more animal units in confinement buildings are prohibited from land applying liquid manure between Dec. 21 and April 1 if the ground is snow-covered, and between Feb. 1 and April 1 if the ground is frozen.
In an emergency, producers must notify their DNR field office before application and are limited to applying manure to fields listed in their manure management plan that have slopes less than 4 percent and a phosphorus index of less than two. Any tile inlets in the field must be plugged during application and for two weeks following application.