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Farmers Scrambling to Find Solutions to Manure Storage Issues
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/15/2013

Wisconsin livestock owners are dealing with the effects of a long and drawn-out winter as many of their manure storage facilities are at full capacity with no where to go. Kevin Erb, a certified crop advisor with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, says farmers with small operations that are running out of storage capacity should contact their local land conservation agents or crop consultants for immediate advice on other available, approved storage they might be able to use until field conditions improve to allow more significant emptying of storage facilities.

"It's a good idea for farmers to contact the town board chair and explain the need to move the manure to prevent risk to human and environmental health, and to ask for permission to move the minimal amount possible," Erb says. "Ask for help to pick the best route to the secondary storage site."

Larger livestock operations with a water quality protection permit from the Department of Natural Resources should work directly with their local DNR contact. Erb also recommends that farmers who are unable to find storage structures on their own work with their crop consultant or county Land and Water Conservation Department.

"These experts may know of existing storage with excess capacity that meets the current design requirements," he says.

Meanwhile, farmers who find extra storage capacity also need to take into account road conditions and work with local officials to avoid damage to roads when transferring manure or land applying when conditions are appropriate.

In order to prevent problems in the future, farmers are encouraged to evaluate if they have enough storage to accommodate heavy rain or other adverse conditions while maintaining a margin of safety, says Amy Callis, who coordinates compliance with the state's agricultural runoff rules for non-permitted farms. She says precipitation trends show that the southern two-thirds of the state have gotten wetter over the past 60 years and the frequency of 1-, 2-, and 3-inch rainfalls has increased, patterns predicted to hold in the future, according to the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts.

"Ensuring adequate manure storage can prevent spills and eliminate the added costs of emergency response as well as the increased risks associated with manure handling in very wet or unfavorable conditions," Callis says.

Farmers are also encouraged to follow a new blog about manure management issues and written by a third generation Wisconsin family farmer. The blog, "Livestock to Land and everything in between," is aimed at growing the conversation with farmers on topics including manure storage, nutrient management plans and other ways to keep farms healthy and protect Wisconsin waters.

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