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Late Harvest, Frozen Soil Complicate Fall Manure Application

Natural Resources Conservation Service South Dakota

Officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources say they’re getting an increased number of calls from feedlot producers about how to handle spreading manure on fields this year.

The short window for applying that manure on fields could leave some producers without a choice but to violate their permit.

South Dakota and surrounding states got significant rainfall this autumn, delaying harvest for some farmers. That delay and cold weather shortly thereafter left a lot of farm ground frozen and not ideal for manure application.

Anthony Bly is a soils field specialist with South Dakota State University. He says applying manure to frozen soil is problematic.

“We can think of it as a road,” Bly says. “So, when we put anything on top of it, it’s really at the mercy of the environment, the climate… and I mentioned the climate drives what we do, our daily lives. If we get a fast snow melt or a rain event on frozen soils, we can get nutrient movement off of the target field.”

Bly says farmers generally want nutrients from feedlot operations applied in the fall, as opposed to spring.

Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operation producers rely on the post-harvest spread of manure to empty their lagoons for winter. Now, some permit holders are left with the decision to violate their permit now, by applying waste to frozen ground, or later, by risking an overflowing lagoon.

Kent Woodmansy is in charge of the feedlot permits for the DENR.

That agency recently updated it’s permit requirements for CAFO’s. Woodmansy says the new permit requires a plan for extraordinary weather events like this year.

“It is an unusual situation that we face this year,” Woodmansy says. “The weather is different every year, and so you never know what you’re going to end up with. That’s one of the reasons why the 2017 permit has that as a requirement. So, when these unusual weather events happen and a producer needs to apply, they’ve planned in advance on what they need to do.”

Woodmansy says he doesn’t recall any seeing weather like this in the time he’s been working with livestock operations.