With approaching winter, there are several things to remember related to manure management.
- Make sure that you have enough winter manure storage. It is probably not too late to spread manure, but soon we will have frozen ground and you will not be able to spread.
- If spreading at this late date, avoid spreading in any sensitive areas such as near water or wetlands, or on sloping or highly erodible soil. It may be too late to incorporate by disking, chisel plowing etc. Manure remaining on the soil over the winter will be a runoff risk during storms.
- When spread in the fall, manure can be incorporated by disking or chisel plowing and a winter cover crop such as wheat or rye can be sowed in the soil. This has the benefits of providing some winter ground cover as well as ensuring nutrients remain in the soil for crop uptake in the next growing season. For information on cover crops, please see the following publication: Cover Cropping.
- Clean dry lots and other animal movement or exercise areas to minimize mud risk.
- Do not spread on frozen ground. Manure spread on frozen ground will be a significant runoff risk, particularly when rainfall is heavy. Avoid sloping or erodible areas and keep a significant distance from water or wetlands. If you have to winter spread because of inadequate storage, or if you daily haul your manure because of limited storage (some dairy farms may be in this category) I would recommend spreading at least 100 feet from water or wetlands.
- Consider spreading according to a nutrient management plan. That is a plan that accounts for soil nutrient availability and cropping plans. Spread only to the level that crops will uptake nutrients, particularly with respect to phosphorus. For more information on nutrient management planning, please see: Rutgers Animal Waste Management.
- Consider evaluating phosphorus risk on individual fields. A phosphorus risk index is a tool that can be used to determine phosphorus runoff risk. It is based on the soil test for phosphorus, slope, distance to water, land use plans, cropping system, and spreading management plans. Do not spread during the winter in fields that are in the high range. For more information please contact: Extension Phosphorus Index. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service for assistance in evaluating phosphorus risk or with any other questions.
Submitted by Mike Westendorf