DNR, DATCP: Manure spreading precautions urged in winter remind DNR and DATCP officials

Media Contacts: Jim Vanden Brook, DATCP (608) 224-4501

Tom Bauman, DNR (608) 266-9993

Roxanne Chronert, DNR (920) 662-5488

MADISON — Winter’s snow and frozen ground make it a riskier time to spread manure on fields — and a good time to follow Ben Franklin’s famous advice: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, state water quality officials say.

“A day or two of very warm weather generating snowmelt or rainfall on frozen soils can produce unusually high risk for runoff,” says Jim Vanden Brook, water quality section chief for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Protection.

“Check the Manure Management Advisory System for current National Weather Service forecasts of runoff risk in your area and avoid spreading on those days when the risks are high.”

That advisory system features a “Runoff Risk Advisory Map” showing 3-day and 10-day risk runoff predictions and is found at http://www.manureadvisorysystem.wi.gov/

Large-scale farms with state wastewater discharge permits are prohibited from surface applying solid manure on frozen or snow-covered ground during February and March, liquid manure whenever ground is frozen or snow-covered, and face other spreading restrictions. Farms without permits do not face the same restrictions but will want to avoid spreading when rain or melting snow is forecast, and if they must apply, do so to fields with the lowest risk of runoff.

Tom Bauman, who coordinates the Department of Natural Resources animal waste section program, encourages farmers to take other precautions.

“Manure keeps coming 24/7, so taking a few more precautions and having a manure spill response plan in place can help you avoid problems this winter,” he says. “The last thing you want to do on a bitter cold day or night is deal with a manure spill or runoff.”

A video demonstrating steps to prevent a manure spill — and showing a Polk County farmer responding to a mock spill — can be found on DNR’s “Farm News” playlist on its YouTube channel, WIDNRTV. The address for the playlist is http://www.youtube.com/user/WIDNRTV#grid/user/2FD88C2442E6E2AF.

DNR’s Prevent Manure Runoff pages [http://dnr.wi.gov/runoff/ag/manure.html] contain links to the Manure Management Advisory System, which provides the runoff risk forecasts, contains maps to help farmers and others who apply nutrients identify lower-risk fields and dates to apply.

Have a spill response plan in place and report spills immediately

Farmers also can find example manure spill response plans on DNR’s Respond to Manure Spills [http://dnr.wi.gov/runoff/ag/respondtomanurespills.html] web page that they can download, print off, fill out and post.

“Writing out a plan can help you be prepared for the emergency you hope you never have,” says Roxanne Chronert, DNR’s spill team leader.

If a manure spill or runoff occurs, farmers should notify the DNR spill hotline immediately. That number is 1-800-943-0003. State law mandates immediate spill reporting by farms of all sizes, and DNR staff can provide spill response assistance to help prevent or minimize damage from the spill, Chronert says.

“An accidental spill is not illegal – failure to report a spill is,” she says. “The faster we know about a spill, the faster we can respond to help prevent or minimize problems.”

Manure-related problems can occur at any time of the year, but a recent study by UW-Extension and the Professional Nutrient Management Applicators Association of Wisconsin, found that most of the runoff-related problems reported to DNR and counties from 2005-2009 occurred in winter months. And Discovery Farms research suggests that February and March are the riskiest months for spreading.

For more information, contact Jim Vanden Brook, DATCP (608) 224-4501; Tom Bauman, DNR (608) 266-9993; Roxanne Chronert, DNR (920) 662-5488