Wherever there are large numbers of animals, there are usually large amounts of manure. What do livestock producers do with all that manure? What do they do to protect the environment?
1. What do livestock producers do with all the manure that is generated?
Most of the manure generated from livestock producers is applied to the land as a fertilizer. Manure contains organic matter along with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and many other minerals that are necessary for plant growth, making it a great fertilizer. In many cases, producers have facilities and structures to store manure until they are able to land apply manure properly.
2. What are the risks associated with manure application (environmental)?
The environmental concerns associated with manure application are the potential for nutrients or bacteria in the manure to be moved into either surface water or groundwater. Nutrients in surface water can serve as a fertilizer source for aquatic plants, leading to increased growth. If nitrogen is leached into groundwater, the nitrate concentration in the water may exceed the established drinking water standard. There are also some nutrients that are able to be volatilized into the air, such as nitrogen in the form of ammonia, that may cause concerns about air quality.
3. What do producers do to minimize those risks?
Producers take many precautions to minimize the environmental risks of manure application. Some of the practices that producers use during manure application include:
· Applying manure at rates according to the nutrient concentration in the manure,
· Applying manure to dry soils whenever possible,
· Avoiding manure application in low-lying areas where water may flow, and
· Maintaining a buffer distance between application areas and streams, ditches, wells, etc.
Some producers also incorporate the manure into the soil to reduce odor and gas emissions, and to prevent manure from moving off the soil surface due to a heavy rainfall.
See manure spreading in action here. (video)
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Tamilee Nennich, PhD
Dept. of Animal Sciences