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Tour focuses on improving manure management

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 12/12/2013 12:54 PM

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NEW VIENNA —To take full advantage of fertilizer in manure, correct application rates and uniform application are important, said Angie Rieck-Hinz, an agronomist who works with Extension's Water Quality Initiatives for Small Iowa Beef and Dairy Feedlot Operations.

Extension staff led participants through a manure spreader calibration exercise on Wayne Brunsman's farm to help fine-tune application rates of nutrients used for crop production.

Plastic sheets were placed at uniform intervals across the application swath. After manure was applied, collection sheets individually were weighed and weights recorded. Inspecting the range of individual weights collected showed the relative application amounts across the swath. The average application rate collected on all sheets was used to determine the average field application. The average application was used to approximate application across the entire field.

Manure has a value, Rieck-Hinz said. She estimated that the nutrients in the manure Brunsman was applying were worth $23 per ton. That doesn't include the value of micro-nutrients or organic matter.

Extension has partnered with the Iowa DNR to place water quality testing kits for ammonia in 20 county Extension offices, said Rieck-Hinz. The kits are available for livestock producers to use to check water quality in streams below their feedlots and cow yards. The test kits come with an instructional video and a fact sheet on water quality testing and impacts.

The results are confidential and livestock producers aren't required to share the information. This testing can help identify if runoff is reaching a stream and the potential impact on aquatic life. Extension ag engineer Dan Huyser demonstrated how to use the test kit.

Mills Manufacturing from Earlville demonstrated its vertical spreader. A representative from Digistar demonstrated its Nutrient Tracker software system that combines GPS and weight information for verification of manure applications.

The primary objectives of the Water Quality Initiatives for Small Iowa Beef and Dairy Feedlot operations are to educate producers to better understand the pollution potential of open feedlots; train them to accurately assess the water pollution potential of their feedlots; help them identify and evaluate appropriate runoff control alternatives; and provide technical assistance to implement solutions that improve the environmental performance of their feedlots, Rieck-Hinz said.

Brunsman, who works for the Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District in addition to farming, said cost-share funds are available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to correct feedlot runoff problems and protect water quality.

Watersheds in the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative offer increased financial assistance rates for key conservation and nutrient management practices.

Low-interest loans available through the State Revolving Loan Fund. Information on all these programs are available at county Soil and Water Conservation District Offices.

Farmers should check out Extension's Small Feedlots and Dairy Operations website for additional resources and information at