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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > Additional Resources > Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast > How to use the RRAF Map > Manure Conservation Practices

Manure Conservation Practices

Manure management planning ensures careful handling and use of livestock manure to obtain its full value as a crop nutrient while protecting water and air quality.

Manure management plans describe how manure generated at a feedlot will be used in upcoming cropping years. Plans typically specify nutrient rate limits and setback distances for applying manure near lakes, streams, wetlands, drainage ditches, open tile intakes, sinkholes, wells, mines and quarries. Once a manure management plan is developed, following the plan often involves using specially designed facilities and technologies to store, process and transport manure securely and special techniques for applying manure to cropland.

Minnesota's feedlot rule (Minn. R. part 7020.2225) and some local county ordinances require developing and following a manure management plan in certain circumstances. Additional manure management activities required for many livestock operations (and recommended for all) include keeping manure application records, testing manure for nitrogen and phosphorus content and testing soils for phosphorus.

Why manage manure?

Environmental benefits

  • Improves soil quality and promotes carbon sequestration by building or maintaining soil organic matter
  • Protects surface water quality by reducing nutrient and sediment runoff (the organic matter in manure creates an open soil structure that stabilizes nutrients and lets water in more easily, reducing runoff)
  • Also protects surface water quality through manure application methods that prevent pathogens, nutrients and organic matter from entering waterways
  • May reduce the risk of groundwater contamination from nitrogen leaching compared to commercial fertilizers, as the nitrogen in manure is more stable and more easily utilized by crops
  • Reduces the risk of drinking water contamination by ensuring appropriate setbacks when applying manure near wells or in vulnerable drinking water supply management areas
  • Helps protect air quality by controlling odors from manure
  • Conserves energy compared to manufacturing, mining, processing and transporting of commercial fertilizers

Practical benefits

  • Reduces or eliminates the need to purchase commercial fertilizer for crops
  • May improve crop use of nitrogen relative to commercial fertilizers; the nitrogen in manure is more stable, releasing slowly as soils warm and crops grow
  • Improves soil productivity through increased water-holding capacity and greater nutrient availability and retention
  • Aids compliance with Minnesota regulations on manure application
  • Well managed manure can be used in a methane digester to produce energy, and control odors and methane emissions

Similar & related practices

  • Manure management is often integral to crop nutrient management, comprehensive nutrient management planning, feedlot/barnyard runoff controls, rotational grazing and manure digesters.
  • Manure management often involves manure storage, manure storage covers and composting. Another related practice is manure storage abandonment.
  • Manure management is often an important component of drinking water protection in agricultural areas.