Feedlot Runoff Control System
Open feedlot runoff controls, showing components of a discharge runoff system. Drawing courtesy Ohio State Univ Extension.
Gutters used to control roof runoff in Benton County, MN. Photo courtesy Benton SWCD.
Runoff settling basin in Stearns County, MN. Photo courtesy Stearns SWCD.
Construction of a wastewater filter strip. Photo MDA.
Construction of a runoff water diversion. Photo courtesy North Dakota Dept of Agriculture.
Feedlot runoff control systems are integrated structures and practices for collecting, storing and treating livestock manure and feed wastes to reduce runoff and water pollution. Controlling runoff from feedlots, barnyards and other livestock facilities helps prevent excess nutrients and pathogens from reaching rivers, streams and lakes.
Discharges from certain feedlots that are designated as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) by the US Environmental Protection Agency may be regulated by the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program. Whether a feedlot is designated as a CAFO depends mainly on the number of animals and the method of discharge.
Most feedlot runoff control systems are either full containment systems or discharge runoff systems; both systems are described below. Minnesota feedlot regulations require full containment systems for livestock operations with more than 1,000 animal units (1 animal unit equals 1,000 lbs. live weight), whereas operations with less than 1,000 animal units may use discharge runoff systems. Discharge runoff system specifications are different for operations with 300 to 1,000 animal units vs. operations with less than 300 animal units. A special "open lot" provision in the Minnesota feedlot rule offers a gradual, flexible approach for smaller feedlots to reduce runoff containing manure.
Full containment systems collect and store all of a feedlot's polluted runoff in lagoons or similar manure/ag waste storage impoundments. These systems may include roofs over livestock facilities as well as walls or berms to prevent precipitation and runoff from entering the lot, thereby eliminating or fully containing polluted runoff.
Discharge runoff control systems release treated runoff onto adjacent land. They are less costly than full containment systems and generally used on smaller operations. Key components include clean water diversions, roof runoff controls, sediment settling basins and vegetated treatment strips (see Similar & Related Practices below).
Some discharge systems control runoff simply by intercepting and diverting clean rainwater and snowmelt away from the yard or lot using engineered roof runoff systems, drip trenches and/or surface water diversions. These systems also require collecting manure before rainfall events or snowmelt.
Other discharge systems require settling basins to temporarily collect, treat and slowly release polluted runoff water. In a settling basin, the solids (which contain most of the pollutants in manure, urine and feed) settle out of the water. The runoff water then flows to a secondary treatment system—typically a vegetated filter strip, lagoon or wetland system—before being safely discharged to an adjacent field, pasture or waterway.
For smaller feedlots, meeting state and local requirements is sometimes as simple as installing clean water diversions, establishing vegetated buffers, reducing lot size and use, or cleaning the lot more often.
Feedlot runoff control needs are often evaluated as part of an environmental quality assessment or comprehensive nutrient management planning process for livestock operations--a process that also integrates manure management and cropland nutrient management.
Feedlot runoff controls often include or involve roof runoff management, runoff settling basins, feedlot/wastewater filter strips, fence, manure/ag waste storage, manure/ag waste facility covers and manure storage abandonment.
Dairy farms may need specialized treatment of milkhouse wastewater in addition to standard feedlot runoff controls.
Other related practices in this Conservation Funding Guide include manure composting, livestock watering facilities and rotational grazing.
Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)
United States Environmental Protection Agency
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Minnesota Department of Agriculture
See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District