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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Manure Management

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide


Manure Management

Manure management planning. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Manure management planning. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

Mixing liquid manure prior to land application. Photo courtesy Karl Hakanson.
Mixing liquid manure prior to land application. Photo courtesy Karl Hakanson.

Manure sampling to analyze nutrient content. Photo courtesy Karl Hakanson.
Manure sampling to analyze nutrient content. Photo courtesy Karl Hakanson.

Injecting liquid manure with a drag line. Photo courtesy York County (PA) Ag Land Preservation.
Injecting liquid manure with a drag line. Photo courtesy York County (PA) Ag Land Preservation.

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

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Similar & related practices

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Regulations

Minnesota Rules 7020

      Guidance on Minnesota Rules 7020 - Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

      Manure management in general

      Manure management on cropland

      See also resources for Similar & Related Practices above.

      Contact

      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