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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Water Protection > Water Planning Assistance > Livestock Manure Management

Manure Management and Livestock Issues

Why is it important the plan focus on this concern?

Livestock manure used as fertilizer has benefited farmers for decades and if applied properly can meet crop nutrient requirements, build up soil organic material and decrease dependence on commercial fertilizers, increase soil fertility, and in some cases, reduce soil erosion. Manure as fertilizer is a constant reminder that we can reuse and recycle a product that was once thought of as a waste product with insignificant value. However, if manure is not properly applied it can lead to negative environmental impacts.

Manure, feed/silage leachate and milkhouse waste can be high in nutrient values, specifically pertaining to nitrogen and phosphorous. If improperly applied, manure does have the potential to contribute to nutrient loading and bacteria/viral levels of water sources. It is important for counties in the state to encourage the development of manure/nutrient management plans for the livestock producers within their borders. These plans address agronomic application rates for crops planted, buffered or protection areas around sensitive features, and reduce the potential of impacting surface or ground water.

Pasturing livestock is a common practice among livestock producers. Several studies and research through the University of Minnesota show that livestock grazing, if done properly, can enhance the quality of grazing lands. As your county is aware, pasture areas are often those areas that are not conducive to farming and generally contain sensitive landscape and surface water features. Nutrients left by livestock serve as a fertilizer source to pasture plant species, which then utilize and filter the nutrients rather than the nutrients being in excess and exiting the area in the form of runoff.

Types of vegetation, length of time in a pasture, stocking density and water availability are all issues livestock producers must be continued to be educated, in order to produce and utilize a productive, environmentally sound pasture or grazing system. Pastures or grazing systems not managed properly can restrict or eliminate vegetative growth and cover, which in turn can result in potentially negative water quality issues.

Producers in watersheds that are impaired due to fecal coliform/E coli impairments need to be encouraged to be involved in TMDLs developed in the region. Local producer involvement on water plan advisory committees and water quality initiatives will provide additional insight into how producers can work with agencies to improve water quality.

What actions are needed?

  • Continue and renew education and outreach efforts on manure/nutrient/pasture management planning and implementation. Work closely with local NRCS staff on this issue as well as regional MPCA staff.
  • Encourage livestock producers to work with Technical Service Providers and/or Certified Crop Advisors to better utilize and understand the value of using GIS/GPS technologies in developing: 
    • Manure management plans.
    • Comprehensive nutrient management plans 
    • Pasture management plans 
    • Rotational grazing plans
  • Encourage involvement from livestock producers located within impaired watersheds and vulnerable areas in the landscape. One such approach may be the development of a local agricultural advisory committee (PDF: 115 KB / 2 pages).
  • Provide Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program information and encourage participation in the program to access technical and/or financial assistance to County livestock producers to adopt best management practices to reduce impacts from manure runoff and develop manure management plans.

As ecosystem services are better defined, producers that participate in an on-farm environmental assessment may be better situated to participate in future water quality or ecosystem services trading markets.

What resources may be available to accomplish the actions?


What area(s) of the county is high priority?

Feedlots with open lots in shoreland or near sensitive water features and land where manure is applied in shoreland or near sensitive water features. Pasture areas located adjacent to shoreland areas.