Well-sited new hog barn in Minnesota

Minnesota is a prime location for livestock operations that want to sell to local, national, or international markets. While there are many advantages to raising livestock in Minnesota, there are some issues that arise when siting new livestock operations or expanding and modifying existing operations.

We are here to provide information and guidance.

Some of the most important information to know is below, but you can contact us directly if you have other questions.

Regulations, permits, and zoning

There are a variety of local, state, and federal feedlot rules and permitting processes in place to protect Minnesota’s natural resources. Your County Feedlot Officer (CFO) and county planning and zoning office are the best sources of information about local feedlot permit requirements and can help you contact your townships if they have additional requirements.

Zoning districts, re-zoning, and non-conforming parcels

Find out how your property is zoned. You should also review minimum acreage requirements of local ordinances, since most land use zoning ordinances require minimum lot sizes. Keep informed about parcels adjacent to your current or future livestock operation that may be re-zoned from agricultural to non-agricultural uses. In some situations, zoning ordinance changes may mean older livestock operations are located on parcels that are now non-conforming due to the size of the parcel.

Municipal growth boundaries

Contact your county zoning office to determine if growth boundaries have been established near cities and other jurisdictions. Growth boundaries and annexation plans can change with urban expansion and population shifts and impact livestock siting decisions. Review local comprehensive land use plans with regard to current land uses and future land use projections in the county where your operation is or will be. If you are located in a recently annexed township, check with the municipality about permit requirements. Get involved with your local planning process to stay up-to-date on planning activities.


Reciprocal setbacks between livestock operations and residential dwellings are required by state statute and vary from county to county and township to township. You may be able to get a variance from local setback requirements. The State has requirements about application setbacks; counties and townships may also have their own requirements. Contact your local CFO or planning and zoning office for more information.

Permits for road access, restrictions, weight limits, and drag hoses

Work with your local township, city, county highway department, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to stay up-to-date about road access permits, seasonal road restrictions, weight limits, and permit requirements to place manure drag hoses in road rights-of-ways. Visit early with these agencies to get permits and avoid delays.

Animal unit caps and conditional use permits

Some cities, counties, and townships have animal unit caps and/or require conditional use permits. Get a copy of the local zoning ordinances from these jurisdictions to find out what pertains to your operation. You can also search for livestock related ordinance information on our Animal Ordinance Map.

Protecting natural resources

High phosphorous soils and manure management

If you are applying manure on high phosphorus soils, you must implement best management practices to limit or reduce the amount of phosphorus being applied. Managing high phosphorus soils may affect the number of acres you will need for applying manure. Check with the state feedlot program to determine whether the land where you plan to spread manure is within a Special Protection Area. There may be other requirements like manure management plans, application records, soil tests, and manure nutrient tests.

Wellhead protection areas and drinking water supply management areas

Cities and municipalities have wellhead protection plans to ensure that water supplies are safe for drinking and other public uses. Be sure to visit with your local County Feedlot Officer about special requirements for new livestock operations, expansions, modifications, and manure applications in or near these areas.

Drilling a new well

If you want to drill a new well, you may need a Water Appropriation Permit  from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) depending on the amount of water your livestock operation will use. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) also has requirements for new wells. Water may turn out to be the limiting factor for your new or expanded operation, so consider water supply issues before you apply for feedlot permits. Contact your CFO for more information.

Local geological and soil conditions

Locating a new livestock operation in sensitive soils or geologic conditions such as Karst topography will affect engineering decisions, and you may need to install additional water protection safeguards. Your county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices across the state are excellent sources of information for general geology, Karst geology, or soils inquiries.

The DNR and the Minnesota Geological Survey have also developed geologic atlases for many counties in Minnesota. Your local CFO can also guide you to more information about Minnesota’s geology and soils.

Locations near lakes and rivers

New livestock operations and new manure storage structures are not allowed in shoreland or floodplain areas. Existing operations may be allowed to expand or modify in shoreland areas as long as animal unit numbers are below 1,000 and there is no further encroachment into shoreland areas. Existing operations in floodplains are not allowed to expand further into the floodplain. Contact your County Feedlot Officer or planning and zoning office to determine where shoreland and floodplain areas are located in your county.

Impaired waters, Total Maximum Daily Loads, and drainage ditches

The locations of impaired waters and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) designated water bodies and waterways are important when you are siting a new operation. Work with local officials to determine the locations of county and judicial ditch systems, private drainage ditches, and other waterways.

Special stormwater requirements

If your construction will disturb one acre or more, you must work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to ensure that you meet stormwater requirements. You may have to install silt fences, construct stormwater runoff ponds, and/or develop a stormwater pollution prevention plan, depending on the scope of your project. You may also need a permit to discharge clean water into township or county ditches.

Livestock odor and air quality

Farming produces a lot of smells – some good, some bad. Livestock farmers use a variety of strategies to control odor, gas, and dust emissions. These include protective crusts on the surface of open air liquid manure lagoons, injecting or incorporating manure into farm fields, composting or hauling away dead animals, disposing of spoiled feed, using biofilters, biocurtains, or methane digesters, and installing windbreaks. For example, large swine barns increasingly use deep under-barn pits, which contain odor better than open liquid manure storage.

Public agencies, universities, and livestock producer groups conduct research to develop odor reduction strategies and best management practices. For example, the University of Minnesota’s OFFSET Model is useful for estimating the odor impacts of livestock facilities.

Livestock farmers must comply with county and state feedlot rules and regulations. In Minnesota, the MPCA regulates feedlots – including odor issues like hydrogen sulfide and particulate matter. Ammonia is another gas of concern in feedlot situations. Minnesota does not regulate ammonia emissions, but the MDH publishes information about ammonia’s health impacts.

Farmers looking for ways to minimize emissions and neighbors who have concerns about odor or other environmental issues can contact their County Feedlot Officer. People seeking information about how feedlots affect property values can use reports produced by universities and agencies in Minnesota and other states. We recommend you do an Internet search to find the most recent information available using keywords like “feedlot property value.”

Financial and technical assistance

If you have an existing operation with have a runoff problem or pollution hazard that needs to be fixed, financial and technical assistance may be available. Contact your local SWCD or NRCS office for more information. New and expanding operations may also qualify for grants or loans from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.