Why Manage Livestock Manure to Protect Environmental Quality?
Proper utilization of livestock manure is a major environmental concern. Nitrogen can leach to the groundwater and P can run off and contaminate our streams and lakes. By properly managing land application of livestock manure, the producer will continue to utilize nutrients that have already been bought and reuse them as animals consume the crops grown with these nutrients. Collecting, containing, and properly spreading livestock manure will incur additional costs for the producer. However, these costs can be justified by the producer by increased yield and/or decreased fertilizer costs.
Thinking of manure as a resource, rather than as a waste product, requires knowing how much manure is produced and how to calculate nutrient availability. In addition, knowledge about the effects of different manure storage and handling practices have on nutrient availability will help plan effectively. This course explains the basic principles related to manure nutrient utilization. In addition, sources and management of odors generated on livestock facilities will be covered. While odors from livestock production are unavoidable and currently unregulated by the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), they have been the driving force behind many changes in environmental laws. Nebraska state law and regulations require specific plans and record keeping in order to operate a permitted livestock feeding operation.
Most producers are familiar with the benefits of stewardship of our soil resources. Reduced tillage, contour farming, terracing, and other stewardship practices improve agriculture's soil resources. Similar best management practices are available for manure management on livestock and poultry production operations. Adoption and implementation of good stewardship is essential for the industry to be accepted by the general public.
Principles of Environmental Stewardship
The following principles of environmental stewardship will help livestock and poultry producers remain viable while protecting the environment's water and air quality.
- Awareness of environmental risks: The potential for adverse environmental impact varies from one operation to another due to differences in animal concentration, weather, terrain, soil type, and a host of other conditions. An assessment of potential risks is beneficial in helping to identify critical environmental risks specific to an operation, and is the key to any good stewardship program .
- Nonpoint source discharge: Livestock and poultry production systems should be managed to not allow discharges from animal housing, open lots, and manure storage facilities. Decisions related to timing and site selection of land application should be made to minimize the risk of discharges.
- Balance in the use of nutrients: Animal production systems must maintain a balance between the nutrients arriving at livestock/poultry operations (through purchased feed and fertilizer) with the nutrients leaving the operation (crop production, animals, or animal products and byproducts). An excess of nutrients arriving on farms can result in an accumulation that poses environmental risk to water resources. Nitrogen (N) can leach to groundwater and both N and phosphorus (P) can be lost through runoff and erosion creating water quality problems. Calculating the total input and output of these nutrients to an operation can help determine if more land is needed for manure application.
- Nutrient plan for land application: Land application will continue to be the ultimate destination of most manure. A good stewardship program includes a plan for managing manure nutrients in crop production systems. The plan must provide nutrition for growing crops, the plan should be multi-year in length which means that more land will need to be available than might have been used in the past when manure was managed differently.
Injecting manure into the soil reduces odor and helps maintain good neighbor relations.
- Know the rules: Federal, state, and local governments are setting minimum standards. Good stewardship requires knowledge of, and compliance with, current regulatory requirements. However, most regulations often establish a minimum standard for environmental management, whereas good stewardship often requires higher standards than the minimum regulatory requirements.
- Expansion without environmental compromise: The increase in the average size of livestock operations has allowed many producers to remain economically competitive. However, more animals also increases the concentration of nutrients, pathogens, odors, and other environmental issues. Livestock expansion should occur only in areas that have adequate land bases for manure nutrients and sufficient separation distances between neighbors, surface water, and groundwater. As facilities increase in size, so must the degree of management and responsibility.