Livestock producers who lack adequate manure storage may face a dilemma – how to apply manure after the ground has frozen without risking adverse effects on nearby streams.

“Applying manure on frozen or snow-covered ground is risky business,” said Dan Olson, an environmental specialist in the Atlantic DNR field office, “because the manure thaws on top of the ground and runs off before the ground thaws and it can soak in.

“Producers need to know that they may be setting themselves up for a problem, and carefully evaluate the risk that the manure could reach a stream or underground tile inlet before they apply,” he added.

Olson said that if storage is full, the best choice is to transfer the manure to another storage structure. But, if they must land apply, they may be able to reduce the risks by choosing flat ground a long distance from a streamortileinlet. Anothergoodchoicemaybetoremovejustenoughmanuretokeepthemanurestorage from overflowing before spring, without emptying the entire storage structure.

The risks go up as snow depth increases and the time between application and the spring thaw decreases. So, if winter application is unavoidable, it’s best to apply manure to bare ground early in the winter.

Following the DNR’s rules and recommendations for applying on frozen or snow-covered ground may help reduce the risks, but producers need to realize that they are responsible if manure reaches surface or ground- water and causes a water quality violation.

Olson added that when surface applying manure, producers must stay at least 200 feet away from environmen- tally sensitive areas such as wells, streams and sinkholes, and at least 800 feet from high quality water re- sources, such as the Iowa great lakes.

More information about separation distances and high quality waters is available on the DNR website at or

The Iowa Manure Management Action Group also has information available on winter application at or directly at vol3.pdf.

The DNR recommended revisions to state rules for manure application on snow-covered or frozen ground at the January 13th Environmental Protection Commission meeting. The recommendations are available at

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