Environmental Management Systems for the Iowa Beef Feedlot Industry

Dennis DeWitt, livestock specialist


Northwest Iowa has hundreds of medium and large open beef feedlots that are in need of bringing their feedlots into regulatory compliance before 2006.


Iowa DNR is collaborating with Iowa Cattlemen, NRCS, and ISU Extension to develop and permit innovative technologies under the alternative performance standards section of the new CAFO regulations. A central element to the effectiveness of these technologies is superior management. An environmental management system (EMS) is a systematic producer-driven plan, implement, check and improve‚ method to address and manage high priority environmental aspects of the feedlot operation.


Six of eleven feedlot producers have completed the first year of the EMS program. Nine producers have a completed policy statement and seven regularly refer to their policy statement for direction and six producers have shared their policy statement with others inside and outside their feedlot operation. Eight producers have developed a written action plan for the priority issues and seven have completed one or more on the priority list. All eleven producers are now analyzing the manure and four producers have changed manure application location and or rate of application.

Leverage is helpful. Feedlot producers under more regulatory pressure were most interested and cooperative in completing the EMS program. These six producers could see an immediate pay-off from EMS. Unregulated feedlot producers appreciated the EMS program, but not the paper work. Voluntary programs that provide producers with the education and the tools to identify and address environmental priorities can affect the environment more quickly than mandatory or regulatory programs alone. The EMS program cannot be costly in time and resources if it is to be adopted and successful.

Information generated from the EMS program surveys has been shared at national, multi-state and regional meetings, during feedlot tours with hundreds of the Iowa feedlot operators receiving the information and in mass media coverage. The Iowa Beef Center is now offering the Beef Feedlot EMS program statewide. The EMS program consists of a manual, four workshops, and an on-site assessment over a year. The cost is $300 per operation.

Page last updated: July 8, 2006
Page maintained by Linda Schultz, lschultz@iastate.edu