Water Quality Test Kits Available

Recent rains remind us this is a good time for beef and dairy farmers with open lots and cow yards to evaluate if runoff from their cattle yards is affecting water quality.

As part of the Water Quality Initiative for Small Iowa Beef and Dairy Feedlot Operations, a cooperative education and outreach program, the Iowa DNR has made water quality testing kits available through twenty Iowa State University Extension and Outreach County Offices. These kits help producers evaluate the impact of potential feedlot runoff from their livestock operation.

These kits are quick and simple to use, are free, and the program is confidential. The only person that knows the results of the ammonia test is the livestock producer. The test kits come with an instructional video and a fact sheet on water quality impacts.

The best time to inspect and test is during or shortly after a rainfall, when water is running off the cattle yard. The water quality testing kit is available from the County Extension offices in Allamakee, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Floyd, and Mitchell, counties. Please contact the county nearest you to determine the availability of the kit for your use.

Small feedlots and dairy operations are defined as beef or dairy operations that house less than 1,000 animal units (1,000 head beef or immature dairy or 700 head mature dairy) in an unroofed feedlot type situation. The final definition also depends on size requirements and discharge criteria. 

Feedlot operators should employ all best management practices to reduce off-site movement of nutrients from feedlots, manure stockpiles and feed storage areas.   Angela Rieck-Hinz, Extension Program Specialist with the Iowa Manure Management Action Group, shared this short list of BMP’s for beef operations.

Divert clean water from entering the feedlot with use of gutters for roofs, or terraces or clean water diversions for surface water.  Scrape lots frequently to avoid a build-up of manure solids.  Carefully locate stockpiles and mortality compost piles to prevent runoff.  Keep feedstuffs dry.  Prevent runoff of silage effluent. Clean-up spilled manure, feed, silage and bedding.

Additional resource materials for dairy and beef operations are available through the Small Feedlot and Dairy Operations Web page at Iowa State University. These materials, used in conjunction with the self-assessment worksheets and producer guides, can help a livestock producer determine if their manure control structures are operating correctly and can guide producers to cost-effective ways to change control structures or management practices to protect water quality.  www.agronext.iastate.edu/immag/smallfeedlotsdairy.html

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