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January 2024

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Stockpiling – A Winter Manure Management Option
Tony Mensing, ISU extension ag engineer

Winter brings unique challenges for cattle producers compared to other times of the year. Potential for frozen waterers, cold-induced mechanical malfunctions, and snow that needs to be moved all come to mind, but so does winter manure management. We use tools and work with or around these challenges; winter stockpiling is one option for manure management through winter. 

Manure has long been thought of and even specifically described as a waste product, but it may be more appropriate to consider it as a co-product of cattle production. Like the way distillers’ grains aren’t the primary product of grain milling for ethanol, manure isn’t the primary product of cattle production, but in both cases, these co-products have value. They can be put to good use when managed appropriately. Distillers grains can be great cattle feed; they just need to be hauled from where they are produced to where they can be used and then included in a feed ration at an appropriate and cost-effective rate. Manure can be a great crop fertilizer; it just needs to be hauled from where it is produced to where it can be used and then applied at an appropriate and cost-effective rate. 

Stockpiling manure through the winter may be a management option that can bridge the gap between the more immediate need to maintain cattle facilities and the desire or requirement to apply the manure at a time of year that will allow good utilization of that resource. However, like most management options, stockpiling has its own set of associated challenges.  

State definitions
The State of Iowa has regulations that govern manure stockpiling and need to be followed. A primary objective of both good management and the regulations is to keep the manure in the stockpile until it can be land applied appropriately. 

The Iowa regulations are specific to the type of manure being stockpiled and broken down into three categories: dry manure, dry-bedded manure, and open feedlot manure. Dry manure, while not limited to these species, is most generally produced in confined turkey or chicken facilities. Dry-bedded manure contains bedding that may be produced in a bed pack barn cattle operation. Open feedlot manure is manure and solids produced from an open feedlot. Liquid manure isn’t stockpiled, so most cattle producers that stockpile are handling either open feedlot manure or dry-bedded manure.  

Regulations and separation requirements
The regulations for stockpiling mostly focus on minimizing the potential for runoff from the stockpile and maintaining minimum separation distances. Stockpiling is prohibited on grassed waterways. It is also prohibited on land with slopes greater than three percent unless methods, structures, or practices contain the stockpiled solids. Both open feedlot and dry-bedded manure stockpiles shall be a minimum of 200 feet from a terrace tile inlet or surface tile inlet unless practices are used to contain the stockpiled manure; both shall be a minimum of 400 feet from a “designated area other than a high quality water resource” which includes drinking water wells, designated wetlands, water sources, and abandoned wells amongst others. High quality water resources are designated in the Iowa Administrative Code and summarized in the Iowa DNR’s document number 117, “High Quality Water Resources,” and both open feedlot and dry-bedded manure stockpiles shall maintain 800 feet of separation from them. Dry-bedded manure stockpiles also need to maintain 1,250 feet of separation from residences, businesses, churches, schools, or public use areas unless the manure is from a small animal feeding operation of 500 animal units or less or if the landowner who is the beneficiary of the setback signs a waiver. 

Manure stockpiles, as discussed here, are temporary storage locations, not permanent storage structures and the manure in them must be land applied within six months of stockpiling. Also, stockpiles within 1,250 feet of each other are considered part of the same stockpile and shall be treated as such. There are additional considerations and requirements for stockpiling in karst terrain, where the depth to soluble rock is shallow and sinkholes can form.  The regulations reviewed here are highlights, not an all-inclusive listing, and more specific information and definitions can be found in Iowa State University Extension and Outreach information, Iowa DNR resources, and the Iowa Administrative Code.  

Stockpiling goals
Solid manure stockpile located back from the edge of the field and ditch areaA major benefit of utilizing stockpiles is temporarily storing manure outside of the production area until it can be applied in a manner that will allow good utilization of its nutrients for crop production. Stockpiling also makes it possible to do a portion of the manure management, hauling manure from the point of production closer to where it can be utilized in the off season rather than during the peak of field work.  The goal of stockpiling is an all-around good resource, including time, management, and keeping the manure in good condition without losing the valuable nutrients to runoff so it can be land applied appropriately. The regulations need to be met, but good management and working to meet the overall objectives, including maintaining good neighborhood relations, may be more restrictive than the rule of the law but that good management can payback with good resource utilization and community satisfaction. 

Winter manure stockpiles can be a great option when implemented appropriately, but can become a big pile of mess to contend with if they aren’t! 

Manure Applicator Certification Workshops Continue Through February

March 1, 2024, is the deadline for renewing certification without a late fee. Confinement site manure applicators workshops continue across the state. Additionally, five dry/solid manure workshops will be offered in February. These workshops meet the requirements for both commercial and confinement site applicators. Find the remaining workshop dates and locations on our website. If you are unable to attend one of the scheduled workshops, you can contact your local county extension office about reshowing these programs. The DNR also offers E-Learning for Commercial, Confinement Site and Dry Applicators.

Understanding when the winter manure application rules apply to your farm

Looking for a quick visual reminder of when the winter manure application rules apply to a farm. Here is a flow chart to help you out.

Winter manure application rules flow chart.

Manure Scoop

In this month’s The Manure Scoop I discuss basics of what impacts digester performance and introduce how to estimate methane production from a digester. Government programs focused on renewable energy production offer high levels of incentives, with new credits and markets continuing to develop. Now is the time to learn more and start to understand how it could fit on your farm and what project developers may be looking for in selecting partners.

Field Operation Visualizer Development

We want your help! Cover crops add new challenges to cropping systems, requiring field activities to occur rapidly during periods when farmers may already be busy. We are working on ways to visualize when field activities need to occur and how to present that best, so as new cropping systems are developed, we have ways of communicating to both farmers and perhaps those pushing why a new approach is better to understand why it may be challenging to implement (in the world of manure, you might think of this as a means of conveying why spring manure application can be difficult because of a tight seasonal window and a rush to get to corn planting when conditions are suitable). This short survey will show you a few of the proposed visualization methods, ask you to rank what you like about them and what they miss, and hopefully help us better discuss, share, and illustrate a key reason that cover crops and spring manure application can be challenging.


Confinement Site Manure Applicator Training
February 2024, Multiple locations

Dry Manure Applicator Training
February 9, 2024, 1:00 pm, Kamrar, Iowa
February 12, 2024, 1:00 pm, Washington, Iowa
February 13, 2024, 1:00 pm, Greenfield, Iowa
February 21, 2024, 1:00 pm, Orange City, Iowa
February 22, 2024, 1:00 pm, Storm Lake, Iowa

Upcoming Models and Tools to Improve Manure Management webinar
February 16, 2024, 1:30 pm

Introductory RUSLE2 and Iowa Phosphorus Index Workshop
March 7, 2024, Altoona