Livestock & Manure Management


feedlot runoff controlFeedlot runoff control is a system of structures and practices that reduce runoff and protect water bodies from nutrients and bacteria. The system is composed of collection, storage, and treatment of livestock manure and feed waste as well as diversion of clean runoff water away from the feed lot area. This also helps to conserve nutrient-rich manure and enhance livestock health as part of a complete runoff control system that results in clean, dry lots. Best management practices include feedlot/wastewater filter strips and clean runoff water diversions.


Clean runoff water diversion involves a channel constructed across the slope to prevent rainwater from entering the feedlot area or the farmstead to reduce water pollution. Feedlot/wastewater filter strips are areas of vegetation that receive and reduce sediment, nutrients, and pathogens in discharge from a settling basin or the feedlot itself.


Benefits of a feedlot runoff control system include:

  • Protects water quality by preventing organic matter, phosphorus, nitrogen and pathogens in feedlot runoff from entering local surface waters or leaching into groundwater
  • Conserves valuable, nutrient-rich manure for use on crops
  • Aids compliance with state and federal feedlot regulations
  • Clean, dry lots enhance livestock health and are easier to maintain


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Rotational Grazing, also called prescribed or managed grazing, is a management-intensive system of raising livestock on subdivided pastures called paddocks. Livestock are regularly rotated to fresh paddocks at the right time to prevent overgrazing and optimize grass growth. A rotational grazing system is an alternative to continuous grazing in which a one-pasture system is used that allows livestock unrestricted access to the entire pasture throughout the grazing season.


Animal rotations can vary from a simple rotational grazing system in which animals move or rotate to a fresh paddock every 3 to 6 days, to an intensive rotational grazing system in which animals are moved to a fresh paddock as frequently as every 12 hours. Grazing is started when forage is about 8 inches tall and stopped once it is grazed down to about 4 inches tall (depending on vegetation type). The means less need to feed hay, silage or grain.


Following the grazing period the paddock (pasture) is rested for approximately 30 days (depending on the weather and productivity of the pasture). This provides a recovery time to maintain forage plants in a healthy and vigorous condition. The primary benefit of rotational grazing to the producer is a more efficient and productive pasture allowing for increased carrying capacity, longer stays on pasture, resulting in less need to feed hay, silage or grain.

prescribed grazing 

Typically in Minnesota, cattle are grazed in marginal farmland - wet areas and stream valleys. Uplands are reserved for corn and soybeans.


Fencing, pipeline, watering tanks, heavy use area protection, and pasture seeding are all practices that are eligible for cost-share payments through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Prescribed grazing plans are completed by the SWCD and NRCS office.


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Manure Management

manure management.jpgManure management planning ensures careful handling and use of livestock manure to obtain its full value as a crop nutrient while protecting water and air quality.


Manure management plans describe how manure generated at a feedlot will be used in upcoming cropping years. Plans typically specify nutrient rate limits and setback distances for applying manure near lakes, streams, wetlands, drainage ditches, open tile intakes, sinkholes, wells, mines and quarries. Once a manure management plan is developed, following the plan often involves using specially designed facilities and technologies to store, process and transport manure securely and special techniques for applying manure to cropland.


Minnesota's feedlot rule (Minn. R. part 7020.2225) and some local county ordinances require developing and following a manure management plan in certain circumstances. Additional manure management activities required for many livestock operations (and recommended for all) include keeping manure application records, testing manure for nitrogen and phosphorus content and testing soils for phosphorus.


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Waste Storage Facilities

manure storageWaste storage facilities are impoundments created by excavating earth or structures constructed to hold and provide treatment to agricultural waste. They may be used to hold and treat waste directly from animal operations, process wastewater, or contaminated runoff. Leaking storage facilities (also termed lagoons) have the potential to negatively impact lakes, rivers, and streams.


Key design considerations should include length of storage and accounting for weather limitations during application or disposal. Other considerations include the equipment available for transfer and/or spreading as well as crop and soil types.


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