Manure management plan goes hand-in-hand with new manure storage system

Spencer Herbert, a nutrient management specialist, worked with Dale Spindler to set up a nutrient management plan for his dairy operation. Herbert works with producers in Dodge, Freeborn, Goodhue, Rice, Steele and Wabasha counties.

OWATONNA — Steele County dairy farmer Dale Spindler wanted to get away from hauling manure every day, and he wanted to do his part to protect nearby Rice Lake.

He approached the county feedlot officer for ideas, and he put him in touch with the Steele County Natural Resources Conservation Service, which offered cost-share dollars for manure storage projects.

His manure storage project began in late summer 2009. The project continued into 2010 and encompassed more than Spindler had envisioned.

His initial idea had been to stack dairy manure. Soon, the idea changed in order for him to maximize the nutrients available in the manure.

Spindler's manure handling system now includes a 4-feet deep reception pit in the milkhouse where his 300 gallons of pipeline wash water go before being pumped into a larger reception pit on the other side of the barn. The barn cleaner empties into the larger reception pit as well.


The barn yard, which is scraped as needed, also empties into the reception pit, which measures 8 feet by 8 feet and is 6.5 feet deep. An agitator, similar to a boat motor, mixes the manure and wastewater before it flows into the adjacent pit where it is pumped to the manure storage basin by a Jamesway semi-trans hydraulic piston pump.

The storage basin was designed to provide 14 months of storage, thereby eliminating the need for daily haul. The length of storage is highly dependent on the weather, he said. In November 2012, after 12 months of use, he hired a custom manure applicator who pumped 740,000 gallons of manure from the basin. In June 2013, an applicator again was able to pump the same amount of manure. The basin is 11 feet deep with a liner two feet under the soil surface.

Spindler even installed eaves on the barn and shed to keep clean water out of the barnyard. Natural Resources Conservation Service engineer Pete Fryer designed the manure management system.

Spindler wants to use the manure as efficiently as possible and has used the services of nutrient management specialist Spencer Herbert to do just that.

Herbert, who is based at the Rice County Soil and Water Conservation District office, works with producers who want to develop nutrient management plans. He works in Dodge, Freeborn, Goodhue, Rice, Steele and Wabasha counties.

He started in January. Previously, he was an NRCS soil conservationist in Storm Lake, Iowa.

Herbert has worked primarily with livestock producers to develop nutrient management plans, but he is also available to work with farmers who don't have livestock and want a plan and those who buy manure. The cost to develop a new plan is $300 and yearly updates are $100. Cost-share dollars may be available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for farmers who want Herbert to develop a nutrient management plan for their farm.

According to the state's 7020 feedlot rules, producers who have more than 300 animal units must have a nutrient management plan. An animal unit is equal to one 1,000 pound animal, Herbert said.


Spindler said the plan Herbert developed for him was easy to use and easy to understand. It does require some record keeping, but Spindler was keeping application records before working with Herbert.

It's easier to develop a plan with a producer who does good record keeping, Spencer said.

Spindler takes his own manure samples and sends them into Dairyland Laboratories in St. Cloud for analysis. The manure from the basin measured 16 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 gallons in November and 12 pounds per 1,000 gallons in June.

He sends the results to Herbert who develops the plan. Spindler's goal is to keep his fertilizer costs down while avoiding overfertilization.

Herbert takes into account legume credits and second year credits from manure when devising his recommendations. He considers soil sample results. His recommendations are for good yields with minimum costs following state guidelines for application rates.

The new manure system has been a time-saver, Spindler said. Instead of hauling every day, an applicator came in and field applied 700,000 gallons of manure to his fields in one day. The applicator used a drag hose, which causes less compaction.

"I like what's going on, what we're doing," Spindler said.

For more information on a nutrient management plan, call Herbert at 507-332-7418, ext. 126.

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