Improving Manure Management to Protect Water Quality in the Southwestern U. S.

Final Report for EW96-002

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 1996: $60,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1999
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $106,019.00
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jessica Davis
Colorado State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

The purpose of this project was to improve the use of manure as a fertilizer that is applied at agronomically and economically sound rates and to reduce fertilizer applications accordingly, so that water quality is protected. We held nine workshops to train farmers and Extension and NRCS personnel in nutrient management planning using a case study approach. Over 400 participants attended the workshops. The makeup of the participants was 14% farmers, 42% NRCS, 20% extension, and 24% other.

We wrote an extension bulletin meant for the western dairy farmers. Our bulletin, Manure Best Management Practices: A Practical Guide for Dairies in Colorado, Utah. and New Mexico is available on the internet at the following address: http://www.ext.usu.edu/publica/agpubs/agwm04.pdf.
We printed copies of this bulletin and distributed them to dairies and extension and NRCS personnel throughout our three states.

Lastly, we demonstrated manure management Best Management Practices including calibration of manure spreaders, basing manure application rates on soil sampling, and use of polyacrylamides to reduce nutrient runoff from manured fields. Extension and NRCS staff in CO, NM, and UT are now better prepared to help farmers protect water quality.

Project Objectives:

1) To demonstrate and encourage the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for poultry, lagoon, and feedlot operations within the animal production units and in crop production systems in the field.

2) To educate NRCS and Cooperative Extension personnel in methods of livestock waste utilization within the frame work of western U.S. agriculture.

3) To revise and update NRCS guidelines for livestock waste management to address specific concerns for western U.S. climates, soils, and cropping systems.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

In addition to the workshops listed above, we disseminated information about manure management impacts on water quality in numerous presentations to audiences listed below:

1997
New Mexico Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society
New Mexico Haygrowers Association
Colorado Horse Council

1998
New Mexico county extension agents (in Service training)
Colorado Farm Bureau
Rocky Mountain Turf Conference

1999
Colorado Organic Crop Management Association
American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists NE, WY, CO Chapter
Western Nutrient Management Conference
Colorado county extension agents (in service training)
United States Geological Survey Animal Feeding Operations Conference

Dissemination of this information was also through the written media:

In 1997, we wrote three newsletter articles and five other extension publications on manure management. The September 1998 issue of the Colorado State University monthly newsletter (Agronomy News) issues focused on hog manure and the regulatory issues surrounding hogs in Colorado. Two factsheets were also printed in 1998 on “Liquid Manure Application Methods” and “‘Liquid Manure Application to Cropland” in response to the demand for information on hog manure utilization. In 1999, we wrote a series of three articles on Standard Operating Practices for manure management for Colorado Dairy News (Collection, Storage, Utilization). This information was then picked up and reprinted by Dairy Herd Management, a national magazine.

Farmer Adoption

We gave workshop participants a quiz about manure management before and after the workshop. The average grade before the workshops was 80%, and the average grade after the workshops was 98%. This shows a marked increase in knowledge about manure management principles due to workshop participation.

The workshop evaluation also revealed that the participants expect to influence over 7,300 producers in their manure management decisions. They plan to implement their own learning by relaying information to producers and training and assisting them in manure management. The participants consistently stated that the combination of onsite farm evaluation with classroom nutrient management planning was the best thing about the training sessions. Participants felt that the workshops were application and problem solving oriented with hands on, on site training done in a step by step fashion. The notebooks were also appreciated for future reference. The participants unanimously agreed that the research base supporting the workshops was good to excellent, and 94% felt that the training was experiential and participatory.

Reactions from Farmers and Ranchers

The training was evaluated with a one-page survey given out immediately after the session. The evaluation gave participants the opportunity to make comments on the training. Many interesting comments came from farmers as well as from Extension, NRCS, and EPA participants. Several participants commented that suggested improvements in manure storage facilities would be too expensive and the rates of manure application calculated too low to be economical or feasible to implement by farmers. In contrast, an EPA participant thought that recommendations and calculations reviewed during the training were too liberal and that the final management plan called for the application of too much manure.

Some of the answers to the question, “What did you like best about the training?” are listed below:

“I really like hearing from the people who can solve the problems (the ranchers).”
“Field visit coupled with classroom follow up.”
“The manual with necessary resources to follow through after training.”
“A. Great manual, B. well organized field trip, C. cooperative farmer/rancher.”
“Case study approach.”
“Timeliness of topics.”
“Effective, cutting edge information that is valuable to a broad range of interests.”
“Was on the ground and useable.”
“The tour was educational and well organized. Good opportunities to meet with folks in the field and stewards of the land.”
“The opportunity to interact among different states and agencies in dealing with a common problem.”

A total of 57 farmers (14% of participants) participated in the training. Initially, farmer reaction to manure management requirements was negative, but reactions by farmers and ranchers were mixed following the workshops. Not one farmer expressed disappointment in the workshop information. The workshop notebooks, it has been said, are easy to follow and derive the necessary numbers. However, many still wish for a one page summary that can be done in five minutes. Framers have concerns about salts in the manure, the long term weed seed survivability in the manure, and the effect that composting has on survivability. The more demonstrations that are available for farmers and ranchers to see, the better they will be able to assess the risks posed by salts and weeds.

One of the Colorado producers stated that he got more out of this activity than anything else Colorado State University had ever done.

Producer Involvement

The farmers that were highlighted in the case studies helped to generate ideas and options used in the training workshops. Each of the cooperating farmers took a lead role in telling workshop trainees about their manure management approach, goals, and constraints. In this way, the farmers helped to train the NRCS and Extension personnel so that they, in turn, can do a better job helping the farmers.

Outcomes and impacts:

1) To demonstrate and encourage the use of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for poultry, lagoon, and feedlot operations within the animal production units and in crop production systems in the field.

On farm demonstrations of BMPs occurred at the workshops described in #2 below. In addition to those BMP demonstrations:

A) A demonstration was carried out on Hafliger Dairy in New Mexico that compared manured (15 tons/acre) and conventionally fertilized corn silage production. Manure spreader calibration was demonstrated prior to application. The yield and nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium levels in the silage were significantly increased by manure use.

B) Runoff phosphorus concentration was measured in farmers fields with and without manuring history (in Colorado), and a trend was found showing higher runoff phosphorus levels from manured fields as compared with non manured fields. Therefore, we did a demonstration to illustrate the effect of using polyacrylamides in furrow irrigated fields to reduce soil loss and phosphorus levels in runoff. This may be a very important means to control phosphorus pollution from manured fields.

C) Proper soil testing procedures for determining manure application rates were demonstrated in Bernalillo County, NM in October 1998.

D) Manure application for turfgrass establishment was demonstrated in Las Cruces, Dona Ana County (NM) to provide a local site where extension and NRCS personnel could observe the benefits of using manure at agronomic rates. The site also had composted manure as another treatment for comparison.

2) To educate NRCS and Cooperative Extension personnel in methods of livestock waste utilization within the framework of western U.S. agriculture.

We held seven training workshops in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico and helped with two additional workshops in Wyoming.

• Park City, Utah on August 18, 1997 (held in conjunction with the Utah Non point Source Water Quality Conference)

• Fort Collins, Colorado, on February 12, 1998 (held in conjunction with Colorado State University Cooperative Extension in service training)

• Anthony, New Mexico on April 6, 1998

• Roswell, New Mexico on April 7, 1998

• Los Lunas, New Mexico on April 8, 1998

• La Junta, Colorado on September 15, 1998 (held in conjunction with the Colorado Branch of the Soil & Water Conservation Society)

• Wheatland, Wyoming on March 24, 1999 (held in conjunction with the Wyoming Branch of the Soil & Water Conservation Society)

• Logan, Utah on March 30 and 31, 1999

• Caspar, Wyoming on May 18 and 20, 1999 (held in conjunction with the Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service in service training)

Over 400 participants attended the sessions. The makeup of the participants was 14% farmers, 42% NRCS, 20% extension, and 24% other. Therefore, 62% of the participants were from our target audience (NRCS and extension personnel). Additional attendees were from the Environmental Protection Agency, state departments of environmental quality, state departments of agriculture and food, conservation districts, and planning commissions.

The general outline of the workshops was to spend the morning on site (on a local dairy or feedlot) and the afternoon developing a nutrient management plan for that farmer in a classroom setting. The morning tour included an overview of the farm by the farmer, prior to dividing into three groups which rotated among three tour stops (manure and runoff collection, manure and runoff storage, and field application of manure). The field tour was used to evaluate the current state of the manure handling and management system at this case study farm, and to discuss alternatives for this situation.

In the afternoon, topics included manure production quantity, field acreages, alternatives for handling and storing manure, manure rate calculations, and manure application methods. As part of the afternoon training, participants were taken through the process of developing a comprehensive nutrient management plan for the case study dairy or feedlot. Each workshop was supported by a handbook containing reference materials.

3) To revise and update NRCS guidelines for livestock waste management to address specific concerns for western U.S. climates, soils, and cropping systems.

We decided to focus our manure management guidelines on dairies since they are very important in all three of our states. Therefore, we wrote an extension bulletin for western dairy farmers. Our bulletin, Manure Best Management Practices: A Practical Guide for Dairies in Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico was published by Utah State University in October 1999 as bulletin no. AG WM 04 and is available on the internet at the following address: http://www.ext.usu.edu/publica/agpubs/agwm04.pdf. We printed copies of this bulletin and distributed them to dairies and extension and NRCS personnel throughout our three states.

The outline of the bulletin is as follows:

• The Need for a Regional Guide
• Dairy Site Assessment
• Calculating Land Base Requirements for Manure
• Manure Collection and Treatment
• Adding Value to Manure Composting
• Manure and Wastewater Storage
• Manure Characteristics and Sampling
• Calculating Manure Application Rates
• Manure Application Methods
• Equipment Calibration

We incorporated the use of worksheets (Land Base Requirement Worksheet and Manure Application Rate/Record Keeping Worksheet) and checklists into this bulletin so that it would be easy for farmers to use and implement.

Project Outcomes

Recommendations:

Extension and NRCS professionals have indicated they appreciated the SARE-funded training. A guiding comment from Extension and NRCS professionals has been that manure management must be kept simple if producers are to voluntarily adopt manure management practices that protect water quality. The challenge of future training, therefore, should be to promote simplified procedures for developing CNMPs, which still meet the goal of protecting water quality. In light of the new Clean Water Action Plan, we will continue to seek funding for further training, but in the future the training will be geared towards the livestock producers.

Several workshop participants said that they will use this information with small acreage farmers (<100 acres) not just the large livestock producers. Therefore, we need to provide information specific to small acreage farmers, not just the large scale producers.

Potential Contributions

Workshop participants are now better able to assist producers in manure management problem solving. In the southwestern U.S., manure management, particularly manure utilization, has generally been left to individual producers with little guidance and few requirements for determining proper manure application rates and developing a manure management plan. This SARE project has provided training on manure management and plan development to Extension and NRCS professionals, thereby allowing them to begin working with producers to voluntarily modify manure management practices.

The Clean Water Action Plan has resulted in the 1999 development of the joint USDAEPA Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations. This strategy is expected to affect 20,000 livestock producers nationwide, requiring them to upgrade current waste handling and storage facilities and improve manure utilization, to minimize the threat to water quality and public health. Several key provisions in the Unified Strategy are being addressed by this SARE funded project:

  • develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) for livestock facilities 
  • build the capacity to help producers develop and implement CNMPs 
  • where possible, emphasize a voluntary approach.

This training reached a significant number (over 400) of agricultural professionals in Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Extension and NRCS professionals in all three states are better prepared to help livestock producers develop the required CNMPs. Without the demonstrations developed under the auspices of this program many growers would only have hearsay to base their decisions for utilizing manure.

This SARE funded training improved cooperation between Extension and NRCS. Prior to this training, members of both agencies separately assisted producers in developing manure management plans. In the past, two plans for the same farm, developed by different agencies, could differ significantly because each agency relied on different reference materials and guidelines for manure management. Preparation of training materials and sessions for the manure management training brought these differences to light and have motivated personnel from both agencies to develop a common set of guidelines for all in state personnel to use.

NRCS and Cooperative Extension personnel (as well as farmers) now have the knowledge and the tools for developing nutrient management plans. The more people that are familiar with the procedures for planning manure management strategies, the less likely there will be a chance of improper application and subsequent water pollution.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.