Winter manure applications: Steps to take to prevent runoff, nutrient loss and water contamination

Snow-covered and frozen soils make land application of manure a challenge. Producers run the risk of runoff, leading to loss of soil nutrients and potential contamination of water resources. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency advises the following:

  • Watch weather and field conditions closely for a safe window to apply manure.
  • State and local requirements vary, depending on feedlot size, federal or state permit status, and local laws.
  • Refer to your state or local permit for specific details on land application restrictions.
  • When in doubt about restrictions, contact your MPCA or county feedlot official with questions. Get contact information on the MPCA’s Feedlot Staff Contacts webpage.

The agency recommends these steps to prevent manure runoff:

  • Farmers who apply manure during winter should review their manure management plan now to determine which fields are the most suitable to receive winter applications.
  • Fields for winter application should be level, distant from sensitive features, and have crop residue.
  • Consider lowering application rates.
  • Monitor field edges to verify that manure runoff is not occurring. If runoff is occurring, report it to the Minnesota Duty Officer at 800-422-0798.
  • If frozen soil prevents incorporating manure, a 300-foot setback from sensitive features such as streams is required.
  • Avoid spreading when furrows contain ice or snow.
  • Avoid surface applications:
    • When there is 2 inches of snow or more and the weather forecast predicts temperatures to exceed 40 degrees Fahrenheit within the next 24 hours.
    • When the ground is frozen and/or snow covered and the weather forecast predicts a 50 percent chance of a 0.25 inch or more of rain in the next 24 hours.
    • During February and March when most runoff events occur.

For more information, visit the Land application of manure webpage.