If manure is not properly managed, bacteria, parasites, nitrogen and phosphorous can create problems for livestock, people, streams, irrigation water and wells. Fresh manure may have strong odors and breed flies. Horses and cattle can suffer from respiratory problems when exposed to dried manure. Excess manure can cause over fertilization of grasses. Because of the water quality risks associated with improper manure management, Federal and State laws forbid discharge of animal waste into water. However, properly managed manure is a valuable resource that can improve pasture productivity.
To make manure as beneficial as possible, follow these guidelines:
- Store it under cover and away from water sources.
- Keep the pile contained and on a hard surface to prevent leaching of nutrients, especially during the wet season.
- Compost it to create a beneficial soil amendment that increases soil organic matter and water holding capacity.
- Spread composted manure on pastures.
- Test manure and soil to determine the appropriate application rate. If you have more manure than your pastures can accommodate, export either manure or compost.
- Harrow or drag pastures to break down manure, return nutrients to the soil, and exposes parasite larvae to sun and air.
- The Benton SWCD can help property owners develop a manure composting/storage facility.
Mud can make chore time unpleasant, increase fly breeding areas, transmit diseases, create unsafe footing and increase polluted runoff. The best protection against mud is prevention. Use these strategies to help prevent mud.
Fence animals away from wetlands, streams, and ditches. Rotate water tank areas to avoid mud and manure build up.
Barn entrances, lanes, gates, loafing areas, and wet paddocks that are grazed become muddy. You can install concrete in these areas. However, geotextile fabric and gravel will provide an all-weather surface at one-third the cost of concrete. Geotextile fabric allows water to infiltrate but stops mud from working up through the gravel. NRCS recommends using a layer of geotextile fabric next to the soil, a 6-8 inch layer of 3 inch minus crushed rock with 4-6 inches of 3/4 inch minus crushed rock on top to provide a firm surface. If the area will receive vehicle traffic in addition to animal traffic, use the larger numbers. If you would like comfort for your animals, cap the area with hog fuel (shredded bark) or pea gravel. Hog fuel decomposes and needs to be periodically replaced. As hog fuel decomposes it releases acids that may leach into water, so avoid using it near wetlands, streams, or ditches.
Heavy Use Areas
Heavy use areas are key components of livestock operations in our seasonally wet Willamette Valley. A heavy use area is a reinforced animal yard for times when livestock could damage pastures, such as in rainy weather or when grass is less than three inches tall. Locate heavy use areas on high ground and at least 100 feet away from wells and open water. Follow the firm footing guidelines listed in the previous section when constructing a heavy use area.
Prevent clean surface water from entering your animal yard by diversion to wetlands, ditches, and streams. Slope the animal yard with a four to six percent grade and use a southern aspect for quick drying. Use a buried pipe to carry water past animal yards. Place a concrete curb or earthen berm around the yard to keep clean and contaminated water separate. Plant a vegetated buffer, such as a bioswale, to filter the runoff. Widen the buffer if the heavy use area slopes or is located near wetlands, streams or ditches.
Roof Gutters and Downspouts
Install roof gutters and downspouts to divert clean water from the animal yard. Design gutters to handle the amount of rainfall in your area (see Rain Map in the Introductory Section.) For example, one inch of rain on a 20-foot by 50-foot roof will produce 620 gallons. Protect downspouts from animal and equipment damage by using heavy PVC pipe, a hot wire or a permanent barrier. Empty downspouts into a stock watering tank, rain barrel, dry well, tile line, road ditch, or bioswale.