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After the rain, take time to check water quality

  • 9/14/2018 10:14:00 AM
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After the rain ends is the best time to check below your open feedlots and dairy operations to see if your manure controls are working as planned. According to Shawn Shouse, Iowa State University ag engineer, taking a walk on the wet side after a cloudburst gives you valuable information about your lot -- information you just can’t get when the lot is dry. 

Look for signs of runoff, and learn:

  • If your clean water diversions are keeping roof and other clean water out of the pens. Look for signs of gullying in the lot to track down excess water.
  • If your runoff controls are working as intended. Is your solids settling basin allowing solids to settle out? Is the basin too full of solids from previous rains?
  • If manure storage is adequate. Do you still have freeboard (2 ft. for earthen basins, 1 ft. for concrete structures)?
  • If your berms are holding up.
  • If there are areas below the basin that need your attention or repairs. Is the runoff spreading out on a flat area and soaking in? (Granted that’s a challenge when the ground is already saturated! More temporary storage could help.)
  • If runoff from the pens is ending up in a waterway, ditch or stream, possibly causing water quality problems. This is a sign that runoff may need to be redirected to an area where the nutrients can be an asset, not a liability. Note that larger (concentrated animal feeding operations or CAFO) open feedlots must prevent runoff from reaching streams.

Knowing there is a problem is the first step in fixing the problem. Remember there are plenty of people who can help in assessing your lot or designing runoff controls. Check with ISU Ag engineersNRCS or DNR field offices.

Find out more from ISU videos. Or, check the DNR or ISU Iowa Manure Management Action Group’s (IMMAG) websites for more information.

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