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

Contact: Cathy Rofshus, 507-206-2608

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. Visit 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.