On Friday, June 29, NY Animal Agriculture Coalition and Partners for Healthy Watersheds hosted neighbors and members of the community at Fessenden Farm in King Ferry, NY to learn about why manure matters. R&B Alternative Solutions had multiple pieces of equipment present to show attendees the different ways manure can be spread on fields. Agricultural Consulting Service’s Brian Boerman was also there to answer questions and share the important role ACS plays in managing nutrients on the farm. Below is some of the information Brian shared with guests to help them better understand how nutrients are managed on the farm and why manure matters:

Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP)
CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations (farms with 300 cows or more), are required to have a comprehensive nutrient management plan (CNMP) developed by a state-certified planner.  This plan includes specific, detailed procedures for applying manure to maximize its value to grow crops and minimize environmental risks.

The CNMP is a working document and is often changed throughout the year as changes happen on the farm.  Common examples of changes to the plan include a new manure analysis that requires a change in the manure rate to meet crop needs or a change in the crop rotation due to environmental factors.

The CNMP has four major components that include a Farmstead Water Quality Management Plan, Soil Conservation Plan, Nutrient Management Plan and an Administrate component that includes record keeping requirements and correspondence with the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Manure is an organic fertilizer that is an excellent source of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the necessary nutrients for corn silage, alfalfa and grass hay that are fed back to the cows.  When farmers apply manure through a nutrient management plan they reduce or eliminate purchasing commercial fertilizer for crop production.  Applying manure to fields allows farms to recycle nutrients and build organic matter and healthy soil communities.

With proper manure application methods and timing, it takes a year’s worth of manure from 1.5 Holstein cows to provide the necessary crop nutrients to produce one acre of corn silage.  This organic fertilizer source offsets an equivalent of $193 per acre of commercial fertilizer costs for the farm.

Manure Storage
A manure storage structure is a containment system for manure and process wastewater.  Storage allows manure to be held for days or months so that it can be applied when weather and field conditions are most favorable. Since weather conditions often prevent us from being able to apply manure on our fields every day, storage is considered a best management practice by both agriculture and environmental organizations.  Storage structures are a significant investment on a dairy farm, costing anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 or more, depending on the size and type. They are designed by a certified professional engineer and regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

There are multiple safeguards in place on farms with manure storages and CNMPs. For example: all CAFO-regulated farms are required by DEC to physically check their storage units every few days and keep a record of those inspections. These records are later audited upon inspection by DEC.

Feed Storage
After corn silage and hay crops are harvested they are stored in a bunker silo where they undergo fermentation (about 3 weeks) before being fed to cattle.  Excess moisture in the harvested crops leaves the silo as silage leachate, a high biological oxygen demand material which is captured and diluted with the manure for land application. The high flow run-off that comes from the silo is either captured and land applied or routed across a vegetated treatment area.

For more information about New York State CAFO permits, click here. While there are many states with environmental regulations, this event was located in NY and therefore focused on NY state regulations.

If you have questions about CAFO transitioning or any other nutrient management services, check out www.acscrops.com or email info@acscrops.com.