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Published March 19, 2010, 07:00 AM

Officials warn against manure spreading during increased runoff risk

State agriculture and water quality officials urge Wisconsin livestock farmers to avoid spreading manure in coming days in those areas where forecasted rain and snowmelt are expected to increase the risk of runoff.

State agriculture and water quality officials urge Wisconsin livestock farmers to avoid spreading manure in coming days in those areas where forecasted rain and snowmelt are expected to increase the risk of runoff.

Public service announcements encouraging farmers to hold off on spreading manure if melting snow or rain is forecast started running last week. The spots feature Steve Haak, a Belleville area livestock farmer and avid trout angler, who recalls how manure from another farm washed into the Sugar River in February 2005 after an early snowmelt, and how he spent the day counting dead fish. The radio spot and more information can be found online on the How to Prevent Manure Runoff web pages.

While most farmers carefully manage manure, manure spread on fields can be carried into lakes, rivers and groundwater by rain or melting snow. Farmers lose the manure as a valuable fertilizer and the manure can cause water quality problems that can include killing fish and contaminating drinking water wells.

Manure spills and runoff are required to be reported immediately to the 24-hour spill hotline: (800) 943-0003.

County Land Conservation Departments are a valuable source of manure management information and can help find alternatives if you are running out of storage capacity but want to avoid spreading during high risk conditions.

If manure must be applied, the following steps can reduce the risk of runoff:

• Do not spread manure on fields where their location and slope presents a high risk of manure running off. View online maps showing high risk fields through the Manure Management Advisory System, Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. Contact your County Land Conservation Department, certified agronomist or manure hauler to help find alternatives or to identify fields with the lowest risk of runoff.

• Monitor weather forecasts and avoid spreading if rain or snowmelt conditions are predicted.

• Apply manure on fields with little or no snow cover if possible. Contact with soil reduces the risk of runoff as does incorporation into the soil if conditions allow.

• Avoid fields that are near drinking water wells or that have sinkholes or exposed bedrock to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Even if these precautions are followed, runoff events may still occur. Minimize the impact by immediately reporting the runoff to the 24-hour spill hotline.

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