Hot Topics on Animal Waste

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Recently, a workgroup was formed to assist Extension statewide with our educational efforts regarding animal waste management. Members of the group range from Extension Agents, NCSU Specialists, Division of Water Resources inspectors, a NC Pork Council representative, and an industry representative.

Among our varied discussion arose a list of hot topics that have been coming up regarding swine and poultry waste. Below is a list of those issues and how you can respond if any affect you.

Changing an irrigation system: If you have considered changing (or already have changed) to a different irrigation system, you must have the system approved by a professional that has been designated by the Soil and Water Conservation Commission. This is extremely important with regards to setbacks from other property lines, wells, and residences. Just because the irrigation company says the system will fit, doesn’t mean it is approved for installation. Additionally, the waste utilization plan for the farm must be changed to reflect the new wettable acreage covered under the new system.

Soil test recommendations: There have been cases where growers have been to commodity meetings or other educational events and the speaker focuses on following soil test recommendations for fertilization. This can be a point of confusion if the grower has a permitted farm and a waste utilization plan. A farm with a waste utilization plan must follow soil test recommendations for all the nutrients except nitrogen. The total nitrogen allowed for that field is in the waste utilization plan. All other nutrients that are tested and reflected in the soil test analysis are very important and should be reviewed, especially if phosphorus, zinc, and copper levels are rising.

Lagoon markers: Several instances have been reported where the current lagoon marker does not match up with the lowest point on the lagoon dike. Settling of the dirt around the dike can cause changes in dike elevation. This can mean that the water level measurement can be much higher (or lower) than in reality. Many of the companies will send an engineer to the farm to re-survey the lagoon to find the lowest point and verify the marker is at the correct elevation. I personally know of a farm that the marker was 10 inches too low, which allowed the grower to raise the marker and gain an extra 10 inches of holding capacity in the lagoon. If you think your marker has settled over the years, you may want to check with your company to see if an engineer can check it for you.

Inspection preparedness: Since the number of annual inspections dropped from two to one, some growers have become lax in their recordkeeping. When it is time for the annual inspection, they are quickly overwhelmed. If you feel you need help preparing for an inspection, there are many individuals who offer free assistance.

Poultry Litter: Due to the increase in the number of poultry farms, the litter complaints called into Division of Water Resources and Division of Air Quality have risen. Litter piles that are greater than about 6 loads must be treated safely and legally, remaining uncovered for no longer than 14 days. Once litter leaves a poultry farm to be land applied or stored on another farm, the litter is no longer property of the poultry farm. The new owner of the litter is responsible for safe handling and application. Growers and users of poultry litter need to be aware of the consequences of mishandling this waste product.

If you have any questions about any of the above topics, contact your county Extension Agent.