With new regulations — and the goal of improving water quality in Ohio — in mind, here is how some of Ohio’s livestock producers in different watersheds are addressing the situation on their farms.
We were very concerned when we started hearing about all of the water quality problems so we built wetlands downstream from all of our areas where we are feeding cattle. All of the runoff from the buildings or the lots goes through wetlands and they absorb the nutrients. Around Indian Lake and the main rivers going into it, we have added filter strips to keep the nutrients out of the water. We use cover crops and when we haul manure we try to do it on those growing crops or corn stalks or wheat stubble. We use all pack manure and we don’t have as many issues with leaching as you see with liquid manure.
We are 100% no-till unless we ditch a field. We have no problem with the manure breaking down. We soil test every other year and we are using less fertilizer so we think the manure is really helping us. We follow the Natural Resources Conservation Service specs on setbacks and if it is going to rain or snow we don’t apply manure.
Back in 1990, we started the Indian Lake Watershed Project. We were one of 25 hydrologic area units the federal government started across the country and as far as I know we are the only one still in operation today. We started with 6% no-till in the watershed and the last time we checked, it was somewhere around 75% no-till in the watershed. Our tonnage of silt going into the lake is way down. We got money to help purchase no-till equipment and manure, fertilizer and fuel, containment facilities. The farmers around here really bought into this and our lake has been clean and we have been fortunate.
You have to have enough manure storage to get through the winter months and that is a big issue for cattle producers. Many of our beef cattle farms are smaller producers and it is hard for them to get the buildings and facilities to store that manure. Many of them are part time farmers and only have time to haul manure in the evenings and weekends, which may not be the right times to be doing that.
Storage and the timing of manure application are a real concern for many of these farms. So many of these storage projects have to be done right away with the new legislation and finding ways to fund these projects and finding the contractors available to build these facilities is also going to be a real challenge.