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Tips for Improved Winter Manure Management

Posted on September 24, 2014


Topics: Industry Insight


Certainly many people can recall the frigid temperatures the Midwest, Northern Plains, Northeast and Southeast experienced seven months ago. Some weather analysts are predicting the upcoming winter to be even colder than the 2013/2014 season, which resulted in February ranking as the 37th coldest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Although December 21 through March 19 is the seasonal calendar length of winter, it’s possible that colder temperatures will arrive during fall and may persist longer into spring. The onset of winter weather brings challenges when applying manure before the ground freezes, as well as with storing manure during extended periods of very cold weather.  

Manure application regulations do vary by state, however many states recommend following best management practices (BMPs) for application of manure. The following BMPs from university extension services at the University of Minnesota, Iowa State University and the University of Wisconsin apply to both injected and surface-applied manure.

Best Management Practices

  • If manure is spread in the winter, select level land and apply only conservative rates to minimize environmental impacts. Avoid applying manure where tillage was completed up and down a slope and avoid application during snowmelt.1
  • Avoid applying manure prior to precipitation, especially if the ground is frozen. This will cause the manure nutrients to move off-site and possibly cause a water-quality violation.2
  • In Wisconsin, some livestock operations are set up for and need to spread manure frequently throughout the winter. Focus on applying manure early (October – December) to avoid significant snow cover, concrete frost, or ice-crusted soil that is common in late winter.3

Ammonia reduction

Due to the minimized opportunity for application during the winter, most producers are forced to store manure for a longer period of time than in spring and summer. Typically, dairy and swine producers are equipped with the capacity to store manure until spring, yet with the increased length of time for storage, other factors are likely to arise. Ammonia levels and associated gaseous odors can be more noticeable, especially in farrowing and nursery barns where airtight, heated buildings decrease the amount of free-flowing air.

The use of a manure nutrient manager, such as More Than Manure® (MTM®) Nutrient Manager can reduce ammonia levels in livestock confinement operations when added to in-ground pits or lagoons.

“MTM is perfect for use in the winter especially since everything is closed up,” says Dave Kaltenberg, regional manager in Wisconsin and Minnesota for SFP®, a Verdesian Life Sciences company. “MTM also can reduce solids and crusting in pits and lagoons, which decreases the buildup of the manure and requires much less agitation.”

Specifically formulated for all manures, liquid or dry, MTM is the only fertilizer manager that is proven to reduce phosphorus (P) lock up and nitrogen (N) loss from volatilization, leaching and denitrification. By reducing valuable nutrient loss from manure applications, growers can see better overall crop performance and increased yield potential.

The use of MTM in pits and lagoons during the winter will also allow stored manure to be more manageable when pumping and/or transporting manure for spring application. Plus, MTM will give manure the added benefit of increased nutrient efficiency by leaving both P and N available for plant use, leading to improved overall plant performance for the 2015 crop.  


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SFP, More Than Manure and MTM are registered trademarks of Specialty Fertilizer Products (SFP), LLC. © 2014 SFP. All rights reserved.

1 Hernandez, J. & Schmitt, M. (2012) Manure Management in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Extension. Retrieved from http://www.extension.umn.edu/agriculture/manure-management-and-air-quality/manure-application/manure-management-in-minnesota/docs/manure-management-in-minnesota.pdf

2Bentley, J., Tranel, L., Lager, K., Kilmer, L., Timms, L. & Shearer, J. (2013) Winter Manure Application Information. DAIRY News & Views from the ISU Extension Dairy TEAM, 35. Retrieved from http://www.extension.iastate.edu/dairyteam/sites/www.extension.iastate.edu/files/dairyteam/Nov%202013%20NWL.pdf

3Klingberg, K. (2013) Considerations for early winter applications of manure. University of Wisconsin Extension. Retrieved from http://fyi.uwex.edu/discoveryfarms/2013/12/considerations-for-early-winter-applications-of-manure/

http://yieldsigns.com/industry-insight/article/tips-for-improved-winter-manure-management

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