Is spreading this winter causing you headaches?

Sitting around in mid-January looking at it raining and the experts projecting more rain and temperatures in the 40s and 50s the next several day’s makes for a manure management nightmare if your storage is full.  Spreading in these conditions are difficult at best and is exposing manure to greater runoff potential.  

Many are hoping for it to freeze up so spreading will not tear up the fields spreading. As you see below, the present standard for manure application has many restrictions for frozen and/or snow covered ground.  Application in these conditions are for emergency use only.  

Adequate manure storage (6-12 months) is the only way to avoid needing to spread during this time.  As you look to where you want to be in the next 5-10 years with your operation, handling and applying manure properly should be a top priority with livestock operations to make sure you have adequate acres and storage to manage your nutrients in an environmental and economical way.

Emergency application of manure to frozen and /or snow covered soil:

If manure can be injected or immediately incorporated, the soil is not considered frozen for the intent of this criterion. Application on frozen and snow covered soil is not acceptable.

Dry manure can be stockpiled using the Ohio NRCS Waste Transfer (Code 634) Manure Stockpiling Job Sheet.

In an emergency, if liquid manure application becomes necessary on frozen or snow covered soils, only limited quantities of manure shall be applied to address manure storage limitations until non frozen soils are available for manure application. These situations need to be documented in the Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plan (CNMP) and in the producer records.

If liquid manure application becomes necessary, applications are to be applied only if ALL the following criteria are met:

a.    The rate of application shall not exceed the rates specified in Table 3 - Determining The Most Limiting Manure Application Rates for winter application. (Liquid Manure 5,000 gallons/ac)

b.    Applications are to be made on land with at least 90% surface residue cover (cover crop, good quality hay or pasture field, all corn grain residue remaining after harvest, all wheat residue cover remaining after harvest).

c.    Manure shall not be applied on more than 20 contiguous acres. Contiguous areas for application are to be separated by a break of at least 200 feet.

d.    Apply manure to areas of the field with the lowest risk of nutrient transport such as areas furthest from streams, ditches, waterways, with the least amount of slop.

e.    Increase the application setback distance to 200 feet “minimum” from all grassed waterways, surface drainage ditches, streams, surface inlets, water bodies. This distance may need to be further increased due to local conditions.

f.    Additional winter application criteria for fields with significant slopes more than 6% (fields exceeding 6% are to be identified in the CNMP). Manure shall be applied in alternating strips 60 to 200 feet wide generally on the contour, or in the case of contour strips on the alternating strips.

The process of evaluating your situation will take some time to come up with the plan that meets all your objectives and resource concerns.  For addition information on manure issues or any other conservation needs free to contact the Holmes NRCS/SWCD office at (330) 674-2811.


Chuck is the District Conservationist for Holmes and Coshocton counties with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.  He began his career as a summer trainee in 1981 with the Soil Conservation Service and has been located in Ashland, Delaware, Harrison, and Fairfield counties prior to moving to Holmes County August of 1984.  He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture.   Chuck is married to Beth (Oswald) and resides near Berlin.  Chuck and Beth have two sons, Luke and Cole located in Columbus.  He also has a 215 acre farm in Knox County that he owns in partnership with his dad and brother. Many conservation practices have been implemented and maintained as part of the operation. Contact Chuck at 330-674-2811 or