One of the certainties in agriculture is that the weather will be an uncertainty. As I write this column, many fear that the lack of snowfall and moisture could increase the risk of unfavorable growing conditions this season. Of course a few timely rains would alleviate these concerns.
The seasonal rains that occur typically in April and May, along with highly productive soils are what makes Iowa an important producer of food for the U.S. and the world.
These seasonal rains also are the periods when livestock operations are most at risk for runoff to occur from feedlots. For feedlots that are greater than 1,000 head capacity, the CAFO permitting process ensures that controls are in place to preserve water quality except under the most extreme rainfall events.
Traditionally, small and medium sized feedlots were only required to do what is necessary to not cause a water quality violation. With increased regulatory scrutiny many producers are taking a hard look at the effectiveness of the controls that they may have in place.
The small feedlot and dairy page on the Iowa Manure Management Action Group (IMMAG) web site is a good resource for information. A helpful new resource is the “Small Open Feedlots in Iowa—a Producers Guide PM-3018” available as a free pdf download from the ISU Extension and Outreach online store.
Also, the Iowa DNR has developed testing kits that allow you to do a quick test for ammonia downstream from your feedlot. You can check out these testing kits from several county Extension offices.
As mentioned briefly in last month’s column, when one of those April showers happen, follow the water as it leaves your feedlot and see where it goes. Now is the time to find those trouble spots that need fixing.
If you need assistance in making improvements, help is available from several sources including private engineers, ISU Extension, the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, the Iowa DNR and others.
Source: Dan Loy, IBC director