Wis. Officials: Manure Spreading and Runoff Don't Mix

State agriculture and water quality officials urge Wisconsin livestock farmers to avoid spreading manure in coming days in those areas where forecasted rain and snowmelt are expected to increase the risk of runoff.

While most farmers carefully manage manure, manure spread on fields can be carried into lakes, rivers, and groundwater by rain or melting snow. Farmers lose the manure as a valuable fertilizer, and the manure can cause water quality problems that can include killing fish and contaminating drinking water wells.

Manure spills and runoff are required to be reported immediately to the Department of Natural Resources' 24-hour spill hotline: 1-800-943-0003.

If manure must be applied, the following steps can reduce the risk of runoff:

• Do not spread manure on fields where their location and slope presents a high risk of manure running off. View online maps showing high risk fields through the Manure Management Advisory System (MMAS) - Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection. Contact your County Land Conservation Department, certified agronomist or manure hauler to help find alternatives or to identify fields with the lowest risk of runoff.

• Monitor weather forecasts and avoid spreading if rain or snowmelt conditions are predicted.

• Apply manure on fields with little or no snow cover if possible. Contact with soil reduces the risk of runoff as does incorporation into the soil if conditions allow.

• Avoid fields that are near drinking water wells or that have sinkholes or exposed bedrock to reduce the risk of groundwater contamination.

Even if these precautions are followed, runoff events may still occur. Farmers can minimize the impact by immediately reporting the runoff to DNR's 24-hour spill hotline, 1-800-943-0003.