In early January, the Wayne County Extension office in partnership with the Wayne County Farm Bureau, Wayne County SWCD and NRCS, the Wayne County Ag Success Team and the Wayne-Ashland Dairy Service Unit, mailed a survey to 339 Wayne County dairy farms to determine the current manure storage capacity on those farms. The purpose of the survey was to gather base-line information to assess how prepared Wayne County dairy farms are to comply with Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) type of clean water/nutrient management legislation. Surveys were returned in early February and Ohio University Environmental Studies graduate student Janessa Hill has tabulated survey responses and prepared summaries of the results.
Currently SB1 legislation covers the Western Lake Erie Basin and contains specific provisions regarding manure application and prohibitions against application of manure (and granular fertilizer) during winter months and when soils are saturated. Depending upon who you talk to, it is expected that this type of legislation will move state-wide in the future, possibly within two to five years. In order to comply with the winter application prohibitions and other manure application provisions, the general consensus of persons who work with manure management and write manure management plans, seems to be that most farms would need 9 to 12 months of manure storage. The SB 1 law provided medium-sized facilities (200-699 dairy cattle) a year to comply with the regulations.
The dairy farm manure storage survey was designed to collect information regarding the type of manure storage present on dairy farms along with the storage capacity and typical manure application timing. Additionally, the survey asked farms to rate the degree of financial hardship that would be experienced if legislation similar to SB 1 was extended to Wayne County and additional manure storage had to be added.
The goal is to use the survey information collected to hold conversations with legislators, policy makers and other elected officials to provide a better understanding of the on-farm situation within the county. It is hoped that this baseline data might help to guide legislators as they craft water quality/nutrient management legislation and avoid unintended consequences for agriculture. The results of the survey have implications for compliance time frames, environmental considerations and the social fabric of the community. The information collected regarding the financial cost and hardship that will be incurred by adding additional manure storage has to be considered in any future clean water/nutrient management legislation.
According to Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) statistics, there are 32,000 milk cows in Wayne County. Surveys mailed back to the Wayne County Extension office represented a total of 14,811 dairy cows or about 46 percent of the ODA statistic number.
The majority of dairy farms who completed the survey indicated the use of both liquid and bedded pack manure storage systems for their milking herd, with bedded pack manure storage the dominant form of manure storage for the heifers and calves. When asked about a nutrient/manure management plan, 44 percent of the survey respondents stated they do have a current nutrient and manure management plan and 43 percent said they did not.
With regard to manure storage capacity, 52 percent of the responding farms have less than three months of liquid manure storage, 36 percent have 3-6 months of storage, 5 percent have 7-9 months of storage and only 3 percent have 10-12 months of storage. With regard to solid manure storage, survey results indicate that 23 percent of the responding farms have less than 3 months of storage and 34 percent have 3-6 months of storage, 14 percent have 7-9 months of storage and 8 percent have 10-12 months of storage.
In terms of financial hardship, farms were asked to choose a statement that would best describe their situation if they had to construct additional manure storage to allow 9-12 months of storage capacity. Approximately 20 percent of the survey respondents checked "It could not be done in my current dairy situation. The dairy operation would end." Another 40 percent of the survey respondents checked the statement; "It could be done but at great financial hardship and greatly increasing risk of business failure."
Another 14 percent of the respondents checked the statement "It would be done as part of the cost of staying in business." In a follow up question, 43 percent of the respondents stated they would not accept a government program if cost share support was provided to help finance the cost of additional storage to stay in business, while 11 percent said they would need 50 percent cost-share financing and 27 percent said it would require 75 percent cost share financing.
More information about the survey and summary documents are available on the OSU Wayne county extension website at http://go.osu.edu/agwayne, or you can contact Wayne County Extension Educator Rory Lewandowski by phone at 330-264-8722 or by email at email@example.com. Janessa Hill, Environmental Studies graduate student at Ohio University at can be reached by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rory Lewandowski is an OSU Extension agriculture and natural resources educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.