- Contact information
- For more information about news and media, contact:
- Bill Cosh
Director of Communications
Manure Runoff Media Kit
Farmer spreading manure on his field.
Photo credit: UW-Extension
Did You Know...
- Wisconsin has 3.35 million cattle and calves.
- 1,247,000 dairy cows
- 410,000 hogs
- 6,000,000 turkeys
- 34,400,000 broilers
- 83,000 sheep
- 33,000 goats
- 706,000 mink
- Most farmers carefully manage manure, but manure improperly spread on farm 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, contaminate drinking water wells and groundwater, and kill fish. The typical dairy cow, for example:
- produces 7 to 8 gallons of milk a day
- generates 150 pounds of manure a day
- generates as much organic pollution in a day as 18 people
- If a spill or runoff occurs, farmers are required to immediately call the DNR Spills Hotline at 1-800-943-0003 and take steps to contain the manure and minimize the damage.
- Dozens of manure runoff events are reported to the DNR every year. The 59 runoff events reported between July 2004 and June 2005, including more than a dozen resulting in fish kills, drew significant public attention.
- Manure spills and runoff have also contaminated several dozen private drinking water wells in recent years: between March 2006 and October 2009, 41 families with household incomes of less than $65,000 have received state compensation to replace manure-contaminated wells.
- Large manure runoffs to surface waters can not only kill fish, but the smaller animals that make up the food chain in these streams. It can take a decade or more for the aquatic community to be restored.
- State law requires large-scale farms or other farms with state wastewater discharge permits, known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOS, to follow restrictions on when and where to spread manure to decrease the risk of runoff. Smaller farms are required to meet performance standards and comply with prohibitions regarding manure storage and spreading provided the farmer is offered state financial help [PDF 663KB].
- Since 2005, when significant fish kills occurred as a result of manure runoff, DNR, the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, the University of Wisconsin System, county conservation agents and the industry itself have worked to raise awareness of the risk of winter spreading, the steps to take to contain the manure and minimize damage to lakes and rivers. Demonstrations showing farmers the steps to contain manure should a spill occur and better training of manure haulers are among those efforts.
- Watch a recent spill cleanup demonstration: Manure spill training session
- Changes to Wisconsin's rules to reduce runoff seek to further cut the phosphorus, found in both manure and commercial fertilizer, that runs off agricultural operations.12:20 PM 03/17/2012
DNR has been proactively working with partners to raise awareness about the dangers of spreading manure when rain or melting snow is forecast, with such efforts increasing after 2005 when 59 manure related incidents were reported.
Winter 2010 Campaign
The DNR launched a radio campaign to urge farmers to avoid spreading and take other steps to prevent manure runoff. The spot features a Belleville farmer and avid trout angler.
An early snow melt washed manure into the Sugar River and 12 hours later it reached our farm. The river was brown. It smelled and I spent the morning counting dead fish.
- Hear the rest of his story. [MP3: 865Kb]
Fall 2009 Campaign
DNR, DATCP, UW-Extension, NRCS and the Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin (PNAAW) are teaming up in radio advertisements, press releases and various outreach activities to reach producers with important reminders aimed at keeping Wisconsin citizens, waters and farms healthy.
Hear the advertisements
How we dispose of manure hasn't changed much in millennia, but there are growing efforts in Wisconsin and elsewhere to better manage and dispose of manure.
One quarter of Wisconsin dairy farms use managed grazing systems where the cows rotate among fields every day or two, with each field getting up to 30 days of growth and rest before the cows return. The cows, not the farmers, spread their manure.
Green Pastures, Green Futures
Managed grazing, once the Rodney Dangerfield of the agricultural world, is getting more respect.
Wisconsin, with 19 farms and counting, leads the nation in operating anaerobic digester systems that process raw manure into a combustible gas for use in generating electricity or heat.
Farm Energy from Manure
Anaerobic digestion technology is a powerful tool for managing organic farm waste, particularly cow, swine and chicken manure.
Biogas Case Study
As of July 2008, there were 17 farms with operating anaerobic digester systems in Wisconsin.
Treatment of Manure as Wastewater
St. Croix County-based Emerald Dairy now treats manure at their state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system before discharging it to an area creek.
Mary Anne Lowndes
DNR Runoff Management Section Chief
DNR agricultural runoff coordinator
Jim VandenBrook, DATCP (608) 224-4501
Kevin Erb, UWEX (920) 391-4652
Mary Anne Lowndes, DNR, (608) 261-6420
Renae Anderson, NRCS, (608) 662-4422 ext. 227
Wisconsin's Runoff Info
Clearinghouse web site with publications and other information about agricultural runoff
So when is a good time to spread manure?
UW Discovery Farms article
Cultivating a Better Solution
Natural Resources Magazine article on manure management
State Manure Management Task Force
Report from DNR/DATCP appointed group to examine runoff problems, make recommendations
Big Eau Pleine Flowage Winter Runoff Study [PDF 112KB]
2008 DNR study showing E.coli and phosphorus levels in a river following runoff
Agricultural Agency Links
More than 100 local groups get grants to tackle aquatic invasive species and runoff
Issued by DNR Central Office on Friday, April 05, 2013 at 12:00:58 PM
Reduce the risk of manure runoff from fields during high-risk times
Issued by DNR Central Office on Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 11:46:09 AM
High risk of manure runoff forecast; online forecast system provides up-to-date risk information to aid farmers
Issued by DNR Central Office on Tuesday, January 08, 2013 at 3:39:01 PM