March 24 2014 09:04 AM

Small improvements each year make runoff control less burdensome.

With spring approaching, runoff concerns come to mind for many dairy farmers around the country. Managing or redirecting the water that could run to or through manure storage facilities and confined animal feeding areas provides many benefits. Not only is runoff management a responsible choice to lessen environmental impact, it reduces manure storage needs, reduces the cost of manure handling and application, and improves animal health.

Making regular improvements to your runoff control will help to spread the costs over multiple years and seasons. There are options to collect runoff water so it can be treated, pretreated or for solids to settle before it makes it way to any nearby waterways. You determine what is best for your operation and your land.

First consider ways to keep clean water from entering barnyard and feedlot areas. UMass Extension recommends the following:
  • Roof gutters
  • Surface water diversions
  • Drip trenches
UMass Extension also recommends diverting the wastewater around or away from animal areas with the following:
  • Grass filter buffers
  • Sediment basins
  • Diversions
  • Subsurface drainage
  • Evaporative or shallow holding ponds in drier conditions
Start with making a list of the improvements you feel would benefit your farm. Then prioritize the list from most urgent to least urgent. Tackle just one item at a time, spread the improvements out over a few years to lessen financial strain and you'll have a runoff control plan in place with ease.

Ali blog footerThe author, Ali Enerson, was is the special publications editor, responsible for books, plans, distribution of the e-newsletter and various internal communication pieces. She grew up on a 60-cow dairy in northwest Wisconsin, and is a graduate of University of Wisconsin–Madison with a degree in life sciences communications.