When you have too many tomatoes in late August, you don’t just throw them away, right? You save them by storing them properly so that you can enjoy them at another time. As dairy farmers, our cows produce more manure than we can handle all at once. That’s because in winter there is snow covering the ground, and in the summer, we have crops that are growing – so our ability to spread manure 365 days a year is limited. Therefore, we need to store manure so that we can use it another day.
Manure storage is considered a best management practice by both agriculture and environmental organizations. Most dairy farms use a certified professional engineer to design the storage facility, which is also regulated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. In designing a manure storage, farmers consider lots of factors before deciding on the final design and location. Those factors include: soil type, proximity to water source, property boundaries, local ordinances, their neighbors, and more.
Cows produce two valuable commodities – milk and manure. The average dairy cow produces over 100 pounds of manure a day. Manure is an excellent source of nitrogen and phosphorus, two nutrients necessary for healthy crops, as well as organic matter that helps improve soil health and fertility. Manure storage helps dairy farms do a better job of recycling those nutrients found in manure to grow crops for their cows. Manure storage also allows them the flexibility to avoid spreading in questionable weather conditions, which also aids in reducing the risk of potential runoff into nearby streams.
Yes, manure smells, and storing manure does make it more pungent, unfortunately. However, farmers work hard to reduce the odor by either injecting the nutrients directly into the soil, plowing the manure into the field after application, adding odor-reducing landscaping around the manure storage, and some even have an anaerobic digester, which nearly eliminates the odor in its entirety. Farmers choose to store and spread manure on their fields in an effort to replace nutrients taken up by growing crops, so that they don’t have to purchase costly commercial fertilizers and so they can grow great crops for their hungry cows.
If you have any questions about manure storage on dairy farms in New York, please don’t hesitate to ask! We’d love to explain it to you further!