2002 Survey of Nutrient Management

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

I just received the results of the Nutrient Management Survey that was sent out by the National Animal Health Monitoring System for 2002. The survey was sent to farmers in the 21 major dairy states of the U.S. The western portion consisted of Washington, California, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. There were a couple of results that surprised me, and I would like to pass them on to you.

My biggest surprise was that over the whole U.S., 38% of the respondents had never heard of CAFO�s. As you might expect, the smaller the herd size, the greater the percent of respondents that had never heard of CAFO�s. In the West, 33% responded that they had never heard of CAFO�s and 23% responded that they had heard of CAFO�s, but were not sure how their operation would be classified. These numbers suggest that the education push on CAFO�s either had not been successful or the year 2002 was too early to see any results. I hope if the survey were completed now, more people would say they had heard of CAFO�s. A question was also asked regarding the percent of operations that had a written nutrient management plan. In the West, 54% said they had a written plan; the number was the same in the Southeast, and only half as high in the Midwest and Northeast. A similar number (56%) of the herds with 500 cows or more said they had completed a written plan. Again, these numbers seem low, and I hope by now more respondents can answer in the affirmative.

Here in the West, almost 1 in 5 of the survey respondents used some type of lagoon for manure storage or treatment. The Southeast was similar to the West, while respondents in the Midwest and Northeast used this method at rates of only 2.4% and 0.6%, respectively. The West also had the biggest lagoons in terms of number of storage days capacity � 70% could hold 180 to over 365 days of storage with no respondent having less than 7 days storage. In contrast, the Midwest and Northeast had 30 and 49%, respectively, with less than 7 days storage. In terms of outside storage, about 1 in 5 respondents in the West used this method of storage compared with the rest of the nation that used this method at much lower levels (particularly dry lots). We also are composting more in the West with 2.4% of respondents using this method compared to 0 to 1% elsewhere in the nation.

In the West we were about 10% less likely to apply manure to ground, but about 15% more likely to sell, give away or use composted manure as bedding. As you can probably guess, this is related to larger herd sizes here in the West.

One result that should be no surprise to anyone was that the most often cited criterion for determining manure application rates, regardless of what part of the U.S. you live in (or herd size) was the amount of manure and acreage of land available. Here in the West 72% chose this criterion with 40% mentioning the nitrogen requirement of the crop and 27.5% the phosphorus requirement of the crop. Most states are now regulating manure application by phosphorus requirement of the plant, yet it ranked the lowest of all criteria.

The percentage of dairy cows by health event and primary manure handling method was listed. In terms of mastitis, almost all methods of manure handling had a similar level of clinical mastitis, approximately 15%. However, bedded pack (manure packs) had almost 34% clinical mastitis � more than double any other method. If milk quality is important to you, then managing your bedded packs well should be a high priority! The only other area of interest was that slotted floors had almost double the number of lame cows compared with other methods of manure handling.

The survey shows us our strengths and weaknesses. It also gives us a starting place for education and helping farmers bring their operations into compliance with EPA regulations. If you are interested in the results of this survey, let me know and I can help you. If you still don�t know what a CAFO is, then check out the following internet sites:

Animal Feeding Operations Virtual Information Center

CAFO Managing Manure Guidance Document