Last Friday, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on Friday approved Rosendale Dairy’s request to modify its water-protection permit to allow it to expand to 8,000 cows and to increase to 12,000 acres the land manure is spread on. The modified permit contains the most restrictive conditions ever imposed on a farm in the 26-year history of DNR’s permit program for large farms.

“We’ve taken existing laws as far as they can go to assure that significant safeguards are in place to maximize protection for the environment,” says Gordon Stevenson, who leads the DNR’s runoff management section.

The permit imposes conditions over and above the requirements contained in permits issued to other large livestock operations, including:

  • Extra limits on how much manure and commercial fertilizer can be spread on fields under different conditions;
  • A greater distance between water wells and where manure can be spread; Rosendale must meet a 200 foot well “setback,” double the 100 foot setback laws require.
  • Groundwater monitoring. Most permitted farms are not required to conduct groundwater monitoring; the few that do monitor quarterly. Rosendale has been required to monitor monthly. Under the permit modification, Rosendale will be allowed to revert to quarterly monitoring if none of their water samples exceed groundwater quality standards for 24 straight months.
  • Greater scrutiny of their plan for managing how, when and where they apply manure and other nutrients.
  • Additional monitoring of pipelines carrying liquid manure.

More details on these requirements and a list of other enhanced water protection requirements can be found online.

Rosendale’s original permit was approved in 2009 with the understanding that the dairy would pursue a second phase of development that would double the number of animals on the property, and that the permit would need to be modified to accommodate the increase in size.

Rosendale Dairy requested modifications to its permit to expand from its currently permitted size of 4,000 dairy cows and to increase the land it was spreading manure on from about 4,000 acres to 12,000 acres.

An Environmental Impact Statement examining potential impacts associated with doubling the operation size was completed during the first permit issuance process.

Under federal and state laws, farms with 1,000 animal units –the equivalent of 700 milking cows, 1,000 beef cattle, 2,500 feeder pigs, or 55,000 turkeys –are required to get the permits. Wisconsin may require them for smaller farms as well if the farms have had past manure problems or meet other risk factors.

Such large farms, often called “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” or “CAFOs” for short, meet a slate of requirements including that they submit plans and specifications for regulated activities, that they not spread liquid manure during frozen/snow-covered conditions, that they have a minimum of 6 months storage for liquid manure and that they follow a phosphorus based nutrient management plan and collect detailed landspreading and inspection records, among other requirements.

About 190 of Wisconsin’s 30,000 livestock and poultry operations are CAFOs. Most of the permitted farms have dairy cows, and CAFOs house about 10 percent of Wisconsin’s 1.25 million dairy cows.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources