A recent survey of Michigan livestock producers indicates that they are continuing to adopt scientifically grounded manure-management practices, though there is still room for improvement.

The survey of randomly selected dairy, swine, beef and poultry producers was conducted by Michigan State University (MSU) Extension in spring 2005. Producer responses were compared to similar surveys conducted in 1995 and 2002.

“Our producers have made some needed positive steps forward in terms of adopting environmentally sound management practices,” says Allen Krizek, MSU Extension liaison for the Michigan Groundwater Stewardship Program. “But until we have 100 percent adoption of the recommended practices, we still have work to do.”

Some key findings from the survey included:

  • Nearly 87 percent of the producers are familiar with the Michigan Right-to-Farm Act’s generally accepted agricultural management practices (GAAMPs), compared to 64 percent in 1995 and 76 percent in 2002.
  • Livestock producers have increased their use of management practices to control odor — For example, avoid spreading near neighbors, avoid spreading on weekends and holidays, incorporate or inject manure into the soil. Nearly 75 percent of the producers spread manure only when the weather conditions are conducive for minimizing odor.
  • Livestock confinement systems and vegetative filter strips are the most frequently used practices for controlling contaminated runoff on the farmstead.
  • Maintaining manure spreading setbacks and crop residue were the most commonly used management practices to control manure runoff in the field.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the responding producers soil test for nutrients every three years, or more frequently.
  • More than half of the producers test manure for nutrient value. Less than one-quarter manure tested in 1995.
  • Nearly two-thirds of the producers who responded to the survey maintain manure application records. Only one-quarter did so in 1995.
  • More than one-third of the producers have written manure management plans. Most producers with manure management plans use them to determine manure application rates and to avoid surface water contamination.
  • Almost half of the producers who spread liquid manure monitor field tile outlets for discharges.
  • Nearly all producers who spread manure in the winter consider runoff potential when selecting fields for winter spreading. The most commonly considered field characteristics include slope, presence of crop residue or trash and no or little surface water.

“The survey results had a lot of high points, but they also showed us where we need to continue to work on making improvements,” Krizek said. “When we compare the results from larger and smaller operations, we see that larger livestock producers are more likely to implement recommended manure management practices than smaller producers.”

Based on the survey findings, MSU Extension recommends that livestock-serving organizations continue providing manure management assistance for all producers, especially those with smaller operations. Organizations also need to continue to work to strengthen voluntary pollution prevention programs that provide educational, technical and financial assistance for livestock producers.

The recommendations also call for organizing workgroups by commodity to further evaluate the study’s findings under the auspices of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP). MAEAP resources should be directed to assisting producers who are not implementing recommended manure management practices.

“To address the specific needs of small operations, we recommended that producers enroll in MAEAP Progressive Planning to allow incremental improvements in manure management practices,” Krizek added. “We also think it is important to repeat the manure management survey in three to five years to evaluate our progress and find out what information producers need to continue to improve their manure management efforts.”

To read the survey results report, including data by species, producer comments and the survey instruments, go to: www.kbs.msu.edu/extension/2005mmps.pdf.

Michigan StateUniversity