In early January 2017, the Wayne County Extension office in partnership with the Wayne County Farm Bureau, Wayne County SWCD and NRCS, the Wayne County Ag Success Team and the Wayne-Ashland Dairy Service Unit, mailed a survey to 339 Wayne County dairy farms to determine the current manure storage capacity on those farms. Addresses of dairy farms were provided by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and included both Grade A and Grade B milk producers. The purpose of the survey was to gather base-line information to assess how prepared Wayne County dairy farms are to comply with Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) type of clean water/nutrient management legislation. Surveys were returned in early February of 2017 and Ohio University Environmental Studies graduate student Janessa Hill tabulated survey responses and prepared summaries of the results.
SB 1 legislation became effective on July 3, 2015 and currently covers the Western Lake Erie Basin and contains specific provisions regarding manure application and prohibitions against application of manure (and granular fertilizer) during winter months and when soils are saturated. Depending upon who you talk to, it is expected that this type of legislation will move state-wide in the future, possibly within two to five years. In order to comply with the winter application prohibitions and other manure application provisions, the general consensus of persons who work with manure management and write manure management plans, seems to be that most farms should have 9 to 12 months of manure storage. The SB 1 law provided medium-sized facilities (200-699 dairy cattle) a year to comply with the regulations. Small agricultural operations could apply for a two year exemption before compliance. The entire SB 1 legislation text is available at: http://tiny.cc/OHSenateBill1.
The dairy farm manure storage survey was designed to collect information regarding the type of manure storage present on dairy farms along with the storage capacity and typical manure application timing. Additionally, the survey asked farms to rate the degree of financial hardship that would be experienced if legislation similar to SB 1 was extended to Wayne County and additional manure storage had to be added.
The goal is to use the collected survey information in conversations with legislators, policy makers, and other elected officials to provide a better understanding of the on-farm situation within the county. It is hoped that this baseline data might help to guide legislators as they craft water quality/nutrient management legislation and avoid unintended consequences for agriculture. The results of the survey have implications for compliance time frames, environmental considerations and the social fabric of the community. The information collected regarding the financial cost and hardship that will be incurred by adding additional manure storage has to be considered in any future clean water/nutrient management legislation.
According to Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) statistics, there are 32,000 milk cows in Wayne County. Surveys mailed back to the Wayne County Extension office represented a total of 14,811 dairy cows or about 46% of the ODA statistic number. The overall survey return rate was 33%. The majority of dairy farms who completed the survey indicated the use of both liquid and bedded pack manure storage systems for their milking herd, with bedded pack manure storage the dominant form of manure storage for the heifers and calves. When asked about a nutrient/manure management plan, 44% of the survey respondents stated they do have a current nutrient and manure management plan and 43% said they did not. With regard to manure storage capacity, 52% of the responding farms have less than three months of liquid manure storage, 36% have three to six months of storage, 5% have seven to nine months of storage and only 3% have 10 to 12 months of storage. With regard to solid manure storage, survey results indicate that 23% of the responding farms have less than three months of storage and 34% have three to six months of storage, 14% have seven to nine months of storage and 8% have 10 to 12 months of storage.
In terms of financial hardship, farms were asked to choose a statement that would best describe their situation if they had to construct additional manure storage to allow nine to 12 months of storage capacity. Approximately 20% of the survey respondents checked “It could not be done in my current dairy situation. The dairy operation would end.” Another 40% of the survey respondents checked the statement; “It could be done but at great financial hardship and greatly increasing risk of business failure.” Another 14% of the respondents checked the statement “It would be done as part of the cost of staying in business.” In a follow up question, 43% of the respondents stated they would not accept a government program if cost share support was provided to help finance the cost of additional storage to stay in business, while 11% said they would need 50% cost-share financing and 27% said it would require 75% cost share financing.
More information about the survey and survey summary documents with results to all the survey questions are available on the OSU Wayne county extension website at: http://go.osu.edu/Waynedairymanuresurvey.