Winter application of manure

Given the warmer than normal winter and large amounts of rainfall received in areas, some livestock producers will be looking to apply manure in February when farm fields are frozen enough to support application equipment. Permitted farms are not allowed to apply manure in the winter unless it is an extreme emergency, and then movement to other suitable storage is usually the selected alternative. This article is for medium and small livestock operations.

In the Grand Lake St Marys watershed, the winter manure application ban from Dec. 15 to March 1 is still in effect. Thus, no manure application would normally be allowed in February.

In the western Lake Erie basin watershed, the application of manure to frozen and snow covered soils require there to be a growing crop in the field. This could be a pasture, alfalfa, clover, ryegrass or rape crop. There must be enough vegetation visible to provide 90% cover of residue and growing vegetation. Radishes and oats would not qualify as a growing crop as both are typically winterkilled.

The statewide rainfall rule for surface manure application is a weather forecast saying “not greater than a 50% chance of a half inch or more of rain in the next 24 hours.” It is advisable to print out the weather forecast when you start applying manure so you have the needed proof if an unexpected storm drenches the area. is the accepted website for this forecast.

Small animal operations (those with less than 37,500 laying chickens, 200 dairy cows, 300 finishing cattle, 750 finishing hogs, 3,000 sheep, or 150 horses) can still be exempt from the growing crop requirement for this winter if they have completed the Application for Exemption from Ohio Revised Code 939.08(A). The form can be accessed at: and will only be good through July 3 of 2017.

Winter manure application should also follow the NRCS 590 standards, which limit solid manure application to five tons per acre and liquid manure application to 5,000 gallons per acre. These have 200-foot setback distances from ditches, streams and creeks and must be on slopes of less than 6% and less than 20-acre areas without additional buffers.

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