Sample Forages: No Pass with COVID-19
By Deanne Meyer, Ph.D., Livestock Waste Management Specialist
Dept. of Animal Science, UC Davis and UC ANR

Wow, what a difference a month makes. For many, the last weeks have been a blur. Shelter-in-place! How do we get milk supply managed? Who counts as essential workers? Will my employees get hassled coming to or leaving work? What kind of personal protective gear is needed and how long will it take to get here? The list of questions goes on.

With spring comes harvest and ground preparation for the summer corn crop. The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board’s regulations remain unchanged with COVID-19. It’s important to continue to sample your forages (one sample from each field where manure was applied). Also, remember to take quarterly samples of liquid manure or your regular solid manure samples as they are land applied. Labs remain open for business. You’ll want to call ahead to identify how samples get dropped off while maintaining social distancing obligations.

It’s important to remember to track all applications of manure to land (for dairies in Regions 1, 2, and 5). Water Quality Control Board inspectors were out in March (North Coast) and continue to do inspections (Central Valley).

Increased enforcement in the Central Valley has resulted in Cease and Desist Orders issued to dairies. Application of manure to land is acceptable when done within the parameters of Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) budgets. However, over application of manure, resulting in crop stunting or death, is not in line with an NMP. This over application is also a violation of Waste Discharge Requirements. Notices of Violation that continue to occur focus on over application of nutrients. In fact, a few Cease and Desist Orders were issued. A Cease and Desist Order is a huge deal for producers. If you end up on the receiving end, you’ll be spending quality time with your lawyers. One recently settled for $108,000. Another is in negotiation, and more are on the way.

How do you avoid Notices of Violation and Cease and Desist Orders? Use your NMP. Follow your nutrient budget. Take all required samples and maintain required records. Implementing your NMP generates required record keeping documentation. You want to be sure you have all of your documentation in order and up to date. Be sure to export manure off-site if you have more manure than land available for application.

Stay safe and stay healthy!