By Deanne Meyer, Ph.D., Livestock Waste Management Specialist Dept. of Animal Science, UC Davis and UC ANR

It’s that time of the year again! With hot weather comes  the reminder to prepare for winter. Now is the time to think “winter” as you drive around the dairy. According to the Farmers’ Almanac, we have a cooler than normal summer with rainfall slightly above normal for much of California (Pacific South West Region).

Sufficient liquid storage capacity and proper use of nutrients are at the top of the management list. Dairies with a Waste Management Plan stamped by an engineer have a calculated amount of storage available for manure and wash water generated over the winter collection period. There’s also an assumption on rain runoff collected. This calculation usually assumes that much of that storage is in fact available on a given day in fall. Double checking to be sure that storage is indeed present in fall is important. Removing solids in summer is a key practice to make sufficient storage capacity in ponds during winter. Drying solids and relocating them is easiest to do before rains. Attention to cow soakers after October may reduce the generated water associated with misters that mist concrete instead of cows. Think about storage capacity and the amount of water generated by soakers. Added water (if it’s available from Irrigation Districts) also takes up valuable storage capacity. If you do take water, be sure you’re using the right amount and testing nutrient composition more frequently.

Managing Nutrient Budgets is important. The job description of your Budget is to help you manage nutrients. This should keep your synthetic fertilizer value down and minimize nitrate leaching to groundwater. Double check your Nutrient Budget (when manure will be land applied) with storage capacity (is there enough room to hold more process water generated?).

It’s been quite a while since most Budgets were written. It’s important Budgets reflect what is happening on your dairy. They are your road map for land application of manure.

Here’s an abbreviated to-do list. A quick review of your Operation and Maintenance Plan will help fill out your list.

  • Review liquid storage capacity calculations to see if there are ways to save storage
  • Review challenges from last winter regarding liquid manure collection and
  • Dredge or bale ponds well before rains arrive. Use an impermeable surface (if available) to temporarily stack manure solids. Keep this material away from sensitive areas (streams, creeks, wellheads). Place on well packed soil or concrete if
  • Minimize repeated year-after-year stacking of pond dredgings in the same
  • Conduct maintenance on pumps in settling basins, lagoons, storage
  • Check any spare pumps or parts that may be used in
  • Manage weeds (weed whack or mow) around ponds so visual evaluation is possible. Weed control is important. Weeds can impair structural integrity. As roots die and decay, spaces can provide path for liquid flow (breaching).
  • Evaluate pond banks for slope failures, rodent holes, and structural integrity. Manage pond banks as needed (repair or implement a rodent control plan).
  • Review the farm’s Nutrient Budget to be sure it reflects what is actually occurring at field
  • Input remaining nutrient management data from summer crop (irrigations and harvest data).
  • Pile, remove, and haul or cover solid manure from
  • Fill potholes in corrals or areas where solid manure is
  • Remember to take monthly pond photos (in the valley) or annual pond photos (North Coast)
  • Repair roofs, clean gutters, and downspouts if
  • Locate flexible hosing and appropriate clamps for

Here’s hoping our rains come when needed and with just the right amount of water!