Free fun for everyone June 1 & 2

The weather is finally warming up and according to our calendars it is time for spring. Which also means it is a busy time for farmers. They are in the fields planting, harvesting winter crops and spreading manure…and the list does not stop there.

Coming from a family where both parents are farmers, I know there isn’t much “free” time to get away from the farm for a little rest and recovery during this time of the year.

What if you didn’t have to travel far to take a short little vacation for free? Did you know you that on June 1-2 you can ride or hike the bike trails, take your ATV/UTV on public trails or pack up the fishing poles and bait and fish anywhere in Wisconsin for free? And, on Sunday, June 2, you get free admission to state parks too! You heard it right, you can fish, bike, hike get into state parks and ride ATV/UTV’s for FREE!!

Free Fishing

If fishing is your thing grab the fishing pool and cooler and head out to the open water. 

Free Trail Use

Brush the dust off the bike, pack a snack and find a trail near you to enjoy.

Free ATV/UTV Riding

Gas up your ATV or UTV and ride the miles of trails that Wisconsin has to offer. 

Free Park Admission (June 2 only)

No need to purchase a state park sticker for Sunday, June 2- admission is free.  Pack a picnic, grab your hiking shoes and visit one or maybe even three, of Wisconsin’s state parks. 

Find the fun in your backyard, take a short break from the farm fields and enjoy Wisconsin’s natural resources June 1 and 2 where the fun isn’t far away. Don’t just take my word for it, get out and enjoy the outdoors.

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Contour Buffer Strips, are they right for your farm?

No two farm croplands are the same in Wisconsin. This means that a management practice that works great for one farm may not necessarily be the right fit for your farm.

If your cropland is susceptible to sheet and rill erosion, contour buffer strips are a management practice that you may want to consider. Talk with your local land conservation agent to develop a management plan that works for your farm because you want to be certain that the acres planned for crops strips will meet your production goals.

What are contour buffer strips?

Contour buffer strips are strips of grass or permanent vegetation in a contoured field that help trap sediments or nutrients. Serving as a filter for runoff, buffer strips can also improve surface water quality and trap pesticides and other contaminants from entering water sources. And, if a farmer decides to keep the vegetation tall in the spring, the strips can also help slow down runoff.

The grass strips are about 15 feet wide and commonly make up 20-30 percent of the slope and can provide food and nesting cover for small birds and animals.

Once the buffer strips are put in, the maintenance is on an “as needed” basis. The farmer may need to control the weeds and brush, fertilize and re-established vegetation by moving the strips up or down throughout the years.

There are challenges to protect Wisconsin’s natural resources. A farmer must think about every pasture, pond, stream, wetland and woodland to see what conservation practices would work or their farm because not all practices work for the same landscapes. If you think contour buffer strips may be a management practice that will work for your farm give your local land conservation officer a call.

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The 101 about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Farmers are stewards of the land. Sometimes the stewards of the land need financial help to keep up with implementation of conservation practices. That is where the Environment Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) comes into play.

EQIP is a volunteer conservation program that supports production agriculture and environmental quality offered by the United States Department of Agricultural – Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS). They work with farmers to implement conservation practices on agricultural lands.

The financial program in Wisconsin offers to help offset the costs of the implementation of the farmer’s conservation practices. The incentive payments are made to encourage a farmer to adopt land management practices such as manure management, nutrient management, integrated pest management or wildlife habitat management.

Is your agricultural establishment eligible?

If you are a producer engaged in livestock or crop production you can apply for financial assistance. Land owners or renters with cropland, rangeland, pastures, private non-industrial forestland and other farm or ranch lands qualify to apply.

Where to start?

If you are interested in applying for EQIP, you should first develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan that meets all the NRCS technical standards.

Your next step will be to submit an application to your local National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) office. From there, your application will be evaluated on the use of cost effective conservation practices and the benefit your plan will make to the environment.

If you are interested in learning more about EQIP, contact NRCS at your local USDA Service center or your local county land conservation department.

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What to do when Runoff Happens

From heavy rains in the south to May snowfall in the north, Wisconsin’s weather has been very unpredictable lately. This spring’s irregular weather underscores why it’s important to pay attention to the weather when planning manure applications.  Making the right decision in timing manure applications can go a long way toward avoiding manure runoff that can cost valuable nutrients to potentially affect Wisconsin’s waters.

Another important part of planning manure applications is having an emergency response plan and a nutrient management plan for your farm.

A nutrient management plan can help prevent a spill or runoff from happening in the first place.  Nutrient management plans help identify fields that have a low risk of runoff for times of the year when conditions are risky for runoff but manure must be applied.  Farmers can talk to their agronomist to help create a nutrient plan that will help guide where and when to spread manure. The plan will also help farmers decrease their fertilizer costs, maximize productivity of the manure and reduce the risk for runoff into streams and drinking water.

But as we all know, the weather can throw a wrench in even the best of plans, and unexpected runoff and accidents can happen. That is why having an emergency response plan is important and is easy to do.  Such a plan helps you know who to call, what steps you’re going to take when something goes wrong and what supplies to have on hand. Part of creating an emergency response plan also helps identify other options to land applying manure under risky spreading conditions, such as using a neighbor’s storage facility.  The better the decision you can make and the faster you can respond, the more likely you can contain the manure and minimize the damage.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service and Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection have easy–to-follow emergency plans that you can print, fill out and post. Put it in the tractor, farm office or any other place that will be quick to grab if a spill or runoff occurs on your farm. And remember, if a spill does occur on your farm you need to report the spill immediately. You can do this by calling the 24-hour spill emergency hotline-1-800-943-0003.

Having a nutrient management plan and runoff emergency plan are great ways to prevent runoff and keep Wisconsin’s waters clean.  When farmers plan now, they reduce their runoff risk later.

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Manure as a Fertilizer

Imagine that you are a farmer and you are looking at fertilizer options for your fields. You also have dairy cows on your farm that produce about 150 pounds of manure a day. When you put these two things together and you have an inexpensive way to feed nutrients into your fields.

Manure contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients, all which make manure a suitable fertilizer for crops. Manure also adds organic matter to the soil, which can improve soil structure, aeration, soil moisture-holding capacity and water infiltration.

The amount of manure produced on one farm does not necessarily hold the same nitrogen value as the next. There are many factors that determine the nitrogen content that is fed into the soil. It varies between the animal species, feed ration, age of manure, storage and bedding for starters.

Manure is most profitable when it is…

  • applied to fields near the farming operation
  • has relatively high nutrient concentration
  • is applied to a crop or crop rotation that can utilize all the nutrients

Farmers are recycling. The integration of manure as a fertilizer helps in the disposal of manure and gives nutrients to the crops that feed the animals that produce manure.

Look for a post in the near future that will talk about how to find the right balance of manure for your farm fields using nutrient management plans.

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Setting Manure Goals

Have fields or areas that are susceptible to manure runoff? In this post we’ll be talking about a few ways to keep manure and clean water sources separate and how to help you find manure management practices that are a good fit for your farm.

Goal number one: Are you using manure nutrients for enhancing soil?

The price of fertilizer has dramatically increased in the past couple of years. That is why it is practical to use a common fertilizer that is already being produced on your farm…manure. It is best to first develop nutrient strategies with a certified crop adviser so you are able to utilize the soil nutrients that improve on the fertility and productivity of your crops.

Goal number two: Are you protecting the health and safety of the public and livestock when you handle manure?

Limiting animal’s access to ponds, streams, ditches and wetlands, collecting manure frequently and avoiding stockpiling manure in a dry creek bed or ditches can help keep clean water sources clean.

Goal number three: In what ways are you preventing surface and ground water contamination?

By incorporating proper manure management practices on your farm, you can divert clean water away from manure by constructing berms, diversions or filter strips.

What do all these terms mean? Here are a handful of definitions.

Diversion is a channel constructed across a slope with a supporting ridge on the lower side and is put in place to control erosion and runoff.

Berms are designed to capture and let runoff soak in during frequent, but small storms. Constructing it perpendicular to the direction of runoff allows the pollutants to settle before the water is slowly released into pastures.

Filter strips slow runoff from fields by trapping and filtering nutrients, pesticides and sediments before reaching the surface waters.  They are planted between fields and the surface water to protect water quality.

If you have more questions on any of these terms please drop us a comment!

All of these goals and practices are discussion points to talk with your agronomist, crop adviser or land county officer when you are creating or updating your nutrient management plan. It is important to consider all options because one style does not fit all. Climate, landscape and herd sizes vary from farm to farm. Before you make plans and invest the money, see what method works best for you.

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Manure application through the seasons

Wisconsin’s seasons can be unpredictable. Sometimes winter may run long or spring may come early. We cannot control the weather, but we can be aware of the alternatives to manure spreading when the weather is less than ideal.

Here are a few seasonal tips for manure spreading

Applying to headlands during the spring

Even though the weather may feel like spring, check to make sure the ground is not frozen, snow-covered or saturated before applying manure. Spread to areas immediately before tillage in the spring and confirm that weather and field conditions are ideal before spreading. Check your local conditions by using the Runoff Risk Advisory Forecast System developed by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, UW-Madison and the National Weather Service.

Storing manure during the summer

During the summer months it is best to frequently transfer manure from barnyards and calf pens to the designated storage facility. If you do not have enough storage, summer application is suitable for pastures, summer fallow and forage crops  

Checking soil temperatures in the fall before spreading

Some farmers choose to inject manure in the fall. This allows more time for the organic portions of manure to break down before the plants need the nutrients in the spring. It is recommended that you apply manure in late fall when soil temperatures are below 50 degrees. Refer back to your nutrient plan when determining the amount of manure spread on each acre. Low soil temperatures prevent the nitrogen in the manure to be lost in leaching.

Ground frozen? Avoid spreading in the winter

Winter manure application should be viewed as a last resort. When the ground is frozen, the nutrients from the manure cannot be incorporated into the field and the risk for runoff increases significantly. If you need to spread during the winter, avoid slopes greater than six percent. Work with your local crop consultant or your county land conservation department to develop a winter spreading plan. Having a plan will minimize the risks for runoff.

Though it is not always easy, manure management is important for crops, soil health and water quality. Take a look at the weather and field conditions before you take the tractor and manure spreader to the field.

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Welcome to Livestock to Land and Everything in Between

Hello visitors!

We are excited to start the conversation. We will be talking about nutrient management, manure storage, transfer and treatment, water conservation and so much more. If you have a topic or question that you want to learn more about, leave a comment. Because at the end of the day this platform is to have conversations about healthy manure management and how to keep Wisconsin’s waters clean. So “spread” the word and follow along on this blogging journey from livestock to land and everything in between.

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