Be a good neighbor when spreading manure

Using the best management practices when spreading manure can decrease your probability of having a Right to Farm complaint.

Manure odor is an unwelcome guest at any outdoor party. It is important to implement a “good neighbor” policy when planning spring and summer manure applications.

Over half of the Right to Farm (RTF) complaints filed with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2010 were due to odor. It is no surprise that the number of complaints increases in the spring and summer months. This is the time that people are outside, enjoying their backyards and farmers are in the field.

Following common sense, best management practices can decrease your probability of having a RTF complaint and increase your popularity in the neighborhood.

  • Don’t spread when wind is blowing towards people, parks or yards.
  • Avoid spreading on weekends and holidays in nice weather, when people are likely to be outdoors. This is probably one of the best ways to avoid RTF odor complaints.
  • Mornings may be a better time to spread than afternoons because the air is rising and may carry the odor with it.
  • Really turbulent breezes will dissipate and dilute odors; however, hot humid weather will hold odor near the surface. Use this information wisely!
  • Take advantage of woodlots and windbreaks. They can filter and dissipate odor.
  • Out of sight, out of mind – plant shrubs and conifers as windbreaks and visual screens.
  • Incorporate manure into soil during, or as soon as possible after applications. Options include injections or incorporations within 48 hours, weather permitting.
  • When incorporation is not feasible, such as no-till, pasture or alfalfa, pay special attention to where the odor will travel and who it may impact.

In addition to these best management practices, many farmers use a little imagination when building neighbor relations. Some of the more creative ideas are providing close neighbors a gift card to go out to dinner the day of the application. Others have opened a park-like setting on their farm for neighbors to enjoy. Another farmer grows extra sweet corn and distributes to the neighbors. All of these are ways to be seen as a good neighbor and not just the unwelcome guest (odor) at an outdoor party.

Best management practices are available in the MDARD Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices for Manure Management and Utilization.

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