Have a manure spill kit ready to go into action

A manure spill kit is a must have tool for Michigan dairy and livestock producers.

Protecting the environment is a major concern for animal agriculture. Over the last 10 years thousands of farms have evaluated, re-evaluated and improved their environmental management plans and practices. Without a doubt, these activities have made a positive difference in the environmental impact of animal agriculture. A major part of that effort has been about ensuring the manure spread on fields stays there and that the plant nutrients in that manure are utilized effectively by the crops planted there. To accomplish these two goals, farmers try to account for a whole variety of factors: weather, soil saturation, manure coverage, cover crops, soil types, slope and direction and depth of cultivation. But, the one thing that can never be completely accounted for are the events that cannot be controlled—the punctured tire, the blown hose, the cracked irrigation pipe or anyone of a hundred other possible accidents and failures. While these accidents are common enough, even expected, they can only be planned for, not prevented entirely.

If there is going to be some sort of accidental manure spill, it is better to be prepared than not. One way to prepare is to have a “Manure Spill Kit” assembled and ready to go. A spill kit does not require complicated engineering or training to use. It is merely a collection of tools and supplies, gathered ready to deploy to halt a sudden equipment failure or accident which has unleashed a flow of manure to somewhere it does not belong.

Dr. Kris Kohl, Iowa State University Extension agricultural engineer suggests the following items be assembled into a trailer or pickup-sized spill kit.

  • A copy of the farm’s emergency response plan. Including site maps and emergency numbers.
  • One to two dozen small square bales of hay or straw. Use these to build a berm or diversion.
  • 10 T Posts. Used to support bale stacks or plywood.
  • 14” diameter PVC Pipe sections. 4- 3Ft. sections and 2-4FT. sections. Used to cover tile inlets.
  • Several 12ft. X 25ft -6 mil plastic sheets. Use with duct tape to cover tile inlets or other sensitive areas.
  • 4 bags of bentonite chips. Used to plug small gaps in creating a berm or diversion.
  • 1 sheet 4ft. X 4ft. plywood. Used to block culverts. Round one end to fit the curve of ditch.
  • Pliers – 1 each: vice grips, fencing plier, channel lock pliers, standard pliers
  • Hammers – 1 each. 16oz. and 3lb.
  • 1 utility knife
  • 1 hand saw
  • 1 post driver
  • 1 roll duct tape
  • Baling wire
  • Shovels

The “kit” should be held readily available for deployment during manure transfer and spreading. Because on a slope of even less than 2 degrees, liquid manure will flow as fast as 5 feet per second, time will be essential to getting any spill under control and contained.

Still, a large-scale trailer- or truck-mounted spill kit may not always be an available or efficient option for every farm situation. To help ensure some level of preparedness for all situations a small-scale “pocket” spill kit should be available. A “pocket” spill kit consisting of a roll of duct tape, 12ft. X 25ft. – 6 mil plastic sheet, utility knife and a shovel, can be stored away in a tractor or pickup cab ready to deploy on a small scale spill before it turns into a large scale spill. 

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