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Feedlot runoff contains extremely large loads of nutrients and oxygen demanding substances, and if not properly collected and prevented from entering surface waters, this runoff can severely degrade surface water quality.

The impacts on surface water quality and aquatic life from manure lagoon and storage basin spills, feedlot runoff, and applications of manure to frozen ground can be devastating.

The number of documented serious water quality pollution problems involving manure lagoon spills and feedlot runoff is generally several tens of events per year in each of the states with high concentrations of feedlots.

There have been 14 documented incidents of cryptosporidium disease outbreaks in U.S. and Canada since 1984. Four of these events were linked to nonpoint source agricultural pollution, the others were primarily caused by septic tank and human sewage contamination.

Animals located where their waste has a direct pathway for runoff losses to surface waters have a much greater potential to degrade water quality than animals located away from these direct pathways or on pasture land.

Recently, Hennepin Parks and the Hennepin Conservation District have initiated feedlot studies in the Lake Independence watershed using grant monies from the Metropolitan Council. The project, Reducing Non-Point Source Pollution from Backyard Livestock, will

1. Educate livestock owners about problems associated with small livestock operations, (less than 50 animal units, see below for a definition)

2. Locate project sites by providing free soil testing of pasture and hayland on a voluntary basis,

3. Provide technical assistance to livestock owners to properly manage their feedlots, and

4. Provide cost-share funds for project implementation. Possible best management practices (BMP's) include having a cooperatively owned manure spreader, constructing roofed storage facilities etc., and establishing a manure hauling service for livestock owners who have no other environmentally sound manure management option. Promotion of the project will occur through newsletters, newspaper articles, displays, presentations and workshops, and by offering free pasture and cropland soil testing, with samples collected by the Lake Independence Homeowners Association.

What is an animal unit?

An animal unit (au) is calculated by multiplying the number of animals by the factors shown below. It is defined by federal and state regulations. See also (Minnesota Rules 7020.0300 subp 5 - page 7) and the current Minnesota Feedlot Rules . The table below is based on the rules as of February 2002.

1 slaughter steer or stock cow 1.0 au 1 chicken > 5 lbs 0.005 au
1 feeder cattle or heifer 0.7 au 1 chicken < 5 lbs 0.003 au
1 cow and calf pair 1.2 au 1 turkey > 5 lbs 0.018 au
1 calf 0.2 au 1 turkey < 5 lbs 0.005 au
1 swine > 300 lbs 0.4 au 1 duck 0.01 au
1 swine 55 to 300 lbs 0.3 au 1 sheep or lamb 0.1 au
1 swine < 55 lbs 0.05 au    
1 horse 1.0 au au = avg wt lbs/1000 lbs  

Information provided by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Planning Agency.

Find more information here.

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