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A survey of manure management in Louisiana dairy farms.

V. R. Moreira



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A survey of manure management in Louisiana dairy farms.
V. R. Moreira*1, B. D. LeBlanc1,2, C. Franze1,2, E. M. Mackey1,3, C. A. Njombwa1,4. 1Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Baton Rouge, LA, 2Louisiana State University Sea Grant Baton Rouge, LA, 3Washington State University Puyallup, WA, 4Lunyangwa Agricultural Research Station Mzuzu, Malawi.

The number of Louisiana dairy farms has declined at rates >8%/yr, while cow numbers decreased by >70% in the last 15 years. Despite the decline in dairy farms, considerable concerns about manure spills and water contamination remain. The objectives of this study were to assess current dairy manure management in Louisiana. The survey was developed and approved by a stakeholder committee including dairy farmers, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organization and university personnel. This study summarizes part of a survey evaluating ownership characteristics, current management practices, and current and potential assistance programs. A study questionnaire was collected by trained personnel and data were managed using REDCap electronic applications hosted at Louisiana State University. The response rate was 41.7% among dairy farmers holding Louisiana Department of Health permits. Nearly 83% of farms surveyed were operated privately or in family partnership. Most dairies (93% of respondents) were located on Lake Pontchartrain watershed and most had 200 cows or fewer (88.4%). Liquid was the prevailing form of manure flushed or washed (95%) off the milking parlor and waiting area (97.7%), where cows spent an average of 4.9 h/d (4.7 h/d in summer and 5.1 h/d in winter). Cows spent most of the remainder of the day (18 h) on pasture. Liquid manure was managed in lagoons designed to hold effluent over multiple years: more than 2/3 of those farms had lagoon effluent pumped out at least once in the previous 5 years. Nearly 1/3 of the participating dairies also collected solid manure and at least half of the respondents indicated they had solid separation technologies such as sand traps and settling basins. Few of those operations had solid treatment (7% had composting facilities) and most preferred to store solid manure directly in the solid spreader. Pastures (86%) and hay fields (46.5%) were common sites for wastewater application using stationary equipment like pumping stations and risers (80%). The results of this survey provide guidance for the development of assistance programs that are better suited to attend the needs of grazing dairy operations in the US Southeast.

Keywords: manure management, survey, dairy.