Today’s aroma in the Kewaunee County air is brought to you by thousands of dairy cattle. One dairy cow can produce up to 150 pounds of manure and urine per day. The amount produced by a CAFO or Confined Animal Feeding Operation having at least 1,000 cows is astounding.
According to the WDNR web page on CAFO permitees, there are 15 dairy CAFOs in Kewaunee County. So by doing the math that’s 15 CAFOs X 1,000 cows = 15,000 animals X 150 lbs. of manure/urine per day = 2,250,000 pounds of manure/urine per day from the dairy CAFOs in our county. Most CAFOs have more than 1,000 animals, so this number is actually much larger.
Farmers store that manure in deep, open pits until they are full. Then, they need to spread that manure on fields that hopefully have some vegetation on it to help filter out the pollutants before they can reach a stream, river or lake. There are legal limits to the amount of liquid manure that can be applied per acre of land. Just visit the Wisconsin DNR website to read the regulations. Once applied, that manure needs time to soak into the soil and let plants and the soil’s natural microbiology take over to digest the manure. However, sometimes the amount applied by some farmers exceeds the legal limit, and often successive applications occur on the same ground within days if not hours.
The applications of course are not pleasant to the senses. Okay, the odor is downright offensive, permeating and lasting. Depending on the direction of the wind on the day of application, you might not even know what’s happening within miles of where you live. After witnessing multiple applications on a single field Thursday and Friday with the wind in my face, I can tell you it really stinks. But I’m glad rain is not in the forecast. Because if it would rain in any significant measure, much of the manure spread in the last two days and continuing today, would amount to an accidental spill into nearby waterways. Except it wouldn’t be accidental.
Read more about it in Wisconsin’s Lakes at Risk The Growing Threat of Pollution from Agriculture and Development. www.wisconsinenvironment.org/uploads/28/0f/280f84f08d11975d74cfcaaf7f42de08/Wisconsins-Lakes-at-Risk-web.pdf