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New system collects runoff

The South Dakota State University Southeast Research Farm at Beresford installed a manure management system last summer to control runoff from outdoor livestock pens. The system could serve as a model for small livestock farms.

The Southeast Research Farm intalled a vegetative treatment system, or VTS. It consists of a diversion, sediment basin, pumping station, pipeline and a vegetated treatment area to manage runoff from the pens and manure stacking area.

The Southeast Farm has several outdoor cattle pens, an open-front cattle shed with attached outdoor lot, and a swine hoop bar and confinement building. Before the VTS system was built, the farm had no management system in place to collect, store or manage the solid or liquid waste materials that would leave the open beef pens during rain events.

The Southeast Farm worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service to make changes to its facilities and develop a comprehensive nutrient management plan.

Key Points

• The Southeast Research Farm built a unique manure management system.

• Project includes a collection basin and vegetative treatment area.

• The design could be a model for other small livestock operations.


Justin Bonnema, an NRCS agricultural engineer on the South Dakota ag nutrient management team, designed the system. The sediment basins have a holding capacity sufficient to contain all runoff from a 25-year, 24-hour storm (4.8 inches). The runoff collected can be pumped to a series of solid-set sprinklers that cover a 13-acre vegetated treatment area.

The sprinklers are big-gun type sprinklers that distribute approximately 50 gallons per minute of water per sprinkler over a circular area with a radius of 150 to 160 feet per sprinkler head. The total runoff volume from the 25-year, 24-hour storm can be distributed within three days if the guns are operated continuously.

This is the first such VTS designed in South Dakota, and it’s hoped it will help promote this option for smaller feedlot owners who do not want a holding pond as part of their system.

Jason Gilb, conservation agronomist from the South Dakota ag nutrient management team, worked with the Southeast Research Farm to develop a nutrient management plan that will enable it to efficiently manage the manure and waste products based on the fertilizer needs of the cropland. The vegetated treatment area is a mixture of perennial grasses and alfalfa. It will be harvested for cattle feed.

The Southeast Research Farm also built a compost mortality shed and a stacking area for the waste generated in the hoop building. Deron Ruesch and Jeff Loof, NRCS district conservationists, helped the farm obtain cost-share assistance through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Elmer Ward also worked with the farm to secure funding for the project from the Vermillion River Basin Implementation Project.

Lentz, Mitchell, S.D., is a NRCS resource conservationist and supervisor of the ag nutrient management team.

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At work: Runoff is pumped on to a 13-acre vegetative treatment area at the Southeast Research Farm.

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tour demo: NRCS specialists show how runoff is collected from outside livestock pens and pumped on to nearby crops.

This article published in the January, 2013 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2013.