This past year posed numerous problems for farmers having fuller-than-normal pits. Many pits were full prior to harvest, making application difficult or forcing farmers to apply manure too early in the fall. Most of the blame for these full pits was put on the weather and rightly so, as we were well over the average rainfall in the area. How much of excess rainfall ended up in your pit? Was some of it due to high water tables? How do we alleviate these problems?
You can start by looking at the landscaping around your barn. Does water drain away from your building, pump outs, and pit fan transitions? If not, this could be big problem. Another thing to look for are the height of your pump outs. They need to be above ground level, elevated, and the ground needs to be sloping away from the pit to encourage proper water drainage. The same can be said about your pit fan transitions. Are the transitions bolted up tight and sealed to the concrete pit wall? Is the ground sloped away from the transitions, or does water run towards them? All of these small problems can lead to much bigger issues and excess water in your pit.
Think about all the big rainfall events we had in the past year and how much water rolls off the roof of your building. Where does this water go? Does it have a proper drainage path away from your building? Or does it pond, pool, or run towards the pit, eventually ending in it? This can really add up to a lot of gallons, especially in years like this past year.
If you suspect ground water is coming into your pit, check your inspection hole. Most barns with a manure management plan and built in the last 15 years have an inspection hole and a tile line around the perimeter of the footings. Looking in the hole to check if there is water is a good way to see if the water table is getting high. If water is present, a sump pump can be placed in the hole to pump out excess water and reduce hydraulic pressure.
Small changes in drainage around your building can make a difference in terms of excess water ending up in your pit. Pay attention to where the water goes when it is raining, and listen in your barn to determine if you have any leaks.
Article by: Jeff Koops
Nutrient Management Specialist