Brad Ross: Cleaning out the barn goes high-tech


Biking around the county the past several months, it has been obvious that livestock producers have taken advantage of the moderate weather conditions to get the barns cleaned out. Ah, the wafting smell of country air!

Applying livestock manure to the land now while the weather and soil conditions are optimal is good for soil health and good for water quality.

While meteorologists have indicated that the El Nino weather pattern should provide us with a moderate winter season, no one can be sure the dry weather will last through the winter.

If you haven’t emptied the livestock manure storage structure or cleaned the barn yet, you might consider doing so before any colder, wetter weather is upon us. Last winter, the Ohio legislature passed a bill that prohibits manure spreading on frozen and snow-covered ground, if you are in the Lake Erie watershed. While that law does not affect Delaware County farmers, following those standards are still good for our rivers, lakes and streams.

Animal waste can be a huge benefit to building the organic content in the soil, but the attached phosphorous, if not managed properly, can become a real problem. Phosphorous runoff has been a major culprit causing algae blooms in Lake Erie and other smaller lakes. Following conservation practices — such as planting cover crops, using no-till or minimum-till, and utilizing animal waste properly — can help manage nutrients and improve soil health. Ultimately, this will improve the fertility levels of the soil and keep nutrients available for plant growth and out of Ohio’s surface waters.

For you tech-savvy livestock producers, I have an early Christmas present. The folks from Knox County Farm Bureau and the Knox Soil and Water Conservation District have teamed up to develop a mobile app to help you comply with new record-keeping requirements that were also created under two state laws. And the app is free! The Ohio Nutrient Management Record Keeper (ONMRK) can be downloaded at, Google Play and the App Store. The ONMRK app features drop-down menus that make it easy and quick for farmers to record their fertilizer or manure applications as well as record the current weather conditions and forecast for the next 24 hours. Those records can then be printed through an Internet portal.

Folks at the Knox SWCD tell me that “after setting up the ONMRK app on a mobile device, farmers can easily record what nutrients they apply on their farms and fields. … The application screen shows the current weather and the weather forecast. If the weather forecast calls for more than ½ inch of rain, there will be a warning, letting farmers know their application could be out of compliance. The application information is quickly entered in drop-down menus that track type, time, analysis, soil conditions, method of application, field conditions and amount of nutrients applied per acre and any notes to be included in the report.”

While it all seems pretty high-tech, my friends in Knox County assure me that it is very simple and user-friendly. I think it is another great tool for farmers to use that will help reduce nutrient runoff, improve water quality and boost farm profits. If you are a livestock producer, don’t be tempted to wait for the “manure-spreading rumba” to be invented (wink, wink)! Download this app now and get the manure hauled before Ol’ Man Winter catches you off-guard.

For more information, contact the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District at or email [email protected].

Brad Ross

Contributing columnist

Brad Ross is communications specialist at the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at [email protected].

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