Ag officials urge farmers to delay manure spreading - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Ag officials urge farmers to delay manure spreading

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Blue Spruce Farm in Bridport spans three generations of the Audet family.

The farm encompasses 3,000 acres and has 2,800 hundred animals producing about 3.5 million gallons of milk each year.  Seventeen members of the family work on the farm.

The cows also produce something else -- manure -- lots of it.  Automatic scrapers run around the clock, pushing the manure into a trough that runs underground into the manure pits which can hold 6-8 million gallons. Some of that manure is burned in their methane digester to generate electricity for Green Mountain Power. But some is saved for spring.  

Marie Audet says the farm is not trying to get rid of  the manure -- it's a valuable resource to be used on the fields to grow the crops that feed the cows," she said.

The state bans manure spreading in the winter months to prevent runoff from frozen fields.  April 1 that ban expires and farmers can start to spread their fields, but there is a problem.

Reporter Judy Simpson: So this is exactly what we were talking about, and the fields obviously are still frozen.

Marie Audet: That's right and there is even ice on top of the soil there is still snow on top of the soil, even when that all melts there is still some time involved in getting the dirt to thaw.

Spreading manure on frozen fields, Marie says, would defeat the whole purpose.
"We have plenty of storage left and we will start applying manure when our fields are ready to have it applied. We don't want compaction. We don't want runoff. We need to maximize that -- if we don't then we wont have the yields we desire," Audet said.

But other farmers may be forced to spread some of their manure if their pits are full. So the state is asking those farmers to pick fields that are flat, and far away from rivers and streams, to minimize runoff.

In the meantime, the Audet family will wait for the ground to thaw. In the meantime, the cows at Blue Spruce Farm continue the cycle of eating, producing milk -- and nutrients for the next season's feed crops.

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