Feedlot waste-containment measures showcased near Pukwana, Platte
PUKWANA -- As state and national pollution standards get stricter, feedlot owners are continuing to upgrade the way they operate.
Members of the South Dakota Nonpoint Source Task Force got a close-up look at some of those upgrades Wednesday when they toured two self-contained feedlots in Brule and Charles Mix counties.
Charles Swanson, a cattle producer near Pukwana, started on his project a few years ago. He got in touch with Rocky Knippling, project coordinator for the Lewis and Clark 319 Project, to secure funding.
"I needed to know the parameters, so I talked to Rocky about it," Swanson told the group.
Knippling had previously helped Swanson's brother and a neighbor on similar projects.
Funding from Section 319 of the Clean Water Act helps producers with technical and financial assistance, and with monitoring the success of nonpoint source projects, like feedlots.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines "nonpoint source" pollution at that which comes from diffuse sources rather than from industrial and sewage treatment plants.
"Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground," the EPA states on its website. "As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water."
The EPA includes "bacteria and nutrients from livestock" in its list of nonpoint source pollution examples.
Prior to construction of his waste-management project, Swanson was particularly concerned about runoff and how it would affect surrounding water. So he chose to build a self-contained lot.
Swanson is building his own new feedlot rather than working with a construction company, so it's taking more time, he said.
He has four of six cattle pens built to hold 999 head of cattle. The sediment pond is complete, which will collect waste from the feedlot.
The pond is overbuilt in order to ensure a larger holding capacity in the event of heavy rains or excessive moisture, he said.
As a condition of the funding Swanson received through the sponsorship of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, he had to incorporate a nutrient management plan. In other words, he had to know where he was going to spread waste from the feedlot.
Much of the waste -- manure contains nitrogen and phosphorous -- will be spread on agricultural land Swanson leases from others and his own land as fertilizer.
"We want to keep cattle out of water," said Angela Ehlers, executive director of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts. "We want to keep the contaminants out."
Swanson anticipates his project will be complete by Nov. 30.
Kurt Brink, rural Platte, is also expecting his self-contained feedlot will be done by Nov. 30, Knippling said. The group stopped at Brink's place to view his newly constructed holding pond.
"I wanted you to see how massive this looks when it's not filled," Knippling said.
The pond is 2.1 acres and could fill up in about a year with the 1,200 head of cattle Brink will have at the feedlot. The holding pond will be able to hold a year's worth of runoff, Ehlers said.
While Swanson will be able to operate without a permit, Brink will need a permit from the state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources as his lot will have more than 1,000 cattle.
He will also have to implement a nutrient management plan, including a guaranteed place where the waste will be spread.
"He'll be fully permitted once he's inspected by the state," Ehlers said.
She added that feedlots like this will help keep area water sources clean. Just behind Brink's holding pond is a main tributary that empties into Platte Creek. By building the containment system, Brink is preventing direct runoff into that tributary, she said.