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Journal/Book Title

PATS Research Report No. 1

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Over the past 20 years, a significant amount of state and federal money has been spent researching the impacts of farming activities on water quality in Wisconsin. Manure and nutrient management practices have been identified as critical variables affecting the environmental performance of most farms in the state. To protect surface and groundwater resources, a number of technical and managerial solutions have been designed to minimize nutrient leaching and runoff from barnyards and farm fields. An impressive array of educational programs, financial subsidies, and regulatory incentives has been employed to encourage livestock producers to manage their manure in environmentally responsible ways. Because of the considerable public investment in this area, it is perhaps surprising that there have been few efforts to systematically analyze the degree to which farmers in Wisconsin are following recommended practices.1 This report provides a profile of the manure storage and handling practices on a random sample of Wisconsin livestock operations in the spring of 1995. First, the results are presented for livestock farms overall, and adoption patterns on dairy farms are contrasted to those of other kinds of livestock enterprises. Next, data for dairy farms are explored in more detail to look for patterns related to the scale of the operation. The third section outlines the farm and household characteristics of producers who do and do not use various practices. The report concludes with a discussion of what we know and don’t know about Wisconsin livestock farmers’ adoption of recommended manure management practices, a brief analysis of reasons for the patterns we observed, and a review of the implications of our results for university scientists, Cooperative Extension faculty, state policy makers, and others seeking to improve the effectiveness of manure and nutrient management programs.