Farm Odor Management and Neighbor Recommendations

Farm Odor Management:

Odors from livestock, manure and farming operations can be objectionable and are highly subjective.  The Michigan Right To Farm act protects farmers like you from nuisance lawsuits, but only if the farm is following the Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices.  These voluntary practices can help farmers limit the odors produced by their farms and the negative impacts of farm odors while still allowing farmers to manage their manure.  The following practices can be used at your farm to reduce manure odors:

  • Agitate liquid manure pits and spread manure on days with low humidity and when wind is not blowing odors in the direction of non-farm residences or high public use areas.
  • Inject or immediately incorporate liquid manure when spreading within close proximity to rural homeowners.  This also helps to maximize the fertilizer value of your manure.
  • Provide prior notice to neighbors who may object to odors prior to spreading. Advance notice allows homeowners time to shut windows and prepare for the manure application ahead of time.
  • Apply manure early in the spring when it is still cold out and your neighbors will be indoors.  I have worked with a pig farm that does this every year.  One time a neighbor asked the farm when they were going to spread manure so they could leave for the weekend.  The farm had already spread their manure for the year and the neighbor didn’t even notice.  However be aware that late winter spreading has been identified as a high runoff risk practice due to snow melt and saturated soil conditions.

Farm Odor Reduction:

  • Minimize manure accumulation in barns and on barnyard areas.  One big pile won’t smell as bad as a whole open lot covered with manure since it has a smaller surface area.
  • Ensure that barnyards are sloped to minimize wetness and areas of standing water, but that runoff needs to be collected and applied to cropland at agronomic rates.
  • Establish windbreaks to help disperse odors
  • Encourage the surface of the manure pit to crust after each agitation. This may require the addition of straw or other crust forming material.  Crusting can reduce manure pit odors by 20-40% depending on the thickness.
  • Minimize excess protein in the diet to reduce ammonia production.
  • Minimize dust in the livestock production area to reduce the transport of odors.

Farm Visual Management:

Did you know people “smell” with their eyes too?  A farm that looks clean smells clean.  A farm with trash blowing in the wind, dirty runoff from open lots, and broken down fences is going to “smell” worse.  Be proactive by using visual screens such as trees, flowering shrubs, or even building placement to hide unsightly areas of your farm from public view.  This is a good way to keep your farm appealing to the public.

Small details such as attractive landscaping, blooming flower beds, or well maintained lawn and buildings can be an important part of your farm’s visual appeal. Think about your farm’s Curb Appeal and how you can improve the neighborhood with your farm.  However don’t plant trees next to manure storages because their roots can grow into the pit in search of water or nutrients.

Practice “good housekeeping” by maintaining clean barns and yards, keeping debris picked up and controlling weeds gives a farm a positive image in the community.  Cleaning up any mud or dirt tracked onto roads from crop fields also shows that you care.

If you have questions about how to improve your farm, give CJD Farm Consulting a call at (616) 608-5022.