Done with daily hauling
Curriers’ new pit makes manure more manageable
Concrete connects animal housing buildings and slopes toward the 1.4-million-gallon pit to collect any runoff at the Curriers’ farm near Mantorville, Minnesota. PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
MANTORVILLE, Minn. – Brothers Jay and Ben Currier are thankful they no longer have to haul manure each day.
“You get a lot of hours back in your life,” Ben said. “And it’s nice not to have to haul in the winter time.”
In December 2020, the Curriers finished their new manure storage facility on their 110-cow dairy near Mantorville. Their project was one of four funded at 90% through the Lower Mississippi River Feedlot Management in Minnesota Regional Conservation Partnership Program project.
The one-basin pit holds 1.4 million gallons, and measures 108 by 252 feet and is 8 feet deep. A ramp into the pit allows access to the bottom to haul out solids when they are cleaning.
“We bed with sand so whatever is left we can haul out with slinger spreaders,” Ben said.
The project also included pouring sloped concrete to connect their animal housing and allow any runoff to drain into the pit. Wastewater from the milkhouse is also pumped to the pit, and a clear water diversion diverts clean rainwater to a different area.
“We haven’t had much rain this year to see how well it works, but it’s supposed to keep as much clean runoff water out of the pit,” Ben said.
After graduating from high school in 1972 and working off the farm, Jay returned to make dairying his career alongside his mom in 1976 after his dad passed away from cancer.
Ben joined the operation after he graduated from high school in 1981. Over the years, the brothers have updated other areas of the farm, including their first freestall barn in the 1980s, other outbuildings and a heated shop for machinery storage. They have also remodeled sheds for heifers and added onto the original freestall barn. But manure storage has not evolved as much until now. Although they did add a small space to allow for 10 days of storage, most of the manure gathered on their dairy was hauled on the same day. The Curriers wanted to change that.
“Our finances were decent so we figured we would make another investment on the farm,” Ben said.
After receiving a flyer from their local soil and water conservation district, they decided to look into the cost sharing options.
“When we contacted them, there were no cost sharing dollars for county or state but there was for federal,” Ben said.
The Curriers had meetings with the Dodge County feedlot officer and the local SWCD representative to discuss their plan and goal to have long-term manure storage.
“We told them whatever happens make sure when it’s engineered out that if us or anyone after us wanted to they could easily add on,” Ben said.
The feedlot officer and SWCD helped the brothers draw out the plan and submit the application for federal funding in early 2019.
“It’s simple for the land owner,” Ben said. “They walk you right through it. Everyone’s really nice and cordial, and not stuffy.”
Although their initial application was not accepted, they tried again a year later and received a cost share program that would pay 90% of the bill.
“We went into this thinking we would at most get 50/50 because it’s a big investment,” Ben said.
After working with the engineers, the Curriers were given a budget amount for the project. They found contractors and began work on the pit in August 2020 and wrapped up in December. In the end, the project cost $572,000. The Curriers paid $66,900.
“Don’t be intimidated or scared to work with the government,” Ben said. “Every county has a feedlot officer. That’s going to be your contact point. They always have different (cost sharing) programs going on. If no one contacts them, then the money that could be devoted to these cost shares is going to go other places. … Then, the government knows there’s a need and give money to these programs.”
The Curriers have not yet had to haul manure out of their pit; however, to complete the project, they had to have an official manure management plan done.
“We grid sample, and they look at the soil sample and that dictates how much manure you can put on per acre,” Ben said. “The big thing with NRCS is they don’t want you overapplying nutrients according to crop removal.”
Although they have 200 acres of owned and rented land, the Curriers had to find more acres for their manure.
“Our ground is so high in phosphorus, so in our manure management plan, we have to transfer to neighboring ground,” Ben said.
They now have agreements with neighboring crop farmers.
“We basically give manure away as long as they pay for getting it applied to their crop ground,” Ben said. “It’s a good deal for them because for every $1 spent they’re going to get $3 back in fertilizer so it’s a no brainer for them.”
“That dairy manure really helps their soil,” he said.
When the time comes to haul this year, the Curriers will be thankful it will be a job that can be custom hired and only done once a year rather than every day.
“That got really old,” Ben said. “This new pit is nice to have.”