A Checklist for Feedlot Siting and
Environmental Compliance

Scott Birchall
Carrington Research Extension Center
North Dakota State University

One of the most important decisions to be made when planning any livestock facility is site selection. The site for the feedlot operation must not only be suitable for housing, handling and feeding cattle, but also must ensure that surface and ground waters are protected and that the impact from odors are minimized. Whether you are planning a new facility or modifying an existing one, the following checklist may help avoid costly mistakes. For further information on any of the following areas refer to the MWPS 6 - Beef Housing and Equipment Handbook, MWPS 18 - Livestock Waste Facilities Handbook, or the NDSU Extension Service.

Regulatory requirements.
The North Dakota Department of Health is responsible for regulating animal feeding operations. All feeding operations, regardless of size, must abide by the Cleans Waters Act which prohibits discharging pollutants into "waters of the state" or to a position where pollutants are likely to enter those waters. Waters of the state include lakes, rivers, streams, sloughs, gullies, etc. If you are currently feeding or are considering feeding more than 200 animal units (200 mature beef cattle or 300 feeder cattle), you will need to apply for an approval to operate from the Department of Health. Your application will need to outline what steps you will take to ensure minimum environmental impact. The approval process usually takes up to 45 days (or 60 days for more than 1000 animal units).

Planning the layout.

Table 1. Sizing pens and barns.

Class of stock Feeder calves
400-800 lbs
Finisher cattle
800-1200 lbs
1000-1300 lbs
Pen - unpaved, with mounds (ft2/head) 150-300 250-500 300-500
- unpaved, no mounds (ft2/head) 300-600 400-800 500-800
- paved (ft2/head) 40-50 50-60 60-75
Barn - with lot (ft2/head) 15-20 20-25 20-30
- without lot (ft2/head) 20-25 30-35 35-50

Collection drains should be located outside of the pen and sloped at less than 1%. Below pen drains are usually 0.5 to 0.75% while main drains are 0.2 to 0.5%. Drains can be designed to separate solids from the runoff stream. Alternatively, a settling basin can be constructed.

Having to work with soil types not suited to these activities will add significantly to costs or environmental risk.

A diversion bank may need to be constructed to prevent clean water from entering the site. Some people will site the pens towards the top of a rise to avoid building a diversion bank but you will then need to consider wind protection, odor "draining" down slope and visual impacts.

Provide a buffer of at least 250' between the holding pens or manure stockpile and your own well.

Typical mounds have short, relatively steep slopes in the mound itself, with less slope in the valley. It is important that good drainage out of the pen be maintained otherwise water and manure will accumulate within the pen creating a bog. Having the pen fence on the crest of the mound results in manure working away from the fence, eliminating manure buildup under it which would become a fly breeding area during the summer months.

Waste Management.

Table 2. Beef waste characterization.

  Feedlot Manure Lagoon Effluent Lagoon Sludge
Weight 17.50 lb/d/1000# n.a. n.a.
Total Solids 55.00 % (w.b.) 0.30 % (w.b.) 17.20 % (w.b.)
Nitrogen 0.21 lb/d/1000# 1.67 lb/1000 gal 51.70 lb/1000 gal
Phosphorus 0.14 lb/d/1000# n.a. 17.50 lb/1000 gal
Potassium 0.03 lb/d/1000# 7.50 lb/1000 gal 14.20 lb/1000 gal

Units of lb/d/1000# are pounds per day per 1000 pounds of live weight.


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