Large dairy operation in Willow River watershed seeks to renew permit

Public hearing on May 18 for plans to manage 1,600 cows and the manure they produce.

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Dairy cows feeding at a Wisconsin farm. (University of Wisconsin-Extension/Flickr)

A 1,600-cow dairy operation near Deer Park, Wis. has applied for a mandated five-year renewal of its permit to manage manure and other waste. Minglewood is located between Star Prairie and Clear Lake, in the upper Willow River basin. It has been operating as a family-run dairy farm for more than 100 years, and has slowly grown to a size that is considered a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), requiring state permits.

An online public hearing will be held about the permit on May 18 at 4 p.m. Registration is requested at this link.

Kevin and Roxann Solum, who operate the dairy, say the cows produce nearly 20 million gallons of liquid manure per year, and they have agreements for more than 3,000 acres of cropland to spread the manure. Based on state regulations, manure may not be spread within 25 feet of waterbodies, and should not run off fields unless caused by a 25-year, 24-hour rain event. In this area, that means about five inches of rain falling in 24 hours.

Minglewood’s facility include four cow barns, three young stock barns, large feed storage pad, and three manure storage lagoons. The manure storage lagoons provide more than 230 days of liquid waste storage — well above the legal requirement for 180 days of storage.

The Nutrient Management Plan that CAFOs are required to complete to receive a permit dictates when, where, and how much manure will be spread. Individuals fields proposed for spreading must be tested to determine the amount of nutrients in the soil. Higher levels of phosphorus and nitrogen can increase the chances that manure nutrients will not be absorbed, but will make their way to nearby waters, where they can cause algae blooms and other negative effects.

The fields Minglewood proposes to spread manure on are in both the Willow and Apple River watersheds. Some of the fields do have relatively high levels of phosphorus already, leading to restrictions on spreading. There are several fields with phosphorus levels higher than 100 parts per million, which limits spreading, and one small field just over 200 parts per million, where spreading is only allowed with DNR permission and based on additional testing and calculations.

The operation has had few issues with regulation compliance, and the DNR says “the farm has been found to be in substantial compliance with their permit.” The agency also says it has “tentatively decided” that the operation’s permit should be reissued. All application files are available here.


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One response to “Large dairy operation in Willow River watershed seeks to renew permit”

  1. Kar lfahrendo rff Avatar
    Kar lfahrendo rff

    Farmers feed the world