Considerations for Winter Manure Applications​

Winter manure applications are key to the success of many operations in the Corn Belt. Manure is rich in nutrients necessary for plant development, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous. Often, due to spring or fall time constraints or product volume, manure applications must be made in the winter. Even in the case of frozen or snow-covered ground, it is important to remain vigilant in application methods. Considerations that should be made prior to making a winter manure application to your field include:


  1. Some states have restrictions on if, when or what form of manure can be spread during the winter months (especially in the case of snow-covered ground). Restrictions within your state should be researched prior to making an application.
  2. It is best to prioritize fields with higher levels of residue (e.g., corn residue remaining after harvest, fields containing fall-seeded cover crops, etc.). Residue helps minimize the effect of nutrient runoff and potential waterway pollution. Winter and early spring precipitation can carry vital plant nutrients from the manure into streams and waterways.
  3. In fields with slopes greater than 6%, applications should be made on a contour with alternating strips. This can help prevent nutrient runoff.
  4. A setback restriction may be applicable should your field contain wells, tile inlets or border a residence.
  5. Nutrient analysis of manure should be done to help ensure the appropriate application amount is in line with current (and subsequent, as not all nutrient will be available in the first year) crop needs. Nutrient analysis can change dramatically based on animal species and form of manure (See figure 1).
Sources: ​​

7 tips for applying manure on frozen ground. 2011. Ohio State University Extension. Corn and Soybean Digest.


Hernandez, J.A. 2016. Manure application considerations for this fall. FarmersEdge.


Madison, F., Kelling, K., Massie, L., and Good, L.W. Guidelines for Applying Manure to Cropland and Pasture in Wisconsin. A3392. University of Wisconsin.

Web sources verified 12/21/17. 

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