Welcome to Farm Country

Is Your New Neighbor a Farmer?
If you answered yes, then you've come to the right place. This webpage has information for:
  • Non-farmers who want to know more about farming practices, livestock, and manure.
  • Farmers who want to be good neighbors​ when growing crops, caring for their animals, and protecting the natural resources that we all depend on. ​
What to Expect When You Move to Farm Country
For many people, moving to the country is a dream come true. But adjusting to country life can be challenging. It can come as a shock when you realize that the picture book farm next door is a working farm full of bellowing cattle or chirping baby chicks, slow-moving farm equipment, and LOTS of manure. Watch a short Maryland Farm & Harvest clip on how to SAFELY pass farm equipment on the road.​​

manure spreading copyright Edwin Remsberg
By the Numbers​

Maryland farmers raise all sorts of animals, including chickens, beef and dairy cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, goats, and specialty animals like alpacas and bison. ​

  • On Maryland's Eastern Shore, farmers mainly raise meat chickens called broilers. There are about 2,100 chicken houses on the Delmarva Peninsula owned and operated by 612 Maryland farm families, according to the Delmarva Chicken Association​.

  • In Western, Central, and Southern Maryland, many types of livestock operations dot the rural landscape, but beef and dairy cattle are predominant. There are roughly ​165,000 beef cattle, 41,000 dairy cows, and 80,000 horses in Maryland according to the latest Ag Census. ​​ 
An Acquired Smell
Non-farming neighbors may consider “barnyard” odors a nuisance, but farm families are used to the smell of manure. For newcomers transitioning to country life, odors can become overwhelming in springtime, when farmers spread manure on their fields as a fertilizer and soil conditioner.​​ Watch a short YouTube video about raising chickens and managing manure.

Let's Talk Manure 
A mature dairy cow produces about 80 pounds of manure a day!  Manure deposited directly by farm animals in the pasture helps fertilize pasture grasses. It does not need to be cleaned up. But manure that accumulates in the barnyard area or chicken house needs to be managed. Manure can pile up quickly in confined spaces and requires ongoing management. Watch a short Farm & Harvest YouTube video on what happens to manure.

​Manure Builds Healthy Soils 
Farmers have used manure to fertilize crops for thousands of years. After World War II, commercially produced fertilizer became widely available to all farmers, not just those with animals. Today, manure remains a popular low-cost, natural alternative to commercial fertilizers. It provides crops with many essential nutrients, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It also helps build healthy soils that are rich in organic matter and better able to soak up water and ward off erosion. 

When Do Farmers Spread Manure?
Manure is an ideal fertilizer for corn, hay, and organic-certified field crops. Most farmers spread manure in the spring, although spreading may occur in summer and fall. Some farmers use special equipment to incorporate or inject manure into the soil. This helps reduce odors and the potential for nutrient runoff. Watch a short video on the benefits and challenges of manure injection. 

Good Management Makes Good Sense 
Maryland farmers must follow nutrient management plans when fertilizing crops and managing manure. These science-based plans specify how much manure or fertilizer is needed to achieve yields while minimizing environmental impacts. Each plan is unique and must be updated regularly by a certified plan writer. Suppose a livestock or chicken farmer has more manure than they can safely use to grow their crops. In these instances, the manure is trucked to qualifying farms that can use the product safely, following strict environmental rules. It's how we recycle on the farm. Watch a short YouTube video about managing nutrients on farms.

Do Farmers Spread Manure in Winter?​
Maryland does not allow farmers to spread manure on their fields in winter or when the ground is frozen due to the high risk of nutrient runoff into nearby streams. March 1st is the earliest farmers may recycle manure generated over the winter to fertilize their crops. 

Types of Storage Solutions

Farmers collect manure that accumulates in feedlots, dairy barns, and chicken houses. They store manure year-round in protective structures until it can be safely applied to farm fields. W​atch a short YouTube video on how farmers manage manure.

Left to right: Dry storage, chicken litter storage (includes manure and bedding), and wet manure storage typically used at dairy operations.
Meet the farmers and conservation professionals

​All About Stockpiles
Stockpiles of dry chicken litter (manure and bedding) dot many farm fields on the Eastern Shore in late winter and early spring. They provide a temporary storage solution for chicken litter that will be used to fertilize crops after March 1. Stockpiles are shaped to “crust over" and shed water when exposed to rain and snow. This protects against runoff until the material can be safely recycled as a crop fertilizer when conditions are right.​

How Farmers Manage Manure 
In  addition to following their nutrient management plans, Maryland farmers are required to:

Partners with the Bay​
Maryland farmers are part of a watershed-wide effort to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries by 2025. They are working to keep manure and valuable crop nutrients on their fields and out of local waterways. Watch a short YouTube video about the Crothers family, Maryland's 2022 Leopold Conservation Award winner. ​​

We've Got Bright Ideas!​
New technology is helping us see manure in a new light as we capitalize on its potential as a renewable energy source. Maryland​ is investing in innovative manure management technologies, including projects that turn chicken manure into power. Watch a short Maryland Farm & Harvest video clip on an enterprising way to manage manure.
For More Information​
Please see the information panel for links to our conservation videos, the Nutrient Management Program's website, fact ​sheets, brochures, conservation grants, ​and other resources.
​​​Updated 2/27/24

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