2 days ago it started raining at about 1pm, stopping all farm field activities, and it continued to rain for almost 24 hours producing almost 4 inches of rain onto of already saturated soils. As a result, we experienced a Flash Flood and we are currently still in a Flood Warning. Some MN communities to the south of us had even more rain! It was reported that over 10 inches fell in less than 24 hours southeast of here. Want to check out what that looks like? See fellow dairy farmer Merri Post's pictures to give you an idea what the flood looking like. At Orange Patch Dairy, we had a LOT of standing water in the cows and heifer yards, as well as flowing over field roads to the south of our farm. It was amazing to see so much rain fall in such a short time period. Corn and soybeans in the field are now standing in water, in some places the water is almost as high as the ears of corn and soybeans are completely submerged. This flood will be delaying what was going to be an early harvest, but that's how it goes in nature and agriculture.
All of this water reminded me why it is so important to work to protect our farm environments. With this much water, we did experience runoff from our cow yards, and yes that runoff water did contain cow manure (fast moving rain water will pick up cow manure and wash it away). BUT....when we built our new barn, we had to develop a plan for an event just like this!!!! When we built our barn 5 years ago, our county required us to build a drainage ditch with a natural grass filter strip and a sediment catch. This ditch works to collect runoff water from the cow yards, stop top soil from running away, and stops cow manure from floating into the area rivers via our drain tiles & ditches. It's a really simple design; yesterday we got to see it work. The runoff water (complete with cow manure) runs into a large zig/zagged deep dug ditch. This ditch is filled with naturally growing grasses and native plants from our area. These plants slow the flow of the water, allowing the soil and manure particles to drop out of the water solution. The plants also use nutrients in the water to grow. By the time the water flows to the sediment catch, the water is pretty much free of manure. This water now flows into the drainage tile and to the drainage ditch.
We were able to build our ditch with funds from NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program). This federally funded program gives grants to farmers who apply, to improve their livestock operations to better protect the natural environment that surrounds their farms and the animals that make their farms habitats. Rest assured that the dollars that we received went straight to the engineering and construction costs of our ditch. We worked hard to design a system that would be able to handle most heavy rainfall events for our area while conserving the amount of space that it uses. I know that this ditch is working well for our environment as well as providing habitat for a number of ducks and geese that like to stop buy for a swim. So, at times like this I would like to thank the NRCS for the funds to protect our environment and our farm for generations to come!