Odour from Muck Spreading

During the spring and in the summer after harvesting, we frequently receive complaints concerning agricultural odours within the borough.

The most common source of odour complaints relate to the storing and spreading of bio-solids (sewage sludge), animal manure and slurries (muck spreading).

The general practice of incorporating manures and bio-solids into agricultural land is a legitimate practice and is considered the best option for disposal. The spreading of pre-treated sewage sludge is also a perfectly lawful activity and considered the best practicable environmental option for disposal of such wastes.

Although spreading is recognised as standard agricultural practice, and odour must be expected from time to time, spreading should always be undertaken in accordance with the best practice guidance given in the DEFRA Code of Good Agricultural Practice, subsection 5.4.

Best practice advice from DEFRA includes the following:

If possible, to reduce odour and ammonia loss

  • use a band spreader or injector to apply slurry.
  • otherwise, use broadcast equipment with a low trajectory and large droplets. Broadcast slurry (by splash plate) should be incorporated immediately, and at the latest within 6 hours.
  • if solid manure, it should be incorporated as soon as possible and at the latest within 24 hours.

Livestock manures should not be applied when:-

  • the soil is waterlogged; or
  • the soil is frozen hard; or the field is snow covered; or
  • heavy rain is forecast within the next 48 hours.

The Code also advises that the best conditions for spreading are where air mixes to a great height above the ground, which are typically sunny, windy days, followed by cloudy, windy nights. These conditions cause odours to be diluted quickly.

Farmers are also advised to avoid spreading at weekends, bank holidays, in the evening or in fields close to and upwind of houses, unless it's solid manure that has been well composted, or slurry that's to be band spread, injected or has been treated to reduce odour.

Livestock manures and dirty water should not be spread:

  • within 10 metres of any ditch, pond or surface water; or
  • within 50 metres of any spring, well, borehole or reservoir that supplies water for human consumption or for farm dairies; or
  • on very steep slopes where run-off is a high risk throughout the year

As there is a great deal of working farmland within Stafford, agricultural odours can be a problem with prevailing winds, carrying these odours some distance across fields into residential areas and at times this may result in acceptable short term agricultural odours within the area.

The duration and intensity of the odour is often difficult to predict depending on weather conditions. If we become aware of unacceptable odours produced by spreading agricultural materials in a manner which does not follow the Code of Good Agricultural Practice, an officer will contact the person(s) responsible for the spreading and enforcement action can be considered where the issue cannot be resolved informally.

There's no limit to how often someone can carry out muck spreading.

Please contact the Environment Agency if you have a query relating to how much is being spread, the location it is being spread and who is able to carry out this activity.

We will not usually consider complaints unless the odour persists for at least 72 hours after spreading has been completed.


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