Odour from Muck Spreading

During the spring and in the summer after harvesting, Stafford Borough Council frequently receives complaints concerning agricultural odours within the district. Generally, 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 is solid manure that has been well composted, or slurry that is 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.  However, 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.

Here are some frequently asked questions

How often can someone muck spread?

There is no limit.

Can they do it two days in a row?

Yes.

How much can they spread?

Please contact the Environment Agency on 0800 807060 or click here to send an email.

Who can muck spread?

There is no definite answer but some operations may need a licence which is issued by the Environment Agency.  Please contact the Environment Agency on the number above.

Where and what can be spread?

Check notes above which will give some answers but for more information, please contact the Environment Agency.

Are there any times spreading is not allowed?

No.

How valid is the guidance?

It is purely guidance.  It is not law but the Council would have more of a case for enforcement if the guidance has not been followed.

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

Contact
Tel: 01785 619402
Email: ehtechsupport@staffordbc.gov.uk
Related documents
Protecting our Water, Soil and Air (pdf 848kb)
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