University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) experts have spent several years investigating Vegetative Treatment Systems (VTS) that can offer options for controlling runoff from livestock feeding operations. VTS is a system to collect and manage the runoff from a production area using vegetation and soils.

VTS can be applied to open-lot livestock operations and is a systems-approach utilizing a solids settling basin, an outlet structure and a vegetative treatment area (VTA). The VTA serves as the treatment, storage and utilization area for the liquid runoff from the open lots. According to University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) experts, the VTA is a replacement for a conventional holding pond typically used in feedlots.

The experts are quick to point out that a VTA should not be confused with a vegetative buffer or filter strip. A vegetative buffer is a narrow strip of vegetation, typically around 30-60 ft. wide, located between cropland and a stream or other surface water. By comparison, a VTA is part of a coordinated system designed to completely control runoff. The VTA uses the water-holding capacity of the soil to store runoff water until the nutrients and water can be used by the vegetation. The vegetation (hay) is then harvested and used as supplemental feed or bedding.

Chris Henry, a UNL engineer, and Jason Gross, UNL engineer technician, have worked to perfect a sprinkler system for pumping effluent from feedlot sediment basins to grass-planted VTAs by using underground piping connected to portable hoses. The hoses are connected to a series of plastic pods with sprinklers located in the center of the pods. The sprinklers distribute the effluent evenly onto the VTA at a rate that allows the liquid to infiltrate the soil more effectively. The "Sprinkler VTS" systems use diesel-powered pumps. The irrigation system utilizing the plastic pods is manufactured by K-Line Irrigation Systems, St. Joseph, MI.

The UNL researchers say the Vegetative Treatment System approach can be applied on small- to medium-sized, open-lot livestock feeding operations.

More information about this system will be presented as part of an educational tour on July 21, following the Midwest Manure Expo near Norfolk, NE, focused on the theme: "Sprinkler Systems for Manure Management: Vegetative Treatment Systems and Center Pivots." The tour begins with a demonstration of controls and automation capability for center pivot irrigation systems in the parking lot of the Northeast Community College Ag Complex in Norfolk, just prior to buses loading at 7:30 a.m. The buses return to the Ag Complex at 3:45 p.m. Learn more about this tour and register online at