Mitigating Fugitive Dust

The Washington cattle feeder community has been proactively and successfully mitigating fugitive dust—the dust generated from beef cattle feedlots primarily during hot, dry weather—for over 22 years. This issue matters to our industry, to our neighbors, and to the quality of Washington’s air, so we’ve made it a priority to address it head-on.

The following seven Best Management Practices for minimizing fugitive dust were developed jointly with the department of Ecology (DOE). They offer a set of clear, reasonable, and effective options for feedlots to choose from as part of their Fugitive Dust Control Plans, which require approval by the DOE or local appropriate air authority prior to implementation.

Multiple Best Management Practices exist to ensure that all feedlots have realistic options to choose from. Factors including facility size and layout, operational capabilities, weather conditions will influence which practices will be the most feasible and successful. 

To ensure regulatory certainty and understanding of cattle feedlot needs in the effort to reduce fugitive dust, Washington Cattle Feeders and the DOE collaborated on this report and guidance document: Fugitive Dust Control Plan and Best Management Practices for Cattle Feeding Operations

Mitigating Fugitive Dust

Senate Bill 5196, which created assurance for the Cattle Feedlot Industry by classifying its work as an agricultural activity, being signed into law on May 5, 2017.

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Fugitive Dust Best Management Practices

Feedlots can select one or several of the following Best Management Practices to use in their Fugitive Dust Control Plans.


Mobile Water Application - Water Trucks

Trucks with water tanks drive between feeding pens, spraying pen surfaces to prevent dust from becoming airborne. The mobility of trucks allows for water to be applied to roads, alleyways, surrounding pens and any area that can be accessed with a water truck further decreasing dust.


Fixed Water Application - Sprinklers

Sprinklers are installed throughout the cattle pens to apply water from sprinklers to control dust. Sprinkler design, installation, maintenance and operation must allow maximum practical coverage of pens.


Increasing Animal Density - Cross Fencing

Temporary electric fencing is installed starting in the back of the pens and moving the fence up towards the feed bunk as pens begins to dry out. The reduction in overall surface area of the pen allows the eliminations from the cattle (manure and urine) to reduce dust in a pen.


Pen Maintenance

Removing manure from pens and re-shaping mounds within the pen helps to reduce dust emissions by reducing the volume of loose material that is in each pen. This practice may reduce the volume of water needed for dust control if used in conjunction with water application. Pen maintenance occurs continuously throughout the year.


Surface Amendments/Applications

Spreading materials such as sawdust or apple pomace over pen surfaces adds moisture and compaction, thus providing dust control. Another practice is the application of lignin to roadways within a feedlot. This helps to seal roadways and works in prevention of dust. 


Mound Management/Wet Manure Management

Feedlots mound and pack manure to provide dry mounds/hills within the pens. These mounds aid in keeping animals comfortable through the winter by providing a dry place for the cattle. Wet manure management consists of the spreading of wet manure within a pen throughout the pen. This practice achieves several results. One, it can be done to add moisture and compaction to the pen surface. Two, it reduces dust emissions. Three it is often used in conjunction with cross-fencing to spread excess manure behind the cattle and cross-fence so it can be dried and removed from the pen so the manure may be applied as a soil or crop amendment or to rebuild mounds within the pen. Wet Manure Management occurs continuously throughout the year. It is not only used to reduce dust it is also an important practice in preparing the pens for winter conditions.