AFO

An Animal Feeding Operation(AFO) is an operation that meets both of the following conditions:

  • The animals are confined for at least 45 days during any 12 month period. The 45 days of confinement do not have to be 45 days in a row and the 12 month period can be any consecutive 12 months. Because of weather conditions in Massachusetts livestock operations generally meet this condition.
    AND
  • Crops, forage growth and other vegetation are not grown in the area where the animals are confined.

Pasture operations are not AFOs because the animals are not confined or concentrated in an area where manure builds up. However, a pasture or grazing operation may have areas such as feedlots, barns, or pens that meet the conditions above.

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

For a facility to be a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) it must first meet the definition for an AFO. A CAFO is a specific kind of Animal Feeding Operation (AFO). There are two distinct ways for an AFO to be considered a CAFO. An AFO can meet the regulatory definition for a CAFO which is largely based upon animal numbers ("Defined CAFO") or it can be designated as a CAFO by EPA regardless of size if it is a significant contributor to surface water pollution ("Designated CAFO").

An AFO may be further defined as a Large, Medium, or Small CAFO based upon the number and type of animals confined at the operation for a total of 45 days or more in any 12 month period.

  1. Defined CAFO:
    An AFO meets the regulatory definition of a CAFO. A CAFO is further defined as a "Large CAFO" based upon the number and types of animals. A CAFO is defined as a "Medium CAFO" based upon numbers and types of animals AND if there is a discharge to surface waters. Table One and Table Two below are guides to help farmers determine their CAFO status, if any.
  2. Designated CAFO:
    An AFO may be designated as a CAFO if it is considered to be a significant contributor of pollutants to surface water bodies, regardless of the number and types of animals. To designate an AFO as a CAFO, EPA must inspect the AFO and find that the operation is a significant contributor of pollutants to surface waters. EPA may designate a small CAFO only if the AFO is a significant contributor of pollutants to surface waters and it meets at least one of the following two discharge criteria:
    • A man made ditch, pipe, or similar device carries manure or process washwater from the operation to surface water. An example of this might be tile drains that drain into an area where there is surface water
      or
    • The animals come into contact with surface water that runs through the area where they are confined. An example of this is where a stream runs through the confinement area and animals have direct access.

Table 1: Large CAFOs by Definition

Defined Large CAFOs
Animals are confined for 45 days or more in any twelve month period and the operation meets any of the animal thresholds in Table 1, right:

Requirements For Large CAFOs

  1. NPDES Permits
    Large CAFOs are required to apply for NPDES permits only if they discharge or propose to discharge pollutants.
  2. Nutrient Management Plans
    Develop and implement a nutrient management plan. For large CAFOs the nutrient management plan must describe how the operation will achieve discharge limits specified in the NPDES permit

Avoiding "Defined Large" CAFO Status

  • Reduce animal numbers below the threshold numbers in Table 1, right
Animal TypeNumber of Animals
Beef cattle1000 or more
Cow / Calf Pairs (until weaning)1000 or more
Veal1000 or more
Mature Dairy Cattle700 or more
Dairy Heifers1000 or more
Swine (55 lbs or more)2500 or more
Swine (less than 55lbs)10,000 or more
Turkeys55,000 or more
Laying hens or broilers (liquid manure system)30,000 or more
Laying Hens (other than liquid manure system)82,000 or more
Chickens (except laying hens)125,000 or more
Ducks (liquid manure system)5,000 or more
Ducks (other than liquid manure systems)30,000 or more
Sheep or lambs10,000 or more
Horses500 or more

Table: 2 Medium CAFO by Definition

Defined Medium CAFOs
Animals are confined for a 45 day period and the operation meets any of the animal thresholds in Table 2 (right), and the facility meets one or both of the following discharge criteria

  • A man made ditch, pipe, or similar device carries manure or process washwater from the operation to surface water. An example of this might be tile drains that drain into an area where there is surface water
    OR
  • The animals come into contact with surface water that runs through the area where they are confined. An example of this is where a stream runs through the confinement area and animals have direct access

Requirements for Medium CAFOs

  1. NPDES Permits
    Apply for an NPDES Permit
  2. Nutrient Management Plans
    Develop and implement a nutrient management plan.

Avoiding "Defined Medium" CAFO Status

  • Eliminate any condition which meets the discharge criteria
Animal TypeNumber of Animals
Beef cattle300 to 999
Cow / Calf Pairs (until weaning)300 to 999
Veal300 to 999
Mature Dairy Cattle200 to 699
Dairy Heifers300 to 699
Swine (55 lbs or more)750 to 2,499
Swine (less than 55lbs)3,000 to 9,999
Turkeys16,500 to 54,999
Laying hens or broilers (liquid manure system)9,000 to 29,999
Laying Hens (other than liquid manure system)25,000 to 81,999
Chickens (except laying hens)37,500 to 124,999
Ducks (liquid manure system)1,500 to 4,999
Ducks (other than liquid manure systems)10,000 to 29,999
Sheep or lambs3,000 to 9,999
Horses150 to 499

NPDES Permit

The discharge of a pollutant through a discrete conveyance such as a pipe, ditch, or channel to surface water bodies is known as a “point source discharge”. The federal Clean Water Act requires the EPA to regulate point source discharges by issuing National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. A NPDES permit sets requirements to protect water quality such as discharge limits, management practices, and record keeping requirements.

A NPDES CAFO permit will require an operation to meet certain conditions for the production and land application areas. Typically a permit will require that a farmer to:

  • implement a nutrient management plan
  • submit annual reports to the EPA
  • keep the permit current until the operation is no longer a CAFO
  • keep records of nutrient management practices for at least 5 years

A NPDES CAFO permit is a document which is available for public viewing.

Nutrient Management Plan
The NMP is intended to limit the CAFO's impact on surface water and must describe how the operation will manage nutrients and waste in terms of storage, management of dead animals, clean water management, excluding animals from water, chemical handling, runoff, testing, land application, record keeping. The NMP requirements are designed to be consistent with the NRCS CNMP Technical Guidance.

Process Wastewater
Process wastewater is water used directly or indirectly in the operation of an AFO for any or all of the following:

  • spillage or overflow from animal or poultry watering systems
  • washing, cleaning or flushing pens, barns, manure pits, or other facilities
  • direct contact swimming, washing, or spray cooling of animals
  • dust control

Process wastewater also includes any water that comes into contact with raw materials, products, or by products including manure, litter, feed, milk, eggs and bedding. Leachate from silage and feed storage areas would be considered process wastewater. Also, runoff from fields where manure has not been applied according to a nutrient management plan meeting NRCS standards would meet the definition.