General information for AFOs, CAFOs, and HCSFOs


Animal feeding operations


An AFO is a facility where animals have been, are, or will be stabled or confined and fed for 45 days or more in any 12-month period in an area that does not sustain crops or other vegetation while the animals are confined (like a bare lot or housed operation).  

All Colorado AFOs must implement the appropriate best management practices in Section 81.8 of Regulation No. 81. These practices are vital to reducing the impact to surface and groundwater.


Concentrated animal feeding operations


A large concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) is an AFO that stables or confines at least:

  • 700 mature dairy cows.
  • 1,000 cattle (heifers, steers, bulls, cow/calf pairs, veal calves).
  • 2,500 swine weighing 55 pounds or more.
  • 10,000 swine weighing less than 55 pounds.
  • 500 horses.
  • 10,000 sheep or lambs.
  • 30,000 laying hens or broilers using a liquid manure handling system.
  • 82,000 laying hens if using a manure handling system that is not liquid.
  • 125,000 chickens (other than laying hens) if using a manure handling system that is not liquid.

Even facilities that are only above these thresholds periodically (like a backgrounding feedlot) are considered large CAFOs. Under certain circumstances, an AFO that confines fewer animals may be defined or designated as a small or medium CAFO.  


Requirements for CAFOs

Colorado CAFOs must either register or apply for a discharge permit. 

Registered CAFO requirements:

  • Submit a complete registration form.
  • Develop and implement a complete Facility Management Plan.
  • Meet the surface and groundwater protection requirements of Section 81.6 and 81.7 of Regulation No. 81.
  • Pay annual registration fee of $0.06/head (based on maximum capacity).

  Registration form



Permitted CAFO requirements:

The General Permit for CAFOs (COA934000 – Modification 1) became effective on July 7, 2022. The modified permit was a result of a Notice of Appeal, Request for Adjudicatory Hearing, and Request for Reconsideration of Adjudicatory Action the program received on October 7, 2021. The modified permit includes provisions from Regulation No. 81 that demonstrate impoundments used to collect and store process wastewater and manure do not discharge to groundwater that is hydrologically connected to waters of the United States. General Permit COA934000 remains active and all certifications issued under COA934000 are valid requiring no further action to maintain permit coverage. Going forward, application for coverage under COA934000 – Modification 1 must be submitted on the updated application form and must be received by no later than October 15, 2022.

General Permit COA933000 will be terminated on December 30, 2022. To ensure continued permit coverage, submit a complete application by the October 15, 2022 deadline. If you have any questions about the application process, contact the Ag Program Representative for your county. For an accessible list version of this document, please see the Technical Lead Contacts sheet.

Information on the status of the Notice of Appeal, Request for Adjudicatory Hearing, and Request for Reconsideration of Adjudicatory Action is posted on the WQCC adjudicatory hearings page. If you have any questions, please contact Chad DeVolin at 303-692-3520 or chad.devolin@state.co.us.

  • Submit a complete Permit Application and Nutrient Management Plan.
  • Meet the surface water protection requirements in section 61.13 of Regulation No. 61 and the groundwater protection requirements in 81.7 of Regulation No. 81.
  • Submit a CAFO Annual Report by March 31st of each year.
  • Pay annual permitting fee of $750 + $0.09/head (based on maximum capacity).

  Permit application

  Nutrient Management Plan

  CAFO annual report


When is a discharge permit required for a CAFO?

CAFOs that are in close proximity to surface water that may be considered “waters of the United States” should apply for permit coverage. “Waters of the US” are defined by the Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. In general, waters of the US, are navigable and interstate waters and their tributaries and adjacent wetlands. 

Coverage under the general permit for CAFOs must be obtained prior to a facility having a discharge that enters Waters of the US. Facilities that have a discharge to Waters of the US without first obtaining a permit will be required to apply for coverage and may be subject to civil penalties

Contact the Environmental Agriculture Program about being protected by a discharge permit if your CAFO is near surface water that may be considered “waters of the US”.


Housed commercial swine feeding operations


A housed commercial swine feeding operation is a facility capable of housing 800,000 pounds or more of live animal weight of swine at any one time, or one that has been deemed commercial under local zoning or land use regulations. HSCFOs in Colorado must: 

  • Obtain an individual discharge permit under Section 61.13 of Regulation No. 61.
  • Develop and implement a Construction Plan, Swine Waste Management Plan, Operations Plan, Monitoring Plan, and Financial Assurance Plan to meet the surface and groundwater protection requirements in Section 61.13 of Regulation No. 61.
  • Obtain an operating permit under Regulation No. 2, Part B.
  • Develop an Odor Management Plan that details how the facility will minimize odor from all aspects of the operation to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Provide financial assurance required under Regulation No. 66.
  • Submit quarterly monitoring reports.