Livestock Watersheds

Ron) I’m Ron Graeber, K-State Extension Watershed Specialist. I work in the central part of Kansas. And one of the things that I do as part of my job is to try to educate or help livestock producers understand how their feeding operation might impact streams and waterways from an environmental standpoint. And things that we’re concerned about with livestock feeding operations when we look at water quality are bacteria nutrients that might leave that feeding operation and end up in the nearby stream. So, we spent quite a bit of time talking to these guys about maybe where they locate their feeding pens. Getting them a little further away from a stream. About the slope from the pens to where that streams at and what’s between the pens. So, we really like to get a little separation in there and be able to put maybe a grass, vegetative grass buffer in there or maybe a sediment basin so that we can trap some of those solids as they come out of the concentrated feeding areas before they get to the streams. And if we can do that, then we can really can separate out a lot of those solids that might contribute the harmful bacteria or again, the nutrients. So, we really work with ’em on the location of their feeding pens and then kind of how far from the stream and how they manage that. We really talk to them quite a bit about regular scraping of pens, and spreading that waste material on agronomic fields. We also from a livestock standpoint, we’ll talk where winter feeding sites are located. You know, we for years we’ve had the ring feeder and the bunks, maybe in the pasture or the corn stalk field and we might have them fairly close to a stream because that’s where there’s some winter protection and maybe a water source there too. So, we’ve really talked to them about moving that a little further away, maybe getting it up on the hilltop and putting that feeder and those bunks up there. And that way we don’t have the livestock or the cattle loping down there in the stream. And so a fairly inexpensive, fairly easy change, but from an environmental impact standpoint it really can be pretty dramatic. So, we work with them a lot on those kinds of things, providing some alternative watering sites as well. It’s interesting that if you provide that tank again, up on the hill, or away from the stream, we find that most often cattle prefer to drink out of that tank as opposed to out of the stream. And again, we get them away from the stream and they’re not spending a lot of time loafing down there by the stream and under the trees and we move that waste material a little further away. So, those are some of the things that we’ve done. And guys have been really receptive to talking about those kinds of things and I think they’re really interested, they just need somebody to talk to and understand how all of that works and what a practical, and a lot of times, not terribly expensive way of doing it is.

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