Management Changes to Help Stop Runoff from Cattle Pens

(Jamie) We’re back with Kyle and Ron as they talk about some simple management changes that help stop runoff from cattle pens.
(Kyle Bauer) Hi. This is Kyle Bauer. I have the opportunity to visit with Ron Graber; he’s with Kansas State University, Watershed Specialist. Ron, I’d like to talk about runoff control in confined feeding operations and not necessarily ones that have to have a permit, just the ordinary farmer and things that they can do in their everyday operations in management to help the runoff from the farm from livestock waste. (Ron Graber) Well, thank you; pleasure to have a chance to visit with you a little bit. Certainly there are several of us that work for K-State as watershed specialists and situations like what you’re describing is what we work with guys all the time. Things that they can do. Some of them are pretty simple management kinds of things in their day-to-day operations. A lot of the time we think about permits, we think about the guys that are feeding 2000 head or even more and they’re really a total confinement kind of situation. Those are guys that have a certain kind of special set of regulations that apply to them, but there’s a lot of guys out there that have some cattle that don’t necessarily quite fit in that set of circumstances. Yet, environmentally, there are a lot of things that they can do. We often hear about neighbors getting visits from the regulatory agency, and you know those aren’t real pleasant. There are some fairly simple things that can be done that can maybe ward off those kinds of visits. We certainly can visit about those things. (Kyle) Well, certainly the site they pick is an issue, but a lot of times those sites have been determined maybe a generation back and you’re still trying to manage that. What can I do with that site to make the runoff the best possible? (Ron) Yes. That’s very true Kyle. A lot of the times we do have those sites that dad fed there and grandpa fed there and maybe moving the site to a different location is not the most desirable thing. There’s some things that we can do and one of them is a really sound simple thing, but scraping our pens on a regular basis. If we get in there and scrape those pens and remove the waste material or manure and get it spread on a field somewhere at an agronomic rate, then that just helps prevent any runoff from coming out of those pens when we do get the big rainfall events. Many of us have experienced those in the past year, we’ve had some really wet conditions, so just scraping pens on a regular basis goes a long, long way not only helping prevent runoff but also helps with cattle performance. We know that if cattle are wading around in mud and manure and they’re knee deep in it, they expend a lot of energy just getting to the feed bunker, to the hay feeders. Scraping pens is a tremendous thing. Another thing that goes along with that is, where does the runoff that comes out of those pens, where does it go? Is it going into a crop field? Is it going into a bar ditch, a stream? Where might that be going? Something as simple as planting a grass vegetative buffer below that pen so that when some of that runoff does come out, it has a chance to work it’s way through a dense stand of grass that can help filter out those solids, settle them out and that way we keep those nutrients on a field and maybe from leaving the property and getting into a waterway. (Kyle) We’re visiting with Ron Graber. Ron is a specialist with Kansas State University, this is Kyle Bauer reporting.
(Jamie) Stay tuned for tips to create your herd’s “Dream Team” of experts.

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