Photo Source: Beef Magazine
Photo Source: University of Minnesota Extension
"Where Am I Going to Feed My Cows?" -Joe Mayle
We could also say where am I going to feed my horses, goats, sheep or even some of our less traditional livestock animals? It is a question that we as livestock producers must ask ourselves every year. With this winter being more mild and wet, than usual, and spring right around the corner, it is a question that we must be prepared to answer. My grandpa used to say high and dry. That may seem elementary, but keeping livestock near a stream corridor, flood plain, or other bottom ground is never a good idea. Stressed livestock, water contamination and poor soil health are just a few of the problems that one can encounter when keeping livestock in areas not conducive to raising livestock.
Livestock health can be greatly impacted by wet conditions. Hoof Rot, Strawberry Warts (although more common with confined animals) and general stress are all a result of livestock being in a less than ideal location. Increased stress levels always equate to poor production. Forcing livestock to drink surface water from the creek instead of providing a quality water source only serves as a restriction to optimal production. Animals with access to clean water will, have increased growth rates and be healthier overall.
Another benefit of keeping your livestock out of the stream corridor, is we eliminate water degradation. Manure (nutrients + microorganisms) introduced to a water source will promote the growth of water plants and algae. The plants and algae can be harmful to bodies of water. They can create a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water that inhibit fish and macroinvertebrates ability to respire. In more serious instances certain types of algae (blue-green) can release toxins into the water that are harmful to humans and animals if ingested. Manure in water also promotes bacterial growth in livestock. These bacteria can cause illnesses such as mastitis, urinary tract infections and diarrhea.
Keeping livestock out of the water course, will also improve soil health. Erosion, compaction, and nutrient concentration are just a few negative impacts that can be created by a bad choice of livestock placement. There is no better compaction tool than livestock hooves. Hooves and wet soils don’t mix. Compaction will eliminate pore spaces that hold air and water in the soil. Compaction will also restrict root growth, thereby reducing plant yields. Exclusion fencing and heavy use areas are a couple of practices that can serve to control livestock access to surface waters. These practices are designed to reduce livestock stress, avoid water contamination, and improve soil health. So where are you going to feed your cows (livestock) this year?
Provide assistance on conservation practices and improvement of soil and water resources to all Carroll County land users through educational workshops, technical assistance, on-farm visits and cost share programs to encourage good stewardship.