One of the simplest best management practices for small farms is to relocate supplemental feeding sites away from riparian areas and bodies of water. A field study at Kansas State University found that nutrients and bacteria from manure excreted near big bale feeding sites remained within 100 feet of the bale. Providing 100 feet of buffer space between feeding sites and riparian areas is an environmentally sound best management practice. Also, frequently removing the waste feed or hay from the feeding site helps minimize the accumulation of nutrients in these areas. Cleaning up waste hay and properly disposing it prior to spring rains minimizes the potential for the nutrients to leave the site. The riparian area can provide wind break protection during extremely cold weather. It may be wise to move the supplemental feeding site closer to the riparian area as outdoor air temperatures decrease and wind increases. However, the feeding site must be moved away as weather changes. It is also advisable to relocate supplemental feeding areas routinely. By relocating, the vegetation damaged from the animal traffic can recover, and the effect of erosion from bare surfaces is minimized.
Another strategy is to provide alternative water sources. This may require some investment in resources, but some states have cost-share programs available to develop alternative water sites. Some examples of environmentally beneficial practices to protect water quality while providing water for livestock to drink include:
* providing low-water stream crossings (see the presentation on low-water stream crossings at the afo.unl.edu
* situating frost-free hydrants at the base of stock dams, and
* fencing stock dams and ponds with an area made from a hardened surface such as rock or concrete.
The key principles are:
* moving feeding and watering sites away from riparian areas, streams, ponds, or water bodies,
* frequently removing excess feed and relocating the feeding area, and
* ensuring good pasture management (the overgrazing of pastures has undesirable economic and environmental consequences).
Author: Joe Harner, Biological and Agricultural Engineering, Kansas State University
Edited by Chris Henry, Biological Systems Engineering, University of Nebraska-Lincoln