Who cares if my livestock are in the creek? (Well, every farmer should)

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stream exclusion fencing

We could use a break from this rain. Here in Columbiana County, Little Beaver Creek has not hit “normal”, lower summer levels yet and people are seeing water in places they have not in the past.

With this amount of water and the elevated stream levels, it causes some headaches around the farm. And giving livestock access to a stream can make the situation worse. A simple practice can solve that problem. Stream exclusion fencing is a practice that benefits the farmer and the environment. Exclusion fencing is a conservation practice that fences livestock out from streams and creeks.

“Why do I care if my livestock are in the stream?”

It is important to understand the benefits to the environment and the herd’s health that can result from properly installed stream exclusion fencing.

Erosion and pollution

When livestock have free access to streams, they expedite the rate of erosion, increase the level of nutrients and manure directly deposited into the waterway, and spread of bacteria which will increase the likelihood of disease. Erosion is unsightly, and with heavy rain, it can turn into a much larger problem. Erosion will cause soil particles to flow downstream causing sedimentation, nutrient loading, and loss of aquatic habitat.

When manure is deposited into waterways it also introduces the foot-rot bacteria that are present in the intestines of cows. When the bacteria are deposited into streams that cows have access to stand in, it can lead to disease. In addition to the preservation of soil and the health of the herd, farmers can experience other benefits by eliminating less desirable watering sources and replacing them with alternatives.

Herd health

When cattle have access to cleaner water, beef operations can see an increase in weight gain and milk producers can see increases in production and quality. In addition, the improved water quality, lower water temperature, and decrease in disease all lead to faster growth in cattle. Producers who have installed exclusion fencing have few complaints.

The nice thing about stream exclusion fencing is that it becomes part of a system. It works with other conservation practices to get the desired results. Some practices that may be part of the system are alternative watering sources, heavy use pads, as well as hardened stream crossings. These additions, along with the fence, will allow for better quality water, more stabilized stream banks, and less soil loss to erosion.

Contacting your local soil and water conservation district to get recommendations on the best methods for installing exclusion fencing on your land.

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Joshua Emanuelson is the Little Beaver Creek watershed coordinator at the Columbiana Soil and Water Conservation District. He has a bachelor's degree in conservation biology from Thiel College.

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