WOOSTER, Ohio – A cow in a stream is a pretty picture. But the scene gets cloudy and so does the water when the cow does something all cows do: make manure.
It’s why some farmers put in exclusion fencing, fencing that keeps livestock away from rivers and streams.
And it’s why researchers with the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center are offering to pay some or all of the cost of that fencing for qualified farmers in the Wayne County portion of the Sugar Creek watershed.
Response. The program, funded by a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, is part of a community response to reduce the watershed’s sedimentation and fecal-coliform levels.
Smithville, Kidron, Mt. Eaton and West Lebanon are some of the Wayne County towns in the region.
Manure is a source of coliform bacteria and also of nitrates, both of which can pollute drinking water and make the people who drink it sick.
And the hooves of livestock can break down stream banks and tear up soil-holding streamside plants, causing erosion and sedimentation.
Cause damage. Grazing may damage those plants even further. Exclusion fencing – long-term and low-maintenance – can help.
According to research by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, installing exclusion fencing leads to significant reductions in soil compaction and gully, streambank, and sheet and rill erosion; and significant improvements in soil tilth, moisture use, and on- and off-site drainage.
Healthy animals. Livestock health also can benefit.
A dairy farmer near Kidron, according to the program sponsors, reports less mastitis and lower somatic cell counts after installing exclusion fencing and improving stream quality.
Qualifications. A visit by a technician with the Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District is required to see if a farm qualifies for the offer.
Also required is developing a simple plan – with assistance, if needed, from SWCD staff – for installing the fencing effectively.
If the farmer pays someone to install the fencing, the program will pay 60 percent of the bill at a cost not to exceed $2.20 per foot.
Or, if the farmer prefers to install the fencing, a voucher will be issued for picking up the needed materials free from a local supplier.
Water troughs are available, too, in case the fencing restricts livestock watering.
Working together. The program is part of the Sugar Creek Headwaters Project, a joint, grassroots effort among local communities and agencies and OARDC researchers.
Richard Moore, an associate professor of human and community resource development with OARDC, is the project’s director.
Partners in the project include OARDC, the Wayne County SWCD, the Wayne County Health Department and the Wayne County office of Ohio State University Extension.
Get the details
* Jason Parker
OARDC Agroecosystems Management Program
* Rachel Webb
Wayne County Soil and Water Conservation District
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