Ag Notes: Winter feeding areas for livestock

Published 8:49 am Tuesday, November 7, 2017

As we move closer to cold weather, it is a good time to think about strategies for winter feeding of livestock, since it is a necessary part of nearly all operations. Choosing the right place for winter feeding can improve production and reduce threats to nearby water resources. A poorly chosen site for winter feeding can have negative impacts on soil and water quality.

 A significant amount of pollution can occur if winter feeding is conducted around streams, water bodies or other environmentally sensitive areas such as flood plains and creek bottoms. Storm-water runoff from these areas can carry mud and manure into nearby water bodies, creating water quality problems. If these contaminants can be traced to a specific operation, the owner could be subject to fines from regulatory agencies.

To reduce water pollution and avoid fines, producers can follow a few simple steps. First, place winter feeding areas in well-drained locations. These areas should not allow runoff containing mud and manure to drain into neighboring properties, streams or sinkholes. The farther away a feeding area is from surface or ground water resources, the less likely water pollution is to occur.

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Next, producers should consider using confined winter feeding that allows cattle to access a structure or paddock for feeding and then return to a larger forage pasture. Smaller “sacrifice” pastures reduce the area damaged from winter feeding and can be used as central hubs for multiple pastures as part of a rotational grazing system. By placing water and mineral supplements away from the structure, cattle will be enticed to eat in the structure and then move out and way. The volume of manure will be easier to manage because the animals will spread it throughout the fields.

Finally, heavy-use area pads around winter feeding areas can greatly reduce mud and rutting from tractor and hoof traffic. These pads are constructed using geotextile fabric, crushed stone and dense grade aggregate.

By making these considerations for winter feeding of livestock, producers can greatly reduce the potential to contaminate water resources and can improve production.

For more information, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.

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Jerry Little, County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources