Location strategies for winter feeding of livestock

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As we move closer to cold weather, it is a good time for Trimble county cattle producers 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 according to Steve Higgins, UK Extension Director of Environmental Compliance.

A significant amount of pollution can occur if winter feeding is conducted around streams, ponds 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 ponds/lakes, 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, you 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.

Next, you should consider using confined winter feeding that allows cattle to access a structure or paddock for feeding and then return to a larger 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, and are eligible for cost-share through the Phase I Agricultural Development fund administered by the Trimble County Agricultural Development Council.

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

For more information, contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service at 502-255-7188.

Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.