Along the Fencerow

We are now in the transition of producers who have cattle gearing up to take them to pasture. Over the last five to 10 years we have come a long way and have seen many changes in the grazing management issues of agriculture as much as we have on the crop production side.

The “buzz” now is how we as producers handle grazing land in conjunction with water quality. When we graze livestock, we are using a crop-grass, and our combines are the animals. With livestock come potential problems with water quality because of the use of fertilizers, pesticides for weed control, soil loss and manure.

I want to emphasize potential problems. When livestock grazing systems are managed correctly, there shouldn’t be any water quality concerns.

A physical inventory should be taken to identify problems. This may include fencing needs for protecting environmentally sensitive areas, potential erosion sites, watering and feeding facility locations, and any modifications that seem obvious for that watershed.

Economics are extremely important when any producer attempts to change a management system of grazing livestock. Changing for the sake of water quality is no exception.

The good news is that there can be some cost-share available in most cases. Comparing profitability options when changing a current plan is necessary to stay in business. Producers need to know all of their costs so that if any adjustments need to be made, an adequate plan can be developed.

The most important water quality protection measures are also in line with the most important practices with long-term viability of grazing resources.

They include such areas as avoiding overgrazing; applying nutrients according to the plants needs; utilizing a planned strategy to manage pests; using pesticides for maximum effectiveness; managing riparian areas to maintain productivity and promote stable stream characteristics; providing alternative watering sites to promote grazing distribution; and finally, providing alternative loafing areas to allow for maintenance of vegetation.

I tend to believe that agricultural use of land is the most environmentally effective use of land we have as long as it’s managed accordingly. If producers didn’t take care of the farm ground and the pastures we would be in tough shape.

I know a lot of farmers who do a good job and take a lot of pride in what they do every day. These folks are also some of the best environmentalists.

If there is a problem, they are probably working on a solution to combat that environmental issue in a positive manner.

Bradley Goering can be reached by e-mail at He can be reached by telephone at 620-327-4941.

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