Fences makes more than good neighbors. With help from their local Soil and Water Conservation District, Virginia farmers are discovering that fencing the streams on their property makes for healthier, moer profitable cattle–as well as cleaner local waterways. Excluding livestock from streams helps keep their banks from eroding and decreases the amount of sediment that they carry. It also eliminates the bacteria associated with livestock waste that cause illness in both humans and animals.
“Improved herd health, lower vet bills, and quicker weight gain are definite economic benefits of streamside livestock exclusion,” said Chris Van Vlack, Conservation Specialist of Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District.
In addition, stream fencing prevents leg injuries that cattle and horses may suffer on muddy banks and eliminates the possibility that cows will calve by the water, where newborns are more likely to suffer hypothermia and death.
Farm productivity increases, too. Studies have shown that when farmers provide clean water instead of letting their cattle drink from streams, animals gain more weight, more quickly and horse owners see decreases in hoof problems.
Funding from the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program is available to offset the costs of installing fences and alternative watering systems. In the 2012 program year, that means 75 percent of the cost of all eligible components, along with a 25 percent tax credit. Funds are also available for maintaining existing fences that are along water bodies and streams. Also, farmers can enhance the economic benefits of stream fencing by creating wooded buffers, which can also qualify for cost share funding.
In addition, Loudoun County has provided Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District with assistance to supply stream exclusion and water system cost share funding to horse and other livestock owners who do not qualify for the state program due to having farms under five acres, or not deriving income from their operation.
Streamside livestock exclusion is one of five sets of priority agricultural best management practices promoted by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, which administers the Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share Program. The Commonwealth’s 47 Soil and Water Conservation Districts administer the Virginia Cost-Share Program at the local level.
District staff can help farmers apply for many different cost-share funding programs to help implement streamside livestock exclusion best management practices. They also can identify other conservation programs for which agricultural operations of all kinds can qualify. For more information, contact the District staff at (571) 918-4530.