In descending order, by date published.
Winter feeding of cattle is a necessary part of nearly all cow-calf operations. In winter months, livestock producers often confine animals to smaller "sacrifice" pastures to reduce the area damaged from winter feeding. A poorly chosen site for winter feeding can have significant negative impacts on soil and water quality. Such areas include locations in floodplains, such as those along creek bottoms or around barns near streams. These locations are convenient, flat areas for setting hay ring feeders; however, their negative effects on water quality outweigh the convenience.
Many livestock producers would say that mud is a natural part of livestock production. But the creation of mud costs producers money and makes them less competitive. Livestock that walk through mud require more feed for energy but actually eat less because walking in mud requires more effort to get to feed and water. Therefore, mud decreases average daily gains. Mud accumulation on the coat increases the amount of energy needed to generate heat in the winter or to keep cool in the summer. Also, it can lower sale prices due to hanging tags. The creation of mud also increases animal stress and leads to a variety of health problems, including protozoan and bacterial infections. It is essential that livestock producers understand that mud hinders cost-efficient livestock production and efforts should be made to limit the creation of mud. This publication explains how mud is created and describes different types of hardened surfaces and pads that agricultural producers should use to reduce mud creation and ultimately increase production efficiency and protect natural resources.
As health and food safety concerns grow, dairy producers are facing more stringent regulations. In 2010, the European Union (EU) set the somatic cell count (SCC) upper limit, an indicator of milk quality, for exported milk at 400,000 cells per milliliter. However, the current U.S. SCC limit is 750,000 cells per milliliter. As of January 2012, any U.S. milk used in export markets must meet the EU standards. It is projected that US milk processors will gradually adopt the EU upper limit, making it difficult for dairy producers to sell milk containing more than 400,000 somatic cells per milliliter. Dairy producers will have to find innovative and cost-effective ways to reduce the somatic cell count of their milk. This publication will discuss how agriculture best management practices can be used to lower SCC.
On-farm composting can provide animal producers with a convenient method for disposing of animal mortalities and also provide a valuable soil amendment. In addition, the finished compost can be stockpiled and reused to help compost other mortalities.
Some farmers are reluctant to talk about the environment, but because farms are under increasing review by state and federal regulatory agencies, producers need to be familiar with environmental issues and regulations. Implementing best management practices (BMPs) can help farmers continue to protect the environment and increase productivity.
Kentucky's cattle industry represents the largest beef cattle herd east of the Mississippi, ranking eighth in the nation for number of beef cows. This industry is extremely important to Kentucky's economy. This publication discusses site evaluation strategies, production area management techniques, and a variety of facility types for intensive cattle production that preserve natural resources and improve production.
Nutrients are constantly cycling through farms. Nutrients come onto a farm in the form of feed, commercial fertilizers, manure, or compost, and they leave the farm with harvested crops, sold livestock, and off-site disposal of manure and other waste. Sometimes nutrients are even lost to the air, soil, or water. Nutrient management allows farmers to use nutrients (specifically nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) wisely for optimal economic benefit with minimal impact on the environment.
An enhanced vegetative strip is a best management practice that can be installed to protect surface waters from pollution produced by animal production facilities. Most people think of a vegetative strip as a grassed area or waterway, but when intentionally installed and properly managed, an EVS can be much more effective than a simple grassed filter strip. If properly managed, enhanced vegetative strips can be used to trap, treat, and absorb pollutants, which can be removed from the designated area by harvesting or grazing.
A karst landscape develops when the limestone or dolostone bedrock underneath the soil dissolves and/or collapses due to weathering. A karst system can be recognized by surface features such as depressions, sinkholes, sinking streams, and caves. In karst systems, surface water and groundwater are interconnected: surface water runoff flows into sinkholes and sinking streams and recharges the groundwater; likewise, springs maintain stream flow in the dry season. Kentuckians living in karst areas need to be acutely aware that any pollutants that reach either surface water or any karst feature can pollute the entire groundwater system (also called an aquifer). In addition, the cave system that accompanies a karst aquifer can allow pollutants to contaminate miles of water resources in just a few hours.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that agricultural sediment, pathogens, and nutrients account for more than 50 percent of water pollution in the United States. Animal confinement facilities, widely used for holding, feeding, and handling animals, are potential sources of that pollution. The pollution load of these facilities can be reduced by installing and maintaining best management practices. The BMPs may be implemented as part of permit compliance or may be used to ensure that a permit is not needed.
Kentucky's abundant forage makes it well suited for grazing livestock. Livestock producers can make additional profits by adding a few pounds before marketing calves; however, adding those pounds requires keeping calves during the winter months, when pasture forages are dormant and supplemental feed is required. The areas used to winter calves need to be conducive to feeding and need to avoid negatively impacting the environment, especially water quality.
Stormwater is excess water from rainfall and snowmelts that flows over the ground and does not infiltrate the soil. It is a concern not just in urban areas but in suburban and agricultural locations as well. As stormwater runoff flows over the land or impervious surfaces, it picks up and transports trash and debris as well as pollutants such as pathogens, nutrients, sediments, heavy metals, and chemicals. This publication reviews some of these techniques and provides a list of recommended resources for additional information.
This publication provides livestock producers with instructions on how to install a stream crossing that provides animal and vehicular access across streams. This best management practice (BMP) is intended for use with exclusion fencing that restricts cattle access to the stream. Implementation of a stream crossing with exclusion fencing will improve water quality, reducing nutrient, sediment, pathogen, and organic matter loads to streams.
Kentucky's abundant forage makes it well suited for grazing livestock, but the pasturing and pasture feeding of livestock need to be managed. Allowing cattle to behave as they would naturally can lead to overgrazing, congregation in sensitive areas, buildup of mud, loss of vegetation, compaction of soils, and erosion.
Abandoned wells are often the only structures remaining after an old house or barn has been removed. If left unmanaged in agricultural areas, these abandoned wells can pose a serious threat to livestock and human safety because of the large surface openings they often have.
Gully erosion creates large eroded channels that become problematic for many farms. Gullies form in natural drainage swales when vegetation in the swale is lost through overgrazing or tillage practices. They cause valuable soil to erode, and they form large channels that drain runoff into streams. This runoff can carry sediment, nutrients, and pathogens that can degrade the water quality.
Water supply is a key component in livestock production. One option producers have when providing water is to develop an existing spring, which occurs when groundwater running along an impervious rock layer hits a fracture and discharges on the surface.
Cattle maintain their body temperature in winter by burning more calories, which requires them to consume more feed. Livestock producers use wooded areas to provide protection for cattle from wind and low temperatures. That protection enables the cattle to conserve energy and eat less. Using wooded areas for winter feeding makes practical sense, but producers need to consider several environmental issues when planning for it.
Shade is a must for pasture-based grazing systems. It curtails heat stress, which is detrimental to cattle and causes a decrease in milk production, feed intake, weight gains, and fertility.
Actively creating a riparian buffer typically consists of six steps: site assessment, planting plan development, site preparation, species selection, planting, and protection and maintenance.