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Buffers help control farm animal odor

Planting trees and shrubs around new and existing livestock buildings and feedlots can reduce odors by 10% to 15%, according to Iowa State University research. That’s not a lot but every effort helps, and coupled with other good manure and odor management practices, planting a vegetative buffer system is worth the effort.

Surveys by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, or CSIF, show 84% of Iowans say implementation of management practices on farms, including planting of vegetative buffers, gives them a more favorable opinion of livestock farmers.

Key Points

• CSIF, tree and nursery groups offer Green Farmstead Partner.

• Program encourages use of vegetative buffers.

• Buffers reduce odor, provide windbreak and protect soil.

CSIF, along with the Iowa Nursery and Landscape Association and Trees Forever, established the Green Farmstead Partner Program in 2004. The program has continued to grow and was the focus at a series of CSIF field days held around the state this summer. The mission is to persuade more livestock farms to establish vegetative environmental buffers, or VEBs.


VEBs help control odor emissions on the farm, provide a windbreak for people and livestock, protect water quality, improve soil quality, and provide wildlife habitat. By planning and planting a VEB, livestock producers can improve neighbor and community relations and improve the aesthetics on farms that raise livestock.

“You get more than just pretty looks by installing these buffers,” says Roger Hunt, design specialist and field coordinator for Trees Forever. Passersby who aren’t familiar with the farmer can form a favorable opinion about the livestock operation and the farmer’s attitude toward protecting the environment. Planting the buffers fosters a “good neighbor” mentality.

Putting buffers to work

Curt Keppler of Strawberry Point built a 2,800-head pig nursery in 2005. In 2008, with design help from Trees Forever and physical labor from the Starmont FFA chapter, the northeast Iowa farmer planted 70 trees and shrubs as a windbreak around his facility.

An outer row of shrubs serves as the facility’s first layer of defense from the winter snow. A row of evergreens acts as a windbreak. Shade trees help reduce energy costs and provide relief from the intense summer sun; flowering trees offset the facility’s odor and improve site aesthetics.

“One of the reasons we did this here was more for eye appeal and the second was because snow is an issue as well,” Keppler says. “We’re hoping for a pretty good windbreak here as time goes on.”

Hunt says a buffer zone should be a part of the plans when constructing a new facility. Buffers should be placed 75 feet away from the building. This way, snow will stick to the buffers before reaching the building.

Improve farm’s aesthetics

Cade Perrinjaquet, also of Strawberry Point, planted a buffer area in June around his 2,400-head finishing facility that was built in 2008. He planted more shrubs around the highway entrance of the facility. “With our location along the highway, we wanted to do something to dress the site up and improve the image of the livestock industry,” Perrinjaquet says.

Kevin Kelly, a tree nursery owner at Clarence, helped design Perrinjaquet’s layout, and students from Starmont and Edgewood-Colesburg FFA chapters helped with the planting.

“We like to involve youth in our projects simply to remind them of the valuable role that plant material plays in the quality of life they are able to have,” Hunt says.

One row of shrubs and two rows of evergreens will provide a windbreak for Perrinjaquets. He hopes the windbreak will protect the hog barn’s curtain ventilation system and the barn itself from snow in the winter.

Hunt advises planting six to 12 different species when planting a VEB. This way, if a pest like the emerald ash borer or a tree disease hits the area, all of the trees in the VEB wouldn’t be affected.

Learn more

For information about the Green Farmstead program, go to or call 800-932-2436. Information and advice are available to help farmers effectively plan and install vegetative buffers around livestock buildings. That includes information on vegetative buffer research, species selection, computer-assisted design and cost-share programs.

GOING GREEN: Cade and Angel Perrinjaquet’s finishing facility was the site of a recent CSIF field day. Cade (left) is standing next to Shannon Ramsay, president of Trees Forever, and Roger Hunt, field coordinator for Trees Forever.


BUFFERS WORK: The Keppler family planted trees and shrubs around their pig nursery in 2005. “It makes the site more appealing and will help keep snow off the facility,” says Curt Keppler, with wife Karen (left) and daughters Brittany and Chantel.

This article published in the September, 2010 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.