Keep Animals From Creeks To Limit Erosion, Pollution

Many watershed cost-share projects help landowners fence off waterways.

Published on: Dec 4, 2012

One of the practices conservation-minded people promote is getting animals, typically cattle, but it can be horses or any species, out of the creek or pond. Instead of letting them obtain water from the creek, fence them out and provide an alternative water source.

Cost-sharing is sometimes available for practices like fencing animals out of the creek, depending upon where you live. If you don't know if you're in a watershed that has a project and is providing cost-share for certain practices to help protect the stream, contact your local soil and water conservation district office and ask. Even if you're not in one of these, you might be eligible for the EQIP program through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with funds provided through the Farm Service agency.

New fence: These horses, and cattle during part of the year, no longer have access to this tributary that feeds directly in to South Laughery Creek thanks to cost-share through a watershed project.
New fence: These horses, and cattle during part of the year, no longer have access to this tributary that feeds directly in to South Laughery Creek thanks to cost-share through a watershed project.

Some of the same programs that provide cost-share for fencing animals out of a water way or body of water also provide cost-sharing to develop another source of water. If you have rolling pasture land with springs, you may be able to install a spring development, where water is captured and animals drink out of a tank. Usually these systems can be set up so they function all year long and do not freeze up during the winter.

Allowing animals to obtain water from a creek is a time-honored practice, but in this case conservationists make the case that it is actually a bad habit that has been allowed to continue for many years instead. Deciding to fence them out is your choice, but it can benefit local streams in at least two ways. First, cattle usually stand in or along the banks of these waterways during the hot months, creating a muddy mass. Erosion potential increases on these areas during heavy rain events.

Second, the animals defecating or urinating in the creek increases the chances of higher bacteria counts, including e.coli or nitrates when checked downstream.

If you have livestock with access to water and haven't checked out your possibilities of fencing them out and providing water in other ways, conservationists urge you to do so.