You've read about lots of cost-share programs. Sometimes the dollars are federal dollars, sometimes they come from the state. They may come from USDA or the Environmental Protection Agency, through the 319 grant program. Distributed by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, they eventually wind up as cost-share offered through local watershed projects. Maybe you've even completed projects with cost-share dollars from one of these agencies yourself.
Of all the cost share projects written about and talked about over the years, there's one that has received little attention. That's cost-sharing for gutters and underground tile to catch water coming off barn roofs and send it underground to a safe outlet, often in a pasture or maybe in a creek. The result is a clean area around a barn where otherwise the soils would stay wet from rains coming off the roof occasionally, and cattle or other livestock would do what they always do when they congregate on wet soils – make a muddy mess. That mess can lead to more soil erosion, frustrated livestock owners who must feed and work with the livestock, and an unsightly feeding area.
Duane Drockelman, coordinator of the South Laugher Creek Watershed in southeast Indiana, says that the project cost-shared on several systems to get water off of roofs and underground, so it could be sent out a safe distance, protecting the barn lot. Sometimes the system by itself was enough. Sometimes it was installed along with another cost-share practice – a heavy use area. This involves creating a pad for livestock to stand on where they are fed or watered so the ground doesn't become a muddy mess. Usually it's constructed of a layer of geotextile fabric to let water through, several inches of gravel, and capped with a layer of limestone to make a firm seal on the heavy use pad.
Once a pad is installed near a shed and water from the shed is diverted, it's amazing how much soil erosion you can prevent, while making things more convenient for the farmer as well, Drockelman says.