Proper run-off control minimizes risk to watercourses
April 24, 2012 by Lillian Schaer Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association
April 24, 2012 – Farmers find it pays to invest in practices to manage manure from their livestock in environmentally sound ways. Protecting water sources, and storing and applying manure at the right times and places, for example, are helping the environment while also building healthy soils and maintaining healthy animals.
Leroy and Marianne Cook are dairy farmers in Perth County, Ont. Their property has a small stream running close to their barn and feeding into a watercourse that flows downstream through the nearby city of Stratford, Ont. This is typical of many farms in Ontario, which were often deliberately established near watercourses to help feed and water livestock and provide water for the family. As farms and nearby urban areas have grown, farmers, like the Cooks, are now working to take action to protect the environment.
“We have two kids keen on farming and this was definitely the right thing to do for the environment and for our farm’s future,” says Leroy Cook.
Last year, the Cooks undertook a large building project to keep nutrients from their livestock from reaching the watercourse. This included a covered concrete barnyard that gives cattle a dry area to walk around, keeping them cleaner and drier, benefiting overall animal health and welfare.
They also installed eavestroughs on their barn to divert water off the roof and away from the building. And instead of pooling around the manure pile area, water is now diverted into a clean, sloped catchment area that contains the runoff water and directs it away in a manner that does not pose risk to the stability of the nearby watercourse.
It took some time for the project to be completed, Leroy says, as they weren’t able to find a contractor to do the work in 2010. They had better luck in 2011, but then also had to obtain a permit from the Upper Thames River Conservation Authority because their barn is less than 75 feet — or about 22.86 metres — from the watercourse.
The water runoff control project is work the Cooks say they would eventually have done on their farm anyway, but thanks to cost-share funding available through the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP), they were able to complete all the work simultaneously. Without the funding assistance, they likely would have staggered the improvements over several smaller projects to make it more feasible for them financially.
“Thanks to the funding program, we were able to do everything at once, which was better all the way around,” he says, adding that although the program wasn’t designed to fund aesthetic improvements, an unexpected side benefit has been the overall improved appearance of their farm.
”The stream in front of our barn is now protected from any manure runoff but it’s also a much nicer looking farm now. Before we added the runoff control, you could look down our driveway and see our manure pile, which wasn’t that nice,” he explains.