Securing adequate and safe water for livestock can be a challenge for homeowners who are building on remote land or land without obvious water sources. But it is also a mistake to assume that because there is a creek or natural pond that you have a solution.
There are risks to the environment if livestock are left to linger in streams, and there is additional harm if livestock reach streams by trampling across the buffer zones. Buffer zones around streams are called “riparian buffers.” They include the trees, brushes and vegetation that lines a stream bank. This riparian zone protects the bank from erosion and supplies protections from runoff. It also creates a habitat for other animals.
To keep from damaging their own land and stream water quality, landowners have been instituting measures to limit livestock access to streams. Fencing off livestock access means that landowners need to find other sources of water.
Potential solutions include wells, springs, ponds and even the stream itself with water fed into troughs using pumps or gravity feeds.
The benefits of livestock irrigation programs include a reduction in soil erosion and sedimentation. This helps to prevent the smothering of aquatic organisms and keeps the stream itself from eroding There is also a reduction of contamination and nutrient pollution from animal waste entering the water. A healthy stream protects the diversity of life in the stream itself and protects the water downstream from contamination.
Another benefit to livestock is that a healthier water source improves productivity in both cattle weight (beef operations) or milk production (dairy operations). There is also a reported decrease in cattle disease.
County agricultural agents can often help find solutions for safe water sources for livestock. It is often beneficial to involve them early in the planning process so that as you plan your home, you are also planning for any horses or livestock you may be dreaming of owning.
The photo above shows two of the horses owned by Greg and Sandra Teslia with their Honest Abe Log Homes timber frame home in the background. Read their story here.