Cost-effective Conservation Practices


This article includes ideas on how to improve your operation environmentally and economically.


Cost-effective Conservation! Simple Practices that Make a Big Difference! Improve Your Farm in 5 Easy Steps!

Did I grab your attention like those magazines in the check-out aisle? I usually read those eye-catching articles and realize I already knew most of the information, but need to put knowledge into action to see improvements.

A lot of conservation practices are the same way — a few simple practices put into action can make a big difference.

I asked our district technician, Merle Swartzentruber, to give me some ideas about cost-effective conservation practices that have a big impact on farm management and water quality.


Here are some ideas to improve your operation without spending big bucks:

Fencing is your friend. If you are not using rotational grazing, you might want to consider it.Rotational grazing manages pastures by reducing erosion and manure concentrations, gives pastures a chance to recover, and usually extends the grazing season.

Many grazing councils are active around the state where producers share grazing management techniques and find out what works. Your local SWCD/NRCS and OSU Extension office can provide more information as well.

Livestock with total access to a stream degrades it by contributing nutrients through manure and increasing sedimentation by stomping up the stream bottom and banks. Fencing animals out of the stream and installing a watering system does not cost much, is healthier for the animals, and improves water quality.

Cows in deep mud and manure on a feedlot are almost as bad as cows in the creek. Some simple practices can make a big difference to keep the feedlot cleaner.

A clean water diversion — find out where the clean water hits the lot and dig a trench to divert it — keeps clean water from mixing with the manure and adding to the mess.

Roof gutters are not cheap, but think about how much less manure there is to handle by keeping the roof water away from the feedlot, which translates into money saved in labor and hauling.

It’s simple — keep clean water clean and away from the feedlot. That way you only have to deal with what comes out of the cow and rainwater that hits the lot.


A super simple conservation practice is maintaining grass buffers or grassed areas below and around feedlots or barnyards to help control manure related pollutants that run off. Grass acts like a sponge and filters pollutants by slowing runoff.

Farmers hate mud, making heavy use pads perhaps the most loved conservation practice out there. Use them wherever livestock travels or congregates, like travel lanes, watering troughs or feed lots.

Granted, the geotextile fabric and gravel required to provide a hard surface come at a cost, but the return on investment is better than the bank. Without the geotextile fabric, gravel disappears, never to be seen again. The fabric allows water to seep through, but keeps the gravel in place.

Geotextile fabric is great for driveways too. Several SWCDs sell geotextile fabric, or they can tell you where to buy it and how to put in a heavy use area.


Perhaps one of the most overlooked conservation practices that costs peanuts compared to potential savings is soil testing. Holmes SWCD processes soil tests for $7/sample, or your local SWCD can tell you where you can get a soil sample tested.

That small investment lets you know how much fertilizer or lime is needed, instead of just guessing. Extra fertilizer that can’t be used by the crop flows into the nearest creek, taking your dollars with it and degrading water quality.

Contact your local SWCD for more information about these practices and others that will make a big difference. Simple concepts put into action go a long way toward less mud, cleaner water and healthier livestock.