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2012 Annual Report Illinois River Success Story

2012 Annual Report - Conservation Practices Help Farmer Weather Drought, Improve Water Quality in Illinois River Watershed

The Illinois River Sub-Basin and Eucha-Spavinaw Lake Watershed Initiative is designed to improve the water quality in the watershed while maintaining the food and fiber production in the area.

This year, the initiative not only benefitted the environment but also helped Triple A Farms in Benton County, Ark., weather the drought.

Ryan Anglin, a third generation dairy farmer, was able to keep all of his cattle during one of the worst droughts in Arkansas’s history. Ryan runs 700-800 head of cattle on his farm. The dairy operation includes 300 Holsteins. Another 120 beef cattle graze his pastures, while a cow/calf operation makes up the rest.

Through the initiative, Anglin planted rye grass on 46.6 acres in 2011.  The annual rye grass increases pasture diversity, provides forage for livestock and extends the grazing season. The pastures are used by his beef cattle.

“Without over-seeding annual rye grass in our pastures and the cover crops last fall we wouldn’t have made it through the drought as well as we did,” Anglin said. “The planting gave us extra forage that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Since Anglin’s 300 head of Holstein dairy cattle eat hay and silage throughout the year, he grows corn, wheat and sudangrass. Fields left barren through the winter can result in soil loss and runoff. In 2011 and 2012, he planted rye grass as a cover crop on 69.7 acres through the initiative. His plan calls for another planting in 2013.

“Cover crops provide several benefits on this farm. They protect the Little Osage Creek Watershed by reducing soil erosion, improve soil quality by increasing soil organic matter, and provide supplemental forage for Mr. Anglin’s cattle,” said Josh Fortenberry, soil conservationist at Bentonville.  “Cover crops cannot be mechanically harvested, but grazing is allowed until the crop is killed or tilled under.”