Livestock and poultry production is an important part of the agricultural economy of the United States; the resulting meat, eggs, milk and other food products contribute to a healthy diet, and Americans also benefit from wool, fur, and leather these animals produce. Depending on their management, livestock and poultry operations can either degrade or and contribute to the quality of our natural resources.
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With the continuing volatility of energy costs, livestock producers are looking for ways to save on inputs. Stockpiling forage to extend the grazing season and strip grazing to improve forage utilization offer economic and environmental benefits. Play this video to learn more about winter grazing.
Range and pasture management methods enhance sustainable livestock production, but they can also improve soil and water resources by preventing erosion, increasing infiltration, facilitating soil building grasses in rotation systems, and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. In addition they improve plant production, vigor, resilience, and diversity, and enhance wildlife habitat. They are production systems that can be used as tools to conserve and restore our natural resources. NRCS grazing land and range-land management specialists provide planning and technical assistance to livestock producers, and they help identify financial assistance that can be used in implement these plans.
Confined Animal Systems
The confinement of beef and dairy cattle, swine and poultry have greatly increased production efficiency and reduced the pressure on our nation’s lands, but the concentration of domestic animals that comes with confinement brings its own resource challenges. NRCS has been working with owners of animal feeding operations to manage manure and animal mortality since the passing of the Clean Water Act of 1972. The NRCS strategy to prevent degradation of the nation’s water resources from confined animal feeding operations has been to work with private landowners on a voluntary basis to prevent the discharge of contaminated runoff from animal production areas and apply manure to agricultural land in a way to benefit from its nutrient and soil building characteristics. Landowners may also work with NRCS conservation planners to address air resource concerns and take advantage of potential energy value in the manure. The planning and technical assistance provided by NRCS results in Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans that include manure management and conservation practices that can be often be implemented with financial assistance.