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Columbus Producer Improves Water Quality

June 30, 2012
D'Jeane Peters, Public Affairs

Photo of horse standing in new corral system
New corral system installed at Mark Pederson's animal feeding operation (AFO) near Columbus, MT.

In 2007, producer Mark Pederson located in Columbus, Mont., realized that he needed to address a runoff issue. The runoff issue was not about a political office, but rather the animal waste from his corrals that was running directly into the stream on his property. Knowing that there was financial assistance available for this type of thing, Pederson went to his local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office.

He enrolled in the animal feeding operation (AFO)/concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) program. NRCS determined that moving and rebuilding his corrals would “result in considerable reductions of nonpoint source pollution.” This allowed him to create a new set of corrals that would prevent the runoff from entering the water source. “NRCS did the engineering and design, but allowed me to put my input into the design as well,” says Pederson.

Not only are the new corrals no longer discharging waste water into the stream, they are made of more durable materials and include electric water tanks. A windbreak and shed were also installed, which have improved his calving system, giving the cattle shelter in the winter. “These new corrals are much safer to work in, because I was able to design them how I wanted them. I feel more comfortable having people help me work cattle,” says Pederson.

Besides fixing the runoff issue, the project has had some additional benefits. “I think this is one of the best things I ever did because now I qualify for CSP,” says Pederson. CSP, or the Conservation Stewardship Program, is an NRCS program that offers payments to producers who demonstrate a high level of conservation on their land. By moving his corrals, Pederson was able to apply for and get accepted into the program, which has both financial and conservation benefits. The CSP contract then helped him control knapweed on his land, monitor his grazing and install wildlife ramps in his water tanks. Pederson is a big supporter of conservation practices. “Do it now while there’s money available to help. It’s the right thing to do and, eventually, I think everyone will need to do this. Take advantage of it.”

Photo of new gutter system.
A new gutter system helps prevent clean water from the roof mixing with dirty water from the corral during heavy rainfalls. 
Photo ofnew wooden windbreak extending from corral.
A new windbreak was also installed as part of the project.
Photo of watering system showing location between corral and pasture.
The new livestock watering system serves more than one corral.