Considering last week’s op-ed by Mike Massie, which questioned the good of fencing farm animals away from streams, most folks likely agree with the author that blaming cattle in streams for water pollution all the way to Chesapeake Bay is dumb. We also probably agree that humans and housing development/practices are the larger culprit.
Nonetheless, it is important to widen the discussion of water pollution well beyond cattle. It’s not only cows — but also sheep, goats, chickens, piggys and a whole passel of other farm animals — that dirty local steams and then drink out of them. Ugh, is this a good idea?
Fact is that the farm animals can and do get sick from drinking and standing in water in which they stirred up a mire of mud and added in their own poop and pee. I can’t see how this can be good agricultural practice. Also, it must cost a lot for farmers to treat animals for illness and disease caused by drinking and standing in polluted waters when their goal is to raise healthy, robust-sized animals for market. Another, not-good thought — the farm effluence flows downstream to become well water for neighbors — ugh again!
Now that there are new incentives, it seems to make good dollars and good sense for farmers to participate in the stream-fencing program. Piedmont Environmental Council has worked successfully with its conservation partners to make the program cost-free.
Surely now it makes sense for farmers to consider favorably the idea of fencing streams and creating clean water resources for the animals they raise. Benefits of doing so seem obvious — healthier, larger and more productive animals that need less medical attention and attract a higher price at market — and cleaner water for neighbors, for fish, for recreation.