SHERIDAN — Wyoming is known for its pristine rivers and lakes. Wyoming is also known for its cows, horses and other livestock, for its western way of life. Water and livestock are valuable resources for the state, and both require conscientious care, especially when managed side by side.
Even just one horse, cow or other livestock animal that lives near a water source can impact soil and water quality — for the landowner and for everyone else downstream.
But there are ways to manage both resources well, even on small acreages.
This week is Soil and Water Stewardship Week, which occurs each year between the last Sunday in April and the first Sunday in May. It is one of the world’s largest conservation-related observances, according to the National Association of Conservation Districts. Launched in 1955, it is a time to highlight programs and services offered by local conservation districts all year long.
The Sheridan County Conservation District is reaching out to residents who own one or more cows, sheep, horses, goats, llamas or other livestock and live near riparian areas or streams to remind them that managing livestock while considering nearby soil and water quality is a win-win situation.
“Soil and water are both resources we all use and need,” Program Specialist Amy Doke said. “We have programs that give people the opportunity to improve those resources in a responsible matter. It never hurts to come in and talk to us.”
The conservation district encourages livestock owners to be proactive in caring for their land and animals and offers these tips:
• Host animals wisely. Establish livestock shelters, water sources and feeding areas away from riparian areas and water bodies.
• Avoid overgrazing. Overgrazing not only reduces the quality and amount of forage but can also increase runoff — that is contaminated with animal waste — to surface water. When grass has been grazed or trampled down to 3 to 4 inches in height, move animals to a new grazing area and let the grass rest and re-grow.
• Make corrals water friendly. Maintain shrubs and grasses around corrals to trap and absorb runoff before it reaches nearby streams or groundwater.
Keep corrals clean and leave a thin layer (1 to 2 inches) of packed manure to seal the surface.
Locate corrals away from water bodies. If you have a corral near a water body, the conservation district offers cost-share programs to help you move it to a safer location.
• Call the Sheridan County Conservation District. The district offers cost-share opportunities to help livestock owners complete programs that will benefit soil and water quality. Programs include: corral relocations, establishing off-channel stockwater, fencing, grazing management, establishing riparian buffers, septic system replacement and stream stabilization. Since the district started monitoring water quality in three Sheridan County watersheds – the Tongue River, the Goose Creek and the Prairie Dog – it has offered funding and guidance for nearly 80 projects.
For more information about the Sheridan County Conservation District and cost-share programs, call 672-5820, ext. 3, or visit www.sccdwy.org.