potty-training cows

Scott Pittman pci at permaculture-inst.org
Tue Jun 6 11:36:39 EDT 2000

At 06:18 PM 6/5/00 +0000, you wrote:
>Dear Judith:
>First, thanks everyone for taking such a great interest in my question.  It
>was actually made only half-heartedly on one of those few and far between
>'rainy-day funks' I was having.  Too much to do, not enough time, wet/cold
>outside.  Mostly making light of myself.  But I really do have cattle
>polluting the creek and it is in a watershed.
>I'm not sure if this would be applicable to my land, but I will definitely
>check out the possibilities.  Unfortunately, my 40 acres is part of an
>original 30,000 acre cattle ranch that was broken up into parcels 40-200
>acres.  Not all of the land is on the creek, some parcels are on the
>Greenhorn Creek (same problem) and some have no creek at all.  Of the creek
>on my land, it just happens to be my southern land border, I have have
>people on both sides of me and across the creek.  I can't effectively fence
>the cows out alone.
>Plus, the cattle belongs to another cattle ranch that has open grazing
>rights, the barbed-wire fence law is the only way to keep the cattle off
>your property, but even if you fence all the way into the center of the
>creek, they still have access from other landowners.  The land is all zoned
>agriculture, the state only charges us 50 cents an acre in propety taxes
>because of the grazing lease and if too many people fence out the cattle,
>they lose the special tax rate.  So not many find it to their best interest
>to fence the cattle.
>All of the water in our wells comes directly out of the aquifer (my well is
>490 feet deep, the on the bluff above me is 675 feet deep), so noone is
>worried about personal use water pollution.  Although they don't consider
>when/if the aquifer dries up.
>The creeks are the only way the cattle get any water as they're not fed and
>watered as they would be on a farm.  They pretty much have to take care of
>themselves.  They're brought up to the mountains for the summer and fall,
>then rounded up and taken back down to the plains during the
>I've been talking with the Natural Resource people regarding
>phytoremediation and whether a plan using plants may help, no definite
>conclusions yet.  But, some individuals living at the ranch (still not many
>actually living there yet, some just horse facilities, etc.) are worried
>about the pollution and e-coli.  I know my 9 year old and alot of the youth
>that camp there with us, just itch to get into the creek (I still remember
>when...) and even though I warn, preach, demand that they don't get into
>it, they seem to find a way of 'accidentally' falling in and splashing
>Any other suggestions?  I'm open!

I have found that some ranchers are willing to cooperate in developing 
water tanks off of the riparian zone.  If your creek is has appropriate 
head and volume you might consider a ram pump to push water out of the 
creek bed up to grazing land.  This is an inexpensive method of watering 
cattle where they do less damage, ideally you will develop the tanks so you 
can move them occasionally to avoid too much impact in one 
area.  Unfortunately most ranchers also like the rich grazing along stream 
and river banks and sometimes the water issue is secondary to the grazing 
issue.  I think it's worth while to talk to local ranchers you might be 
pleasantly surprised that they respond to health issues, children, and bio 
diversity issues.  It is better to enroll them as partners in problem 
solving rather than confronting them as "the enemy".


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