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Nutrient management key to Crawford County conservation plan
cows grazing
Pasturing cattle has been shown to be protective against streambank erosion, be an effective way to disperse nutrients, and contributes to animal health and reduced veterianary costs in agricultural operations.

This article is part five of a nine part series explaining the county’s Land and Water Resource Management Plan. The Crawford County Board of Supervisors approved the plan on Tuesday, August 16, 2016.

Proper nutrient management is important to protect the natural resources of Crawford County.

Improper application of manure and purchased fertilizer on farm fields and home lawns can cause pollution of groundwater and surface water.

“The amount of over application of nutrients per acre is greater for lawns and gardens than for cropland,” according to Adam Achenbach, the District Conservationist for NRCS (Natural Resource Conservation Service). “Over application of nutrients for specific crop or lawn needs can migrate to surface water via storm water runoff. Excessive nutrients associated with organic load in surface water can cause nuisance algae blooms and decreased levels of dissolved oxygen.”

“We are really pushing the Nutrient Management Plans,” said Crawford County Conservationist Dave Troester. “Every producer spreads fertilizer, and a large portion also spread manure. We work with farmers to ensure they are only applying nutrients where they truly need them. NMPs are designed to save farmers money by reducing fertilizer costs and boosting their yields.

“Since 2011, the percent of cropland in Crawford County covered by a NMP has increase from less than one percent to over 11 percent in 2015,” Troester explained. “Many farmers still do not do soil testing and (they) apply their fertilizers based off of their best guesses.

“The county usually gets state funds to provide cost-share to farmers to hire an agronomist or crop advisor to write their NMP,” Troester pointed out. “The deadline to apply for this funding was August 1.”

Trend toward grazing

Barnyard runoff and land spreading of manure (especially on frozen ground) are the two principal sources of animal waste pollution in the county. Bacteria, sediment, ammonia and nutrients are the major culprits that foul the water.

Crawford County farmers have followed a statewide trend and expanded their operations, resulting in fewer barnyards and more confined herds. The result is fewer barnyard issues, but more land spreading problems, especially in late winter and early spring.

Currently, 16 dairies in the county average between 100 and 200 cows milked daily with approximately a third confining the herd and two-thirds using pasture in their management.

The rotational grazing community in the county is growing and is greater than 35 percent of all dairies. Properly managed grazing has been shown to greatly reduce overland flow of waste to waters.

One CAFO in county

Crawford County (unlike Kewaunee County) has only one permitted CAFO in our county.

The permitted CAFO is Roth Feeder Pig, and the facility where the discharge occurs is located in the Town of Wauzeka in Crawford County.

The receiving water for surface water and groundwater is located within the Boydtown Creek in the Lower Wisconsin River Basin.

Grazing initiative growing

The Kickapoo Grazing Initiative (KGI) is a partnership of Trout Unlimited, Valley Stewardship Network, Vernon County Land and Water Conservation (Ben Wojahn), and UW-Extension: Crawford County begun in June of 2012.

Now in its fourth year, the Kickapoo Grazing Initiative is an exciting new public/private conservation partnership that focuses on promoting economic and environmental incentives for farmers and landowners to adopt managed grazing of grass-fed beef in the Kickapoo Valley in southwest Wisconsin. 

“Because of the benefits of increased soil organic matter, reduced runoff, and value-added healthy food production, the KGI believes that managed rotational grazing can help protect water quality, while sustaining our small farmers in the area,” said Cynthia Olmstead, KGI Project Director. 

The Kickapoo Grazing Initiative is focusing on additional outreach through pasture walks and events with partner organizations, as well as direct technical assistance through their grazing specialists. 

KGI’s funding will help farmers and landowners develop managed rotational grazing plans with one of the grazing specialists, as well as work with Natural Resource Conservation Service’s EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) program to help offset the costs of implementing grazing management practices, such as fencing and providing water sources.

EQIP is a voluntary federal program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices that improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related natural resources on agricultural land and non-industrial private forestland.

KGI and Great River Graziers has several events planned yet for this growing season:

On Tuesday, Aug. 30, at 10:30 a.m. Emile Smith & Jay Glommen-McCloskey, 55705 Stoney Point Road, Seneca, will host a pasture walk and education event.

The educational topic of the event will be gauging the soil health and fertility, sward composition and density (an area of land covered with grass), and animal stocking rate of converted CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) paddocks with trees via rapid rotational grazing and silvo-pasture principles.

The special guest speaker will be Randall Mell, Natural Resource Educator. To get to the farm from Seneca, drive1.5 miles north of Seneca on Highway 27, then go left on Stoney Point Road and drive one mile west.

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 10:30 a.m., at Susie & Doug Konichek’s, 54226 Duha Ridge Road, Steuben.

Learn about high water table, creek & marsh/ swamp pasture management for dairy rotational grazing options and paddock/ pasture renovation. Contact Susie and Doug Konichek at 608-874-4310.

If you have questions about any of these events, you can call 608-326-0223 and talk to Vance Haugen, Crawford County UW-Extension Agriculture Agent.

Crawford County plan

 Crawford County wants to address nutrient management with both urban and rural citizens. Nitrate levels over 10.0 mg/l have been detected in some wells in Crawford County.

Any Nitrate amount over 10.0 mg/l exceeds state groundwater standards. At this level, it is recommended that infants and pregnant women not consume the water because nitrates interfere with the ability of blood to carry oxygen.

High nitrate levels may also be an indication that other contaminants are present in the drinking water. High nitrate concentrations in the drinking water have also been linked to spontaneous abortions in livestock.

There are currently several programs involving nutrient management planning. 1. Federal Programs: Environmental Quality Incentives Program; 2. State Programs: Nutrient and Pest Management Program; 3. Private Programs: Southwest Badger RC&D (Resource Conservation & Development Council): Kraft Grant for Nutrient Management Program.

RC&D is a non-biased rural development program, focusing on the conservation, development, and utilization of natural resources to improve the standard of living in our area.

The RC&D program was established by federal legislation in 1962. This act directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help local units of government conserve and properly utilize natural resources in solving local problems.

Goals, objectives and actions

Goal 1: Improve and protect the quality of our natural resources by the judicious and economic use of nutrients

Objective A: Inform and educate Crawford County residents on wise use of nutrients. Actions: 1. Use radio advertisement, bulletins, demonstrations, and workshops to inform landowners: 2. Use county scales to calibrate manure spreaders: 3. Work with Southwest Technical College to facilitate county classes designed for landowners to write their own nutrient management plan.