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University of Minnesota Extension

Is my barn eco-friendly?

Many livestock owners are concerned about the affect their animals can have on our environment, including our lakes, streams and forests. 

It doesn't matter what kind of livestock you have, if you aren't careful, livestock operations can be hard on our natural resources.

Here are some easy things you can do to protect the environment while keeping your animals safe and healthy.

Livestock exclusion 

  • Fence animals 30-100 feet from ALL sensitive water features such as well heads, creeks, streams, lakes and wetlands.
  • Ideally, they should be kept off septic systems to prevent compaction and damage to the system.
  • Maintain good vegetative cover like tall grass, not weeds, in the area between the animals and the water.
  • Trees and brush along surface water is encouraged.

Nutrient management 

  • Store animal manure at least 150 feet from a sensitive water feature.
  • House manure on a cement pad or compacted clay.
  • Remove or relocate manure twice a year.
  • Use the manure as fertilizer to prevent phosphorus levels from getting too high.
  • Follow a manure management plan.
  • If you fertilize your lawn, use phosphorus free fertilizer and keep it away from sensitive water features as well as driveways and roads.

Clean water 

  • Direct clean water from the roof or the surrounding area away from the manure pile and bare ground.
  • Collect stormwater from your property so it can infiltrate into the ground to help recharge ground water.

Erosion control 

  • Stabilize and control gullies on your property.
  • Minimize the amount of bare soil on your property through pasture management.
  • Filter runoff water from bare areas with a filter strip, including from
    • arenas
    • driveways
    • parking lots.

Chemical safety 

  • Follow the instructions on labels for dilution rates, application rates and storage for all hazardous chemicals such as gasoline, pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Dispose of chemicals according to their labels.
  • Follow University of Minnesota guidelines for applying pesticides and fertilizers. 
  • Follow setback guidelines and avoid spray drift.

Wildlife habitat management 

  • Control noxious weeds and non-native invasive plants on your property. 
  • You are required by state law to control noxious weeds like Canada thistle, bull thistle and purple loosestrife.
  • Stay informed about Minnesota's terrestrial invasive species.

Author: Betsy Wieland, former Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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