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A feat of field fitness
This time of year means mud and muck for livestock living outside.
Wet conditions don’t deter staff at the Clallam Conservation District, who advise locals year-round on how to make properties viable in the worst conditions.
Horse owners Mike and Judy Paty attest to the district’s knowledge. They partnered with the district to revitalize their pasture and horse barn off Happy Valley Road.
“We did exactly as they said and it worked exactly as they said,” Mike said.
The Patys’ property of about three acres had water coming off two spots on their barn that spread out across the property and flooded.
“We were constantly losing a boot because it was so muddy,” Mike said.
When they bought their horse, Molly, conditions became worse as the mud prevented the Patys from picking up the horse’s waste easily.
The couple contacted the Conservation District and later created a farm plan over a few months to prevent runoff and flooding, create easier cleanup and preserve fields for the warmer months. The district staff provided technical information and expertise throughout the process.
“After two years of a mud hole, I said enough is enough,” Mike said.
Jennifer Coyle-Bond, a conservation planner, encourages livestock owners to get their animals off the fields in the winter and confine them to prevent a muddy paddock area.
Coyle-Bond said this helps prevent water and animal waste from mixing and going into the water table.
“Bottom line is this is to promote water quality,” she said. “Even though this is just one farm, it has a comprehensive effect across the county.”
What they did
The Patys started their farm plan last August and finished after two months. Their paddock area became mud-free with six inches of compacted rock and about one inch of pea gravel on top. They piped roof water to a ditch. Manure is collected daily and stored in a covered pile.
Their horse stays off the pasture all winter to help grass grow back.
“It takes me two or three minutes to clean up,” Judy said, “I can go out in my flip-flops and it’s done.”
For those considering an option similar to the one used by the Patys, Coyle-Bond said there’s not much people can do physically in the winter, but this is the time to plan for action.
She emphasized that gutters are essential for homes and barns.
“One shed can displace thousands of gallons of water in a paddock area,” she said. “People need to see where the water is going or where it can go.”
One advantage to partnering with the conservation district is the possibility of cost-sharing on conservation projects.
The Patys said they received about $1,700, half of the costs, once the project was finished.
They kept a detailed log of all activity and underwent inspections during construction, but Mike said it was no problem.
Coyle-Bond said grant funding to reimburse residents comes from different agencies such as the Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency. Funding also depends on residents’ proximity to water areas, but most landowners with livestock are eligible, she said.
Funds aren’t always available for reimbursement, but conservation staff continue to seek more grant funds.
Joe Holtrop, district manager of the conservation district, said they contributed more than $740,000 of financial assistance in 2011 to landowners for construction to enhance conservation practices.
Projects included farm best management practices, riparian restoration, fish passage improvement, on-farm irrigation efficiencies and irrigation district/company ditch piping.
The farm best management practices typically were cost-shared at 50 percent of the total project cost and so were a few small irrigation ditch-piping projects that were done for water quality improvement purposes, Holtrop said. The Clallam Conservation District has been doing heavy-use area improvements for 10 years as a keystone practice, he said.
“It enables people to be environmentally safe and find a convenient place to keep animals and create a good surface to collect manure from,” Holtrop said.
For more information on farm planning, call 452-1912 for conservation planners Jennifer Coyle-Bond, ext. 110, or Meghan Adamire, ext. 109.
Visit www.clallamcd.org for more information.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.