March 22, 2017

Water: For You. For Trees. For Livestock.

Water is one of the most vital resources for all living things. Clean drinking water is fundamental for a healthy and viable human life, but did you know water quality is just as important to livestock as it is to humans?

The quality of streams, rivers, lakes and watersheds are crucial to the well being and productivity of livestock. The incorporation of trees on livestock farms are key to protecting the quality of surrounding water sources while also increasing sustainability within an operation.

Practices to Protect Livestock Drinking Waters
One management practice for protecting water resources is silvopasture. This is the process of incorporating trees and grazing livestock operations within the same land. Numerous benefits arise when silvopasture is introduced. A cooler summer environment is provided for area livestock as well as shorter rotations due to higher forage fertilization and competition control. Water quality can be impacted as well. Deep tree roots and plant roots can acquire nutrients from a greater range of soil depths before they make it to the nearby streams and rivers.

With proper design and management, windbreaks can be very helpful in maintaining water quality as well as soil erosion. The more trees and shrubs that are present in a windbreak, the more excess nutrients and pollutants are stopped from reaching area livestock drinking waters. Trees and shrubs help to filter surface runoff and encourages the infiltration of groundwater. Additionally, root growth and plant debris stabilize the soil and slow erosion by holding steep slopes in place.

Alley Cropping
Growing crops between rows of long-term trees, known as alley cropping, is beneficial in reducing soil erosion and improving water quality as well. Tree roots are generally deeper than crop roots enabling the tree roots to intercept nutrients and chemicals before reaching the crop roots.This decreases overland flow of water and reduces top-soil erosion from fields.

Riparian Forest Buffers
A riparian forest buffer, also known as a buffer strip, are found incorporated along streams and rivers containing an array of native trees and plant life. These buffers are very beneficial for clean water within large bodies of water. Acting as a filter for surface waters, excess nutrients and pollutants are absorbed by these plants and trees before reaching major water sources. Riparian vegetation also aids in slowing flood waters, therefore helping to maintain stable stream banks and protect downstream properties from erosion.

Now is the perfect time to start planning your year for clean water. Celebrate World Water Day on March 22nd by taking part in incorporating trees, shrubs or even a windbreak by visiting

By: Emma Wilson, CSIF Intern 

February 10, 2017

Designed with Livestock in Mind

      From improving site aesthetics to enhancing neighbor relations, a properly planted windbreak can serve many functions on the farm. Most importantly, trees can protect livestock from inclement weather conditions including harsh winds, blowing snow or extreme temperatures.

     Whether livestock are raised in a feedlot, pasture or barn setting, windbreaks should be designed to meet the specific needs of the farm. The layout and tree species incorporated in the windbreak can be customized for optimum protection and economic benefit. Let’s take a closer look at tree planting considerations in an outdoor and indoor animal environment. 

Uncontrolled Outdoor Environment
      In an outdoor setting, an ideal windbreak will protect livestock from prevailing winds and falling temperatures in the winter, and provide shade and guide breezes during the summer months.
     The goal is to establish protective screening that allows the animals to maintain their body temperatures and avoid susceptibility to heat or cold stress. Ultimately, this can lead to an increase in feed efficiency and improve overall animal health.

Controlled Indoor Environment
     Under roof, the animal environment can be adjusted based on outdoor conditions. However, this often comes at a cost. Windbreaks can help lessen the cost by reducing the amount of energy needed to heat or cool livestock barns.  

     Windbreaks are also an effective tool in depositing or redirecting snow in desired areas. For example, a well-designed windbreak can help keep snow away from driveways and storage facilities or even prevent roof collapses.

     At the end of the day, windbreaks are a great investment on any livestock farm. Start designing your windbreak by visiting

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist

January 9, 2017

Winter Guide to Windbreaks

     The holiday season may be over, but Old Man Winter remains. Tired of those inconvenient snow drifts piling up on your livestock farm? A properly planted windbreak can greatly reduce your time and effort spent on moving snow.

Two Approaches to Snow Control
     When it comes to windbreaks, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all tree planting. The design, location and species incorporated in your windbreak will all depend on your specific needs and typical winter conditions.

     In areas of high winds and blowing snow, windbreaks can be modified to do one of two things – either distribute the precipitation across a protected stretch of land, or deposit it in a designated area.

     To accomplish the first approach, a low density windbreak is established to allow snow to fall evenly across the farm. Uniform distribution not only reduces wind erosion on snow-covered fields, but captures moisture for water infiltration into the soil.

     The second snow control method calls for a dense, multiple row windbreak to pile snow in a restricted area. Designed as a living snow fence, this approach reduces the need to plow along driveways or around barns. Other benefits of a living snow fence include greater snow storage capacity, limited maintenance and a longer life span.

Designed with Livestock in Mind
     In addition to maintaining cleared lanes and driveways, windbreaks can reduce the amount of snow piling up around stored hay and feed. But most importantly, windbreaks provide a safe haven for your livestock.

     As you determine which windbreak design will best meet your goals, remember to consider how the tree planting will protect your farmsteads’ barns or feedlots and the livestock housed within those areas. Protection from strong winds and driving snow will help reduce animal stress, decrease feeding requirements and support animal health.

     At the end of the day, windbreaks protect you, your farm and your livestock. Ready to start planning your tree planting? Contact the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers or one of our partner nursery and landscape professionals. 

For more information, call 1-800-932-2436 or visit

By Haley Banwart, CSIF Assistant Field Specialist