Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The consequences of land use fragmentation and livestock herd size

The Journal of Soil and Water Conservation recently published work on the impact of land use fragmentation and larger herd sizes on manure recycling energy and cost. (See Bartelt and Bland 2007; Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 62(5):345-352.)

What does that mean? It may sound kind of technical and esoteric at first, but the research addresses an important conservation issue in today’s changing landscape.

Bland summarizes the trend as follows: “Uses such as housing and recreation fragment the formerly contiguous areas of land that once surrounded many farmsteads, so farmers increasingly must travel past and work adjacent to lands used for purposes other than agriculture. At the same time, livestock herds are consolidating into fewer and larger units…. Environmentally sound recycling of manure from ever-larger herds requires greater energy and planning for transport and spreading within a landscape that is a mosaic of land uses.”

Is this fragmentation and diversification of land use occurring in your area and, if so, what has been the impact? Have manure hauling costs risen significantly? Has this affected manure recycling practices? Is this an opportunity to develop more efficient manure-management systems or should land development and herd sizes be called into question?

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