Ag Report: the importance of windbreaks to livestock operations

Why windbreaks our important during the winter months for farmers

By DREW HAWLEY | dhawley@kcautv.com

Published 02/10 2016 07:46AM

Updated 02/10 2016 07:46AM

If you have a windbreak around your farmstead or livestock operation, officials say
during the winter is the best time to check those windbreaks.
 
Snow drifts in areas of the farmstead could indicate a need for additional snow catch areas to be planted. 
 
U-S-D-A's Natural Resources and Conservation ServicesChuck Hoelker, a technician with the USDA's Natural Resources and Conservation Services (NRCS) says windbreaks play an important role in the protection of livestock, particularly for young animals. 
 
By reducing wind velocity and the effects of cold temperatures, a good windbreak can significantly reduce stress on feed energy requirements. 
 
The NRCS official says a good windbreak around a farmstead will result in better animal health, lower
mortality, reduced feed costs, and increased profitability in your livestock operation.  Hoelker says evergreens work well for windbreak protection, but he also recommends planting shrubs.
 
"Well we can also incorporate a row of shrubs which will help stopping the snow," says Hoelker. "I like to see that shrub row out on the north, northwest side, and it will start stopping that snow first, and hold more snow back in the with the trees, so you have a snow catch area."
 
Farmers and landowners who want to plant a windbreak can take advantage of a cost-
share program. 
 
Monte Dowlinger, who also is a state technician with the NRCS, says the NRCS will provide up to 75% of the costs for planting a windbreak, with the farmer or landowner paying the remaining 25%. He explains the details of the cost-share program.
 
"Well a brief description of the program is we offer 75% of the cost share with the landowner up to $1,500," says Dowlinger.  "So, what that really means is we'll (NRCS) offer up to $22.50 per tree, or $3.75 per shrub.  The program does consist of a minimum of ten acres, or an agriculture based income to qualify for the program."
 
Dowlinger says a properly planted windbreak offers many benefits besides giving livestock protection from weather. 
 
A windbreak will help reduce or deflect livestock odors, they can add beauty to a home or farmstead, reduces the weathering effect on buildings, and offers food and shelter to wildlife.
 
Dowlinger says a windbreak can also add value to your farm.
 
"Iowa State University had put out that for every dollar you planted a tree, it increases the property value by ten dollars," says Dowlinger.
 
Dowlinger says there is a limited number of funds available, and it may go to those on a first-come, first-served basis. 
 
He says it is the goal for the Natural Resources and Conservation Services to have all eligible windbreaks planted by May 15th. 
 
He suggests if farmers and/or landowners have an interest in planting a windbreak, or expanding an existing windbreak, they should stop by their local USDA office within the next few weeks.
 

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