Project Helps Reduce Runoff on a Dairy Farm

Project Summary: Runoff from dairy farms with high nutrient levels can cause algal blooms, but the Brickstead Dairy is working to reduce the amount of nutrients that enter surface water to protect water quality.

Project Name: Fox River Phosphorous Pilot Project

Location: Near Green Bay, Wisconsin

Description: Fertilizer and manure runoff from farms is a major cause of poor water quality in the Great Lakes, especially in the

Brickstead Dairy has planted cover crops on over 100 acres to prevent erosion, holding nutrients in the soil and keeping them out of nearby waterways. Photo courtesy of the USDA-NRCS.

Brickstead Dairy has planted cover crops on over 100 acres to prevent erosion, holding nutrients in the soil and keeping them out of nearby waterways. Photo courtesy of the USDA-NRCS.

Lower Fox River in Wisconsin. To address this issue, the Natural Resources Conservation Service is focusing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding in the Lower Fox River watershed. In 2012, the program worked with farmers on over 20,000 acres of agricultural land. Nutrient management plans and cover crops on 4,000 acres have improved water quality, allowing aquatic life to return. One such farm, Brickstead Dairy, with NRCS assistance, is installing grassed waterways, basins to control water and catch sediment, cover crops as well as a number of other practices that will prevent soil loss, reduce runoff, and improve water quality. Installation of these conservation practices will also greatly improve the soil health and soil quality on the farm.

Approximate Cost of the Project: $3,000,000 for the entire 20,000-acre pilot project with some funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Grassed waterways are a key practice to intercept runoff and trap sediment from cropland. The Brickstead Dairy will be installing over three miles of grassed waterways using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Photo courtesy of the USDA-NRCS.

Grassed waterways are a key practice to intercept runoff and trap sediment from cropland. The Brickstead Dairy will be installing over three miles of grassed waterways using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Photo courtesy of the USDA-NRCS.

Resource Challenges Addressed: High nutrient levels in the water, high sediment levels in the water, algal blooms

Key Partners (Public and Private): Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Brown County Land and Water Conservation Department, Outagamie County Land Conservation Department, Calumet County Land and Water Conservation Department, Manitowoc County Soil and Water Conservation Department, Winnebago County Land and Water Conservation Department, U.S. Geological Survey, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

Types of Jobs Created: Design, engineering, and construction services

Results and Accomplishments: Nutrient management plans on Brickstead Dairy are improving water quality, allowing aquatic life to return. Cover crops have been planted on 100 acres, which hold soil in place during the winter, further preventing sediment loss into nearby lakes and rivers. Over three miles of grassed waterways have been planted—these will slow the speed of runoff, allowing the water to slowly absorb into the soil and preventing any excess nutrients or sediment in the runoff from reaching streams. Edge-of-field and in-stream monitoring stations have been installed to measure the water quality improvements as a result of implementation of conservation practices.

Website: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/wi/home/

Originally Published: August 30, 2013

Updated: September 23, 2015

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