A Study of Cattle Producer Preferences for Best Management Practices in an East Tennessee Watershed


D. M. Lambert, C. D. Clark, N. Busko, F. R. Walker, A. Layton, S. Hawkins


Best Management Practices (BMPs) contribute to a broader range of efforts to improve the environmental performance of the livestock sector and its impact on water quality. This research evaluates a survey of cattle producers in an East Tennessee watershed and parts of five surrounding watersheds, along with and the factors correlated with preferences for BMPs designed to reduce sediment, nutrient, and fecal coliform contamination of surface waters by limiting cattle access to streams. The objective of the survey was to gather behavioral information about producer interest in specific BMPs in an effort to supplement a long-term biophysical modeling project. Structures and BMPs analyzed include stream crossings, rotational grazing, pasture improvement, and cattle water tanks. The physical and economic constraints faced by producers and the incentives provided by state and federal programs influence the decision to adopt a set of practices or structures that impact pathogen loading into streams. There was a clear preference for a suite of BMPs that did not include stream crossings, reinforcing anecdotal evidence that the maintenance associated with frequent high flow events may reduce willingness to install stream crossings. Cattle producers were more willing to implement rotational grazing and pasture improvement BMPs, which were associated with cattle health and productivity. The extensive distribution of pastureland in the region analyzed, the relatively inexpensive costs of adopting practices supporting pasture improvement, and higher quality forage correlated with improved pastures suggest a win-win outcome for cattle owners and efforts to enhance water quality.

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Lambert D, Clark C, Busko N, Walker FR, Layton A, Hawkins S. 2014. A study of cattle producer preferences for best management practices in an East Tennessee watershed. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 69:41-53.