WMSWCD Offers Help with Livestock Management

By Scott Gall, WMSWCD Rural Conservationist

Whether you have horses, cattle, goats, or emus, keeping livestock in Western Oregon can be a rewarding yet tricky labor of love. Our climate provides the perfect conditions for grass and forage but also for weeds. Summer weather in Oregon is perfect for trail riding, yet winters can be a muddy mess around the barn.

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District works with livestock owners in the West Hills on livestock issues. The three most common are pasture weeds, mud, or excess manure. The district offers free conservation planning, project management support and even financial assistance to help horse and livestock owners in the Skyline area find ways to alleviate these problems. 

The creation of a conservation plan is a great way to think about the future of your property and to get to know the land a bit better. We provide technical expertise and work with you on a plan to improve the health of your animals, the quality of nearby water, and the value of your property.

The West Hills’ steep slopes and loess (wind deposited soil) present challenges to conservation and animal management. Without deep rooted vegetation, horse and livestock owners have to be careful of where they direct water from roof gutters and which slopes they use for pasture. Also, limited flat ground can make it difficult to properly store manure, place watering troughs or even provide resting areas for the animals. Here are some helpful things to think about when dealing with horses or livestock in the West Hills:

  • Ensure your animals have a proper place to weather the winter…not on land you intend to pasture or hay in the summer. This can be in the form of well drained “sacrifice pastures” or paddocks, engineered “heavy use areas” or by limiting time on a particular parcel of land to just a few hours per week.
  • Cover manure. This allows for quicker composting and prevents leaching of nutrients and pollutants.
  • Make sure barns and outbuildings have proper and functioning gutters and downspouts that are piped well away from buildings or areas of heavy use. 
  • During the growing season, manage your pastures using the 3-7 rule: put your animals on your pastures if the grass gets 7 inches or higher but take them off if they eat it down to 3 inches. This provides optimal growth and nutritional value and the best defense against weeds while ensuring grass does not set seed and go dormant. However, this also means you may be feeding hay in late July and August.
  • Periodically check for weeds in and around your pastures throughout the growing season and pull, spray or even disk/re-seed problem areas before they spread.

West Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District is here to help you. Please call us with any questions or concerns you have about your pastures, manure piles, composting, water quality, and wildlife. Contact Rural Conservationist Scott Gall at 503/238-4775, ext. 105, or scott [at] wmswcd [dot] org (scott [at] wmswcd [dot] org).