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Water: Articles and Activities for Middle School Students

Exercise II. Mooving Those Cows

farmx2_1 Why Worry About Old MacDonald?

Old MacDonald has a second dilemma. A small stream runs between the cow pasture and the barn, as shown in the picture below. Your job is to draw a plan that will allow the cows to roam between the barn and the pasture and will also provide water for the herd. Label any devices that you use and their purpose. When you are finished with your drawing, write a paragraph about the benefits and drawbacks of your design.


Things to think about
  • How would you get your cows water but keep them out of the stream?
  • What problems can you cause for the stream if you let the cows drink directly from it?
  • How else can you get water from the stream to the cows?
  • How will the cows get across the stream to their barn?
  • What streamside practices would you use to make sure water quality, the physical stream structure, and the fish and organisms living in the stream are protected?

Some Examples

For years, farmers have been working on new ways to keep cows out of nearby streams. They have come up with a number of practices that help reduce the damage cows can do to a stream. You can use some of these practices to help Old MacDonald with his cows, or you can come up with some practices of your own.

farmx2_3 farmx2_4

Wire fences (left) keep cows from walking on streambanks and digging them up with their hooves. Planting vegetation (right) along streambanks can help filter out nutrients and bacteria from rainwater that runs off cow pastures.

  • A watering trough is a place where cows can drink away from the stream. Use a water pump to get water out of the stream and into the trough.
  • Wherever cows gather together in a large group, they dig up the ground with their hooves. Rainfall washes the loose dirt down the stream as sediment. Use cement in places where cows are expected to gather to keep this from happening.
  • Put up a wire fence to prevent cows from getting into the stream or breaking up mud along streamside areas with their hooves.
  • Plant grasses or bushes to protect the stream from mud and sediment washing into it off the banks.
  • Remember that cows poop wherever they stand around for a long time. If rain falls on these high-use areas, it will wash manure down into the stream. Plant grasses, shrubs, and trees along the streambank to capture and filter some of that runoff.
  • Catch water from high use areas in a settling pond. This practice allows bacteria and pollutants from the manure to settle out of the water before it runs into the stream.
  • Ever heard of a cow path? Cows typically find a path and stick to it. They will find their way back to the barn from the stream. But they might crowd around trying to get back into their pens! Create an outdoor holding area/exercise area outside the barn door that is fenced off.
  • You can expect cows to poop in the exercise area. A water ditch can divert water to wash manure out of this area. Then the water should be directed into a settling pond before flowing back into the stream.
  • Create a bridge over the stream so that cows will be able to cross over the stream without trudging in it or pooping in it.

Middle Schools  |  Improving Old MacDonald's Farm  |  Exercise I  | Exercise II

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