How Now, Brown Sow and Holy Cow!!

When I was a kid, cattle and hogs were a part of farm life. Their manure was carefully spread on fields to improve yields of corn, barley, oats and other crops. The forty-acre lake on the corner of our 200 acres ran brown after the runoff from spring rains. Banks on all sides were pastured. We were mildly curious that the 15-foot deep water did not contain fish. However, Dad was not a fisherman (or Mother did not like fish) so the lack was of little concern. We continued to haul water for washing and bathing from the clearer places in the lake until we dug a well. Never did I imagine the subject of animal waste would reach the present proportions or the object of jail terms. Calves were for cowboys

Hogs on Radisson farm in 1920's When visiting in Bellingham, Washington I read of a former Skagit county dairyman spending four days in jail for violating Washington state's Water Pollution Control Act. He had dumped manure into a drainage ditch. I thought that an unusual occurrence. But I was wrong. When visiting in Minnesota, I read of an Alexandria man receiving a longer jail sentence and a heavy fine for the same reason. Even then the extent of the problem did not occur to me.

According to the Agriculture Weekly (Capital Press, Dec 26/97) 60 percent of rivers and streams impaired with agricultural runoff is contributed to animal waste. In 1996 forty spills of animal waste killed 670,000 fish in Iowa, Minnesota, and Missouri. That was double the number of spills in 1992. A planned 50,000 acre hog farm in Utah could potentially generate more waste than the city of Los Angeles.

That could not happen if the smaller amount of animal waste was returned annually to the soil. This is one more reason for which I mourn the loss of the family farm. Fecal coliform, E-coli, comes from all animals. Outbreaks of disease from ingestion of human coliform occurred once in a while from unclean hands of restaurant workers. Recently the disease was more seriously a threat from contaminated food stuffs.

I've always thought we are on the brink of ridiculous over population of our own species. With modern large-scale livestock operations perhaps humans are not the only species that is threatened with over population. The Agriculture Department continues to push meat as an absolutely necessary protein for our good health. Will environmental standards imposed on livestock producers prevent the influx of the fecal coliform enough to ensure essential water quality for our good health, or should we cut back on our consumption of meat?


Naomi Sherer

Consider novels by Naomi Sherer available on Amazon

Sagesong cover Rise to the Occasion cover
Coming Soon: Beyond Namche, The Open Door, Wildly in the Rockies


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