James Pinsky: Build a fence, and they won’t come

James Pinsky


All of my life fences have helped me, whether I wanted them to or not.

When I was younger, fences often kept me out of trouble. My neighbor had a dog, which had a particularly well-tuned palette for the rear pants pockets of little boys. I, luckily, never fed his addiction thanks to a steadfast fence. Other neighborhood boys did though. You see they often disagreed with the fence’s logic. Funny thing about fence logic, it works both ways, which, sometimes, can be a pain in the … you know.

Then, and now, fences do a lot of great things for us. They keep nosey neighbors clueless, keep trash from your untidy neighbor out of our yards, and after a few years they even help dispose of that extra change we have jingling in our pockets thanks to the constant upkeep they need.

One of the things fences do best, though, is help keep you, our moo-friends, and me healthy and happy.

You see, fences are very good at keeping things either in or out of trouble. Livestock, like any kid with a swimsuit and parents with white carpet, love to find water and mud. They like to drink it, wade in it, throw parties in it and yes, like that toddler all by himself in the shallow end – go poo in it.

That poo, well, its about as healthy for the water as you might think. So, farmers and ranchers try to keep livestock out of streams, creeks, rivers and ponds. One way farmers and ranchers have tried is to simply ask their organic lawn mowers not to go in the water in the first place. From what I understand, this method hasn’t caught on. One method that has caught on quite well, however, is using stream exclusion best management practices, also known as fencing. So, farmers and ranchers build them, and they work. In fact, we here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District spend a majority of our time and allocated funding helping plan, build and improve fences.


Well, the biggest reason is no one should ever have to see a cow in a bikini. But, there are some conservation, public health and scientific reasons as well including but not limited to the fact that successfully fencing livestock out of waterways helps stabilize stream banks, reduces erosion, improves water quality, protecst herd health, improves pasture management, improves local fish and wildlife habitat and, in general, helps improve and enhance our landscapes. Still stuck on that cow in a bikini image, huh? Sorry.

There is some good news though. Chances are if you have livestock and they have access to a waterway, we can help you, not just in spirit but financially. In fact, according to Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation, any individual or private business that operates a grazing farm bordering a live stream, wetland or Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act Resource Protection Area is eligible to apply for reimbursement on the installation of a livestock stream-exclusion system. The Department of Conservation and Recreation said to receive reimbursement landowners must have a Virginia Agricultural Best Management Practices Cost-Share program contract for Stream Exclusion with Grazing Land Management (SL-6, or SL-6T) approved by the local Soil and Water Conservation District. Chances are, if you’re reading this column, that’s us here at the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.

To find out more about how to keep your livestock from turning your local stream into a day spa by using a stream exclusion best management practice like the SL-6 or SL-6T programs we facilitate here at Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District, visit us at www.lfswcd.org or give us a call at 540.465.2424.

James Pinsky is the education and information coordinator for the Lord Fairfax Soil and Water Conservation District.  Contact him at 540.465.2424, ext. 104, or james.pinsky@lfswcd.org.

Correction: This story has been corrected. Reimbursement for installation of a livestock stream-exclusion system is not 100 percent.