Many livestock producers allow their animals’ free access to the rivers, streams and creeks that run through rural Tennessee. Along these surface water sources are areas commonly referred to as riparian zones. A well vegetated riparian zone establishes a buffer between agricultural land and surface water sources. These buffer strips filter and purify water as it moves across the riparian zone, reduce sediment loads and support soil stability while providing additional benefits such as improved wildlife and fisheries habitat. Over time, allowing livestock access to these buffer areas can lead to poorly vegetated riparian zones with unstable, erosion-prone stream banks. Livestock producers are hearing more these days about the need to protect water quality through riparian zone management. Allowing the riparian zone to revegetate by removing or limiting livestock access to these buffer areas is one method of protecting water quality. However, the major problem most livestock producers face when considering limiting cattle access to riparian zones is that these rivers, streams and creeks are the only water source for their livestock.
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