Kewaunee County Cow Count increases to 98,000
The number of cows in Kewaunee County has increased 27 percent from 76.000 reported in 2013 to 98,000 in August 2015, the Land and Water Conservation Committee was told Tuesday.
Aerica Bjurstrom, county agriculture agent, told the committee that the number had been updated in the last three weeks as a result of a survey of farmers completed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The number includes all cattle, milking cows and calves, she said.
“All counties in the area are up,” said Bjurstrom.
The number is particularly significant because Kewaunee County and many of the surrounding counties are already dealing with ground and surface water contamination issues that some say stem from excessive cow manure and the failure of many of the area’s waterways to meet the standards of the U.S. Clean Waters Act.
In Kewaunee County, the new number diffuses a recent debate among the county board and its committees about the amount of cow manure currently being spread on the county’s fields. An Agricultural Nutrient Balance Summary for Kewaunee County completed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in July 2014 used the 2013 cow count.
Some county officials and environmentalists say the balance summary demonstrated that farmers were spreading more manure on the county’s agricultural fields than the fields could absorb.
The DNR then issued a revised balance sheet in November 2014 using the 76,000 count with numbers that demonstrated that the county’s fields could absorb up to twice the amount of manure that was currently being spread. Some county officials and environmentalists claimed the revised figures were meant to support herd expansion in spite of existing groundwater and surface water contamination created by manure spreading.
At its August County Board meeting, county officials had asked the DNR to provide accurate figures.
“The balance sheets are now woefully inaccurate in helping us understand what our situation is,” said Lee Luft, county supervisor and Land and Water Conservation Committee member.
The Land and Water Committee members Tuesday agreed that the Nutrient Balance Summary would now have to be revised using the 2015 count so that there was agreement on the amount of manure currently being spread on county fields.
“We need everyone on the same page by year end,” said John Pagel, committee chair.
Davina Bonness, county conservationist, reported that recent work groups established by the DNR to address water pollution issues in the county had met in Oshkosh in August and that the meetings would be moved to Kewaunee County in October to make it more convenient for committee members.
She said that in response to a letter sent by her department to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a Technical Assistance Group had met in August to provide expertise in dealing with resource issues in the Ahnapee and Kewaunee River watersheds.
Of the issues identified by the group, degraded water quality from excessive nutrients and pathogens and other chemicals were rated the highest, Bonness said.
The Technical Assistance Group will be asking for public input on resource issues in the Ahnapee and Kewaunee River watersheds at a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Luxemburg Fairgrounds Expo Center, Bonness said.
She said that one goal of the group could be to develop federal and state plans for these watersheds over the next two years that could receive funding assistance from the federal government.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press Gazette: Kewaunee County Cow Count increases to 98,000