The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is treasured for its natural beauty, its mountains and rivers, and its recreational opportunities. The Valley is also home to hundreds of farms, some of them dating back to colonial days, where cattle are the primary livestock.
But those cows are a major source of pollution, according to a new report by the Environmental Integrity Project. The Washington-based nonprofit contends that the state is failing to do enough to curb polluted runoff from feedlots and fields in the Shenandoah Valley, as well as not requiring the fencing of cattle away from nearby waterways. Both issues impair water quality and put at risk those who enjoy the river and its tributaries, the group says.
The EIP report estimates that 528,000 dairy and beef cattle in the valley generate one billion gallons of liquid manure annually. This waste, high in phosphorus, is typically spread over fields either owned by the livestock farmer or by neighbors, to fertilize crops. But the local farmland simply can’t absorb the tonnage of waste that needs to be disposed of, the EIP contends. The manure is piled on so heavily that crops can’t absorb all the nutrients, especially phosphorus, leading to runoff into nearby streams and rivers.