Farmers and ranchers can reduce waste on their farms with a few simple steps

As the agricultural industry continues to grow and to change with the times, many producers are seeking practical ways to reduce their “footprint” and to make management choices that are both operationally and environmentally friendly. Recycling is one of many ways producers can be earth friendly and really get the most “bang for their buck” by getting as many uses out of something as possible.


While rainwater is not something that producers can buy, there are management strategies to help make the most of it when it falls and reduce potential water waste.

Dirk Philipp, associate professor of animal science and forage researcher for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, suggested producers evaluate how rainwater interacts with the landscape, such as observing where water collects. Producers should consider what species of grass would grow best in those location, and consider planting a “buffer strip” in between their fields to slow the runoff of rainwater, and to create good soil infiltration. After testing your soil fertility, Philipp advised selecting grass species that make an efficient use of water, such as C4 plants like pearl millet or sorghum-sudangrass.

Producers can also install rain barrels or rainwater collection systems to catch water from their home and/or barn roofs. This type of system is gaining popularity in the Ozarks after the summer 2018 drought.

Wood Ashes

Plenty of farmhouses are still heated with wood in the wintertime, and the byproduct created by burning logs is an excellent fertilizer.

“When collected and spread on the garden, they are an excellent and free source of calcium and other plant nutrients,” University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein said.

“Since carbon, nitrogen and sulfur are the elements primarily oxidized in the combustion process, wood ashes contain most of the other essential elements required for the growth of the tree used as fuel. By weight, wood ash contains 1.5 to 2 percent phosphorous and 5 to 7 percent potassium. If listed as a fertilizer, most wood ash would have the analysis of 0-1-3 (N-P-K). The calcium content of wood ashes ranges from 25 to 50 percent.”

Feed Sacks

Feed sacks are something many farmers have handy, and they can be given a second life once empty. Some feed companies will take back empty sacks and repurpose them into new ones. Other uses can include weed barrier (if sacks are paper), or another unique use, from Angela Allen of Allen Wags and Woolies Farm in Marshfield, Mo., is to use the plastic ‘crinkly’ feed sacks as training toys for her Great Pyrenees puppies.

Mineral Tubs

Empty mineral lick tubs often accumulate around the farm – these have a multitude of uses.

Livestock water troughs (for smaller groups of animals), containers for raised bed gardening, storage tubs or feed bins are all options for recycling this common farm item.


Tires (especially heavy machinery tires) can be a difficult item to dispose of. Some machinery shops will take used tires, but a creative way to recycle large tires is to use them to build self-filling livestock watering tanks. These tanks are built by running a waterline out to the pasture and connecting to a valve and buoy system inside the tire that is then set in concrete.


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