Small Acreage Livestock



Amy Dunnington and David Borkman, Gilbert Stuart Road,
North Kingstown, RI

This farm served as a demonstration site from 2003 - 2006 as part of the initial Healthy Landscapes Education Program.

What you will see!

Area 2: Livestock yard management and rain barrels - this page

Area 1: Pasture management - sheep and poultry

Area 3: Homestead - pet waste managment, rain barrels and permeable paving

Back to livestock demonstration sites

Area 2: Livestock yard management and rain barrels

Setting: The farm currently raises between 6 to 10 sheep, four sheep dogs (trained as working herd dogs), and 12 layer hens. The farm contains about one acre of land, with about 1/3 acre available for grazing. The farm also has access to about 4 acres of pasture land located one mile away and historically used about 0.5 acre of neighboring land for additional pasture until 2006.

The farm also has a vegetable and flower garden (about 1,400 sq. ft.) which is planted to a winter rye cover crop in the fall and receives chicken and sheep manure and bedding collected during winter months. The home is served by a private drinking water well.


November - March: As the grazing season ends, the goal is to begin moving the animals off the pasture areas as needed to allow for an adequate residue of at least four or more inches during the winter months. The poultry will return to their original fenced coop which lies south of the vegetable garden in a level area. The manure will continue to be stacked and used in the garden.

The owners constructed a new barn in August 2003, in place of the old barn, and contains a roofed overhang as a shelter area for the sheep during the winter months. A small "sacrifice" paddock or livestock yard was created with the electranet fencing around the shelter area for the sheep to occupy during winter months. In the fall of 2005, a permanent livestock yard was fenced around the barn.

The main concern with barnyard and livestock yard areas is to prevent "clean runoff" from roof areas and other upland areas from mixing and traveling over areas that are heavily occupied by the animals. The runoff can become polluted with nutrients and pathogens from the manure deposited in these areas. It is important to direct runoff that does travel through livestock yards to well vegetated areas that can settle and soak up that water to minimize potential pollution risk to nearby water resources.

Managing the sheep in winter and runoff management
The roofed area can temporarily store manure and bedding during the winter months, minimizing exposure to rain and snow. The roofed area is also a good location for an outdoor feeding station.

The manure and bedding can be spread thinly and evenly on grasslands during the growing season, as well as the vegetable and flower gardens according to soil test recommendations. If soil test results reveal that additional nutrients (especially Phosphorus) are not needed anywhere on the property, the manure should be taken to another location that can utilize the nutrients, such as neighbors' gardens and the pasture that is available 1 mile away.

February 2004.

Runoff traveling off of the winter sacrifice paddock enters some level pasture area and the vegetable garden (beyond the picket fence below) where there is some opportunity for settling and infiltration before reaching the buffer of trees along the property edge.

A roof gutter and downspout should be installed to direct roof water away from the winter livestock yard. This will prevent clean water from mixing with the yard as well as reduce mud.

February 2004.

Water leaving a livestock yard should not enter wells, water resources, driveways or leave the property.

The vegeatble garden is usually planted to a winter rye cover crop each fall, which is just sprouting in this photo. This will help to control soil erosion and provides some vegetation to help in settling the runoff leaving the livestock yard.

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Fall 2005: Permanent livestock yard, roof gutter and rain barrels installed.

During the fall of 2005, a permanently fenced livestock yard was installed at the barn. The total area of the livestock yard was based on information provided within self-assessment worksheet 1.

The roofed overhang was also enclosed to provide for additional shelter. A roof gutter and rain barrels were installed during spring 2004 to capture runoff. During the growing season, the owners use 3 to 4 rain barrels linked in series to capture roof runoff and use it for watering the vegetable and flower gardens. This also prevents roof runoff from entering the livestock yard.

Think of this: This roof area (east side of the barn) is 1,000 sq. ft. A 1/2 inch rainfall produces 325 gallons of runoff. With an average rainfall of 40 inches per year, this roof would generate 26,000 gallons of runoff in a year.

What about during the winter?

Typically, rain barrells should be drained and stored away for winter months to prevent freezing and cracking. An outlet will still be needed to direct roof runoff away from the livestock yard during winter months if possible. Due to the location of the roof gutter downspout an underground outlet may be needed. Another option is to leave the rain barrels connected and open to an outlet hose that conveys the water away from the livestock yard. The barrels and hose could be damaged due to ice, freezing and animal traffic, but careful monitoring and repair as needed may be less expensive than an underground outlet. This may also be unaffective during certain rain / snow events.

More about the use of rain barrels on this farm

Conserving water and reducing runoff during the grazing season, April - October:

A roof gutter and downspout was installed for the east half of the barn during Spring 2004. Home made rain barrels have been installed at this downspout to collect rainwater for use in the vegetable garden. Not only do the rain barrels conserve water, but they also reduce stormwater runoff from entering the pasture areas. An overflow hose can be directed away from animal access areas.

These 3 rain barrels are linked in series at the base with a garden hose. The two white barrels have a 1&1/2 inch PVC male barbed adapter inserted in the side near the top to serve as overflow outlets. 1&1/2 inch corrugated drain hose can be secured on the adapters to direct overflow water where desired. The red barrel contains a wood covering to prevent mosquitoes.

Insect screening traps debris and prevents mosquitoes

A fourth rain barrel sits downslope of the barn, at the head of the vegetable garden, and is fed by a garden hose from the other three rain barrels, providing a total of about 200 gallons of water storage. Remember - a 1/2 inch rainfall will fill all 4 barrels.

More information about ready-made rain barrels and home made rain barrels.

For more information about livestock yard managment

Livestock Yards and Manure Storage Areas on Small Acreages: Protecting Our Drinking Water, Families & Animals, Fact Sheet 2 of our small acreage livestock series

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service - Warwick, RI (401) 828-1300

Additional resources on livestock yard management

Area 1: Pasture management - sheep and poultry

Area 3: Homestead - pet waste managment, rain barrels and permeable paving

Back to livestock demonstration sites