The Carolinas may not be considered top cattle-producing states like Texas, Nebraska and Kansas, but the 1.2 million head of cattle roaming the Carolinas can have a dramatic effect on wildlife habitat.
Deer and some small-game animals potentially complete with cattle for food and habitat. Deer are not considered grazers and will rarely spend too much time in Bermuda pastures; however, many cattle ranchers will include woodlots and riparian corridors in their cattle-grazing compound, and that can have a dramatic effect on native wildlife habitat and sensitive riparian corridors.
Cows are eating and stomping machines. They’ll eat anything they can get reach, and that includes acorns, berries, saplings, leaves, sprouts and tons of biomass that would normally be available to wildlife in the form of nutrition and cover. Riparian corridors around a stream or waterway get hit hard when cattle are allowed unlimited access. A once-pristine stream will soon become degraded from nutrient loading, increased temperature, sedimentation and erosion.
Direct watering into streams also causes issues for cattle farmers. Cattle have an increased exposure to water-transmitted diseases, foot rot, leg injuries, stress and reduced rates of weight gain. In pasture watering systems away from natural sources, cattle will have better health, better pasture utilization and better access to a permanent water source.
Cattle farmers can provide shade and water to their herds without sacrificing critical wildlife and stream habitat. Fences can be erected or moved to exclude them from these areas. Even if these areas are already included, they can still be moved to exclude cattle access. Remote water devices can be constructed specifically for cattle well away from streams and critical wildlife habitats.