Saturday, December 9, 2023

Ideal Distance between a Ruminant Farm and Residential Areas

The distance of a ruminant farm from residential areas depends largely on the type of ruminant being raised and the size of the farm. Sheep and Goat have been raised very close to residential areas without much problem apart from the fact that most of them are usually raised in small number using extensive system of management.

This due expose them to roaming and its attendants risks like theft, accident, maiming etc. however, to raise cattle and even sheep and goat in large number will need an intensive system of management.

Likelihood of odor complaints by neighbors may be a major deterrent to siting large livestock operations in many locations.

Determine the attitude of neighbors toward a new or expanded livestock operation at the site you are considering. Documenting that adequate consideration has been given to siting the livestock operation in an environmentally responsible manner may help if litigation occurs.

Odors are inherent in livestock operations, especially when manure is being applied to the land. The larger the livestock operation, the more important it is to plan, design, construct and operate the facility in a manner that will minimize off-site (and on-site) odors.

It is important to control sufficient land to provide an adequate buffer between neighbors and the more odoriferous locations at the livestock facility. Odors from large livestock production units may be noticeable a few miles away.

Therefore, the farm should be sited in a place that is not too close to residential areas so that it does not soon become a nuisance to the neighborhood.

Read Also: How to Introduce New Animals into your Ruminant Farm

A livestock feeding operation site should be selected to minimize visual contact with neighbors and traffic and to separate odor-producing facilities from neighbors.

Biosecurity considerations should include isolation for incoming seedstock, proximity of neighboring livestock production units (especially for production of breeding stock), and, possibly, multiple-site production.

Very large livestock operations should be isolated from residential areas such as villages and towns by two miles or more, if possible.

Ruminant Farm Space Considerations

Plan for expansion 20 to 30 years into the future; consider doubling the size anticipated at present. Avoid locating facilities near property lines, streams, steep topography, porous geology, housing developments, public-use areas, or other features that will limit expansion.

Additionally, buildings should be spaced at least 50 feet apart (75 feet is better for firetrucks) to reduce the spread of fire. Naturally ventilated buildings may need to be from 50 to 200 feet apart in the north-south direction for optimum summer airflow.

Considerable space may be needed for isolating incoming traffic from the animal areas to prevent the spreading of diseases that may be brought in from the outside. The minimum radius for driveways used by semitrailers is approximately 55 feet.

Ruminant Farms Proximity of Neighbors

Avoid placing livestock facilities near existing (or future) “non-owned residences” (residences not owned by the owners of the animal feeding operation), especially clusters of homes, built-up areas and parks. Preferably, livestock facilities should be out of your neighbors’ sight.

Consider having a tree windbreak or other visual barrier to shield the operation. Depending on the size of the facility, the minimum distance from non-owned residences should be from 1,000 to 3,000 feet, although this is no guarantee of immunity from complaints.

A separation of at least a mile may be needed between large livestock operations and non-owned residences, depending on such considerations as topography and prevailing wind direction.

Read Also: The Age Different Ruminant Animals get to Heat

There are several factors to consider when planning adequate livestock shelter in cold weather:

• Air quality: Animal shelters should be open, providing natural ventilation, or enclosed, using fans and proper air inlets around the ceiling perimeter to provide good air circulation. Tight buildings result in a buildup of respiration gases, and animal odors, which can irritate the animal’s lungs and cause pneumonia. Dangerous ammonia levels1can also build up and lead to suffocation death of animals and their caretakers.

• Drafts: Animals can stand cold temperatures, but you should protect them from drafts. Constructing panels in front of an open building can reduce drafts. Consider drafts at animal height, not person height. When animals are allowed to run loose in a pen instead of being hitched, they will search for the most comfortable spots as needed.

• Dry bedding area: Animals will be far more comfortable in the cold if they have clean, dry bedding. A thick, dry bed provides insulation from the cold ground and decreases the amount of energy the animal has to expend to keep warm. Shelter from the snow and rain allows an animal’s coat to remain dry, which provides maximum insulating value.

• Fresh water2: All animals need water to survive. Under cold conditions, provide fresh water often or use freeze-proof watering devices. Animals will drink more when water is 50°F.

• Adequate food: Animals can endure severe cold temperatures if they eat enough food (energy) to maintain their energy reserves (body fat). Animals need energy for growth and maintenance. Extra energy is expended to keep warm.

Therefore, they will require additional amounts of good quality feed during cold weather. For herbivores, free choice hay in hay racks should be supplied in addition to a purchased feed.

Related: Methods of Livestock Breeding in the Tropical Environment

In summary, factors to consider in selecting a site for a new or expanded livestock operation include the following:

  • Distance to neighboring residences
  • Direction of prevailing winds in relation to neighbors
  • An adequate source of water
  • Access to land for manure application
  • Topography
  • Soil type
  • Proximity to surface water bodies, sinkholes and flood plains
  • Depth to groundwater

Likelihood of odor complaints by neighbors may be a major deterrent to siting large livestock operations in many locations.

Determine the attitude of neighbors toward a new or expanded livestock operation at the site you are considering. Documenting that adequate consideration has been given to siting the livestock operation in an environmentally responsible manner may help if litigation occurs.

Odors are inherent in livestock operations, especially when manure is being applied to the land. The larger the livestock operation, the more important it is to plan, design, construct and operate the facility in a manner that will minimize off-site (and on-site) odors.

It is important to control sufficient land to provide an adequate buffer between neighbors and the more odoriferous locations at the livestock facility. Odors from large livestock production units may be noticeable a few miles away.

Winds and Odor Complaints

Desirable separation distance from odor sources such as production buildings, feedlots, manure storage structures, lagoons and land application areas is influenced by topography and prevailing wind. Because the timing of land application is somewhat flexible, manure can usually be applied when climatic conditions (wind direction, humidity) are most favorable.

Fields in which manure is surface applied need greater separation than fields in which manure is injected. Fewer odor complaints about land application usually occur if the manure is treated in a lagoon, injected into the soil, or immediately incorporated into the soil by tillage.

However, be sure any tillage operations are compatible with residue requirements of conservation plans. Prevailing wind direction in relationship to non-owned residences is important, especially during seasons when neighbors will be outside.

Air Drainage and Odor Complaints

During calm, humid periods, topography can funnel odors down drainage ways to distant locations, especially to residences located in valleys. Odors traveling in this way can remain intense over long distances. Topographical maps can show potential paths of air drainage. Remember, odors following drainage patterns may be more offensive than odors carried by prevailing winds.

Ideal Distance between a Ruminant Farm and Residential Areas

Geological problems

Soils with low permeability are desirable for earthen manure storages to prevent groundwater contamination. Much of the southern half of Missouri has highly permeable, gravelly, rocky, sandy or block-structured red clay soils that may allow wastes to seep into the groundwater.

Soil surveys by the Natural Resources Conservation Service rate soils for many factors, including permeability, drainage and suitability for manure lagoons, road fill and irrigation. A soils investigation of the site is necessary to determine the availability of suitable clay for sealing earthen manure storage structures.

Parts of southern Missouri, as well as areas along the Mississippi River and the lower portion of the Missouri River have limestone deposits. These deposits may restrict the use of earthen manure impoundments because of potential groundwater pollution.

Be cautious when planning animal feeding facilities in an area known to have sink holes and remember, if the facility site has a high potential for a subsurface collapse, Missouri Department of Natural Resources will not approve an earthen manure storage structure. In these cases, an alternate site must be selected, or a concrete or steel tank used for storage.

Shallow bedrock creates problems in the installation of underground utilities such as water, gas, or electric lines and may preclude the use of earthen storages for water or manure.

A few hours of investigation with a backhoe or a drilling rig may be necessary to properly evaluate a site. All operations seeking a permit or a letter of approval must obtain a geologic evaluation of the site if an earthen manure storage is planned.

Streams and water courses

Livestock facilities, especially open lots, should not be located close to streams and watercourses or on steep land along these areas.

Runoff should be contained and applied to a soil/plant filter. Pastured livestock should be fenced out of streams along with a 50- to 300-foot wide grass, forest (or combination) filter strip. Limited access to the stream may be an alternative watering source for livestock


Good surface and subsurface drainage around livestock facilities is important, but polluted water must not leave the premises or enter the groundwater. Avoid building in a poorly drained site, on a flood plain or on sites with seeps, springs or a high water table.

Animal manure storage structures must be located above the 25-year flood level. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can supply data on 25-year flood levels. Additionally, the bottom of the storage structure must be located at least four feet above the water table.

Slopes of 2 to 5 percent will usually provide surface drainage without erosion, depending on the soil type. A 5 percent minimum slope away from building foundations is recommended, and south slopes are preferred for livestock feeding areas.

Buildings built on high ground can take advantage of natural slopes for drainage and to obtain a 2 percent minimum slope on conduits to lagoons. On slopes it may be necessary to divert surface runoff from facilities. It is advisable to build roads along ridges to take advantage of drainage and reduce snow drifts.


A livestock operation should have good access to markets, preferably by means of state-maintained, hard-surfaced highways with bridges permitting large trucks. Prompt snow removal is important.

Avoid sites where the cost of constructing and maintaining the road from the livestock operation to the public road will be excessive because of distance, required bridges, snow drifting or other topographical or soils problems.

This cost may be balanced against the need to provide setback or separation distance between the operation and potential odor receptors.



A year-round supply of water is essential for the animals, sanitation, workers and residences and fire protection. Water may be needed for animal manure dilution and flush-cleaning facilities. Public water supplies are expensive for watering livestock. Water consumption varies greatly from winter to summer.

Tables 3 and 4 contain guidelines for daily drinking water requirements.

Table 3. Daily livestock water consumption.

Animal typeGallons per head per day
Cold weatherHot weather
Cow/calf pairs1330 to 35
Dairy cows (lactating)29 to 3535 to 45
Dry cows13 to 1620 to 30
Calves (1 to 1.5 gallons per day per 100 pounds body weight)612
Growing cattle, 400 to 800 pounds4 to 88 to 15
Finishing cattle, 800 to 1200 pounds8 to 1115 to 22
Bred heifers (800 pounds)7 to 1010 to 15
Bulls (1500 pounds)1430
Sow and litter68
Gestating sow, gilt, boar46
Nursery pigs0.61
Growing pigs23
Finishing pigs45
Feeder lambs (30 to 110 pounds)1.5 
Dry ewes (150 to 200 pounds)12
Ewe with lambs (5 to 30 pounds)23.5
Rams (180 to 300)23

Table 4. Daily water consumption per 100 birds for chickens and turkeys.

Chickens1 to 3 weeks0.6 to 1.8
6 to 10 weeks3.0 to 4.2
9 to 13 weeks3.6 to 4.8
Laying hens, moderate temperatures4.8 to 7.2
Laying hens, 90 degrees8.4
Turkeys1 to 3 weeks7.8 to 18.0
9 to 13 weeks60 to 96
15 to 19 weeks120

A properly sealed, high-capacity, deep well is usually preferred. Shallow wells are more likely to become contaminated from surface runoff or deep percolation.

The well(s) should be located away from possible contamination sources such as lagoons, livestock lots, septic tanks and septic fields. For deep wells with sealed casings that draw water from bedrock formations, the recommended distance from contamination sources is 300 feet; depending on the potential contaminant source, the minimum distance is 100 feet (Table 2).

For unsealed wells and water from unconsolidated formations such as sand or gravel, 1,000 feet from contamination sources is recommended with 300 feet as the minimum distance.

Read Also: Common Forage Crops used in Livestock Feeding


Electrical demand may be high for large animal feeding operations, especially for pumping, grinding and materials handling. Unless a three-phase line is nearby, the cost of providing such a line for the large motors that require three-phase power can be costly.

Livestock operations subject to frequent power outages may feel compelled to install a standby power source. Outages are more likely if the site is far removed from the electrical substation.

Soil/plant filter

Harvested crops or forage that use large amounts of nutrients are best suited for sustainability of the soil/plant filter. Because soil nutrients on pastureland tend to be recycled rather than removed, nutrient applications to pastureland are less efficient than applications to forage or crops that will be harvested.


To reduce the possibility of runoff, select fairly level sites. If a sloping site is unavoidable, it may be necessary to apply the manure by injection. Application sites with slopes greater than 6 percent should be in grass vegetation or must use soil conservation practices that meet NRCS standards.

The maximum allowable slope of the application area is 20 percent. Slopes of 10 to 20 percent may require provisions, such as reduced rates of effluent application and water runoff protection measures, to prevent potential discharge of nutrients and pathogens.

Area requirements for the soil/plant filter

Animal manure should be applied to the land as a plant nutrient and should always be managed so that runoff does not occur. Application rates should be based on soil tests and predicted crop removal considerations. This will ensure efficient use of the resource and prevent overapplication.

Application rates based on nitrogen will likely lead to overapplication of phosphorus, if applications continue year after year. Soil testing will indicate excessive phosphorus build-up in the soil and potential environmental problems.

Adequate land should be available for the required soil/plant filter area plus an allowance for the areas required for the minimum separation distances for manure application and an odor buffer area between the livestock operation and neighbors.

The separation distances required by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (Missouri DNR) for the land application area are as follows:

  • 300 feet from losing streams, sinkholes, caves, wells, abandoned wells, water supply structures or impoundments and any other connection between surface and groundwater.
  • 100 feet from permanent flowing streams.
  • 50 feet from intermittent flowing streams.
  • 50 feet from property lines.
  • 100 feet from a privately owned impoundment not used as a water supply.
  • 150 feet from dwellings or public use areas if applied with spray irrigation systems.
  • 50 feet from dwellings or public use areas if application is by a tank wagon or solid spreader.

These separation distances may drastically reduce the area available for land application of manure.

Areas with flood frequencies greater than once in 10 years should not be the only land available for land application of stored animal nutrients.

Lagoons minimize the acreage required for the soil/plant filter. For example, one acre of soil/plant filter may be sufficient for 10,000 pounds of beef animals if their manure is treated in a lagoon, whereas it may be sufficient for only 2,000 pounds of beef animals if the manure is handled as a slurry or as a solid. Avoid being dependent on other landowners for the necessary manure application area (soil/plant filter area).

Read Also: Economic Considerations for Proper Livestock Management

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Benadine Nonye is an agricultural consultant and a writer with over 12 years of professional experience in the agriculture industry. - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Visit My Websites On: 1. - Your Comprehensive Practical Agricultural Knowledge and Farmer’s Guide Website! 2. - For Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4Profits TV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

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