Gillian Northgrave: Discovering the carbon capture benefits of protecting cows and water quality

Gillian Northgrave can’t imagine life without cows. Since 1991, she has grazed beef cattle on her bucolic farm in Mono. But Gillian had a little problem: her cows were spending too much time in and around her small pond. The surrounding vegetation was growing sparse and a thick algal mat was spreading across the surface. Gillian knew these were signs of deteriorating water quality and ecosystem health. Living so close to the headwaters of the Credit River, she also knew this could affect water quality beyond her farm, not to mention the health of her herd.

When livestock have access to ponds, they damage habitat by trampling the shoreline and pond bed. They also urinate and defecate in the water. Tainted water can spread disease and parasites among the herd. Water-softened hooves are also easily damaged and more susceptible to pathogens that can cause foot rot.

Person kneeling in field

Gillian’s cows had an alternate water source in the barn, so she was able to build a permanent cedar split-rail fence to create a 45 m buffer around the pond to keep the cows out. If the pond was the only water source, Gillian would have needed to install an alternate watering system such as a solar powered pump and through nose pump system.

Carbon Capture Benefits

Gillian retired the newly fenced-in area of about 1.5 acres from agriculture. She worked with Credit Valley Conservation to plant nearly 600 native trees, shrubs, and wildflowers to offset her personal carbon consumption. Dogwoods, willows, maples, and pines now thrive alongside fruit and berry shrubs like blackberry and flowering perennials like black eyed Susan, bergamot and butterfly weed.

This simple action supports habitat for beneficial insects, birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles; improves soil structure and bank stability; increases carbon capture; and contributes to cleaner air and water not only for Gillian and her cows, but the entire community. 

Person standing in field

Inspired? Get started. CVC helps farmers and agricultural property owners implement beneficial management practices on their land to improve water quality, build soil health and protect the environment. Contact our agricultural coordinator to discuss opportunities and funding for projects on your farm: [email protected] or 905-670-1615 ext 720.


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