Environmental Costs of High-Density Cattle Farming

by Sarah Whitney

A dramatic increase in the density of United State’s dairy farms has created a cause for concern across the nation. The number of cattle per farm has jumped from 1000 to more than 15,000 cows. Dairy producers are easily able to increase their production and thus their profit with access to cheap fuel and feed. The State Department of Natural Resources states that dairy farms containing 500 cows or more have increased by 150% in size, but the number of dairy farms in the United States has decreased by a third. Such an increase in high-density cattle farms has generated a major issue with proper manure disposal. On small-scale farms, roaming cows naturally fertilize the pasture with their manure. Yet on large-scale cattle farms, where cows are confined to a barn, the ratio between cattle and land is extremely out of proportion and thus the significant amount of manure in a small space poses a huge environmental problem. Continue reading