Wildlife Management on Farmlands

All wildlife species need food, cover water, and some amount of space to survive. Wildlife — or lack thereof — found on farms are no different. To manage any property for wildlife a landowner must provide what wildlife species need. Many farms do attract wildlife, but may not think much about wildlife management. If food is present then animals will frequent farms, but farm owners can not expect their neighbors to provide the rest IF farm owners are interested in wildlife.

The recreational value of rural land in is high, and in some cases higher than the yearly agricultural revenue on a per acre basis. This is especially true with hunting, where hunters are limited by the short-supply of lands available to hunt. The majority of the human population lives in urban areas, but many people look to pursue wildlife (deer hunting, hog hunting, dove hunting, etc.) on in rural areas, where animals are found.

Farming changes natural habitat and some farming activities or methods can damage the value of soil and water resources as wildlife habitat. This can be detrimental to wildlife, but certain land management practices can work hand-in-hand with farming and providing agriculture and hunting revenues for farm owners. Removing some of the land out of production to implement wildlife-friendly practices will decrease crop revenues in some cases, but those revenue can be more than made up for through recreational hunting.

If farmers have wildlife, hunters are willing to pay to access those lands, especially for access to wetlands or dove fields. Wildlife management through habitat management is not for everyone, and not all landowners are interested in providing for wildlife. However, if you want more wildlife then you must provide them with their necessary habitat components: food, cover and water. Below are some habitat management practices that can help wildlife on farmlands:

Conservation tillage–Leave crop residue on the surface throughout the year. Hold cultivation to a minimum leaves waste grain for wildlife, especially migratory birds, and reduces compaction, erosion and prevents plow pans.

Strip cropping–Strips of crops are alternated with soil and habitat conserving strips of native grasses or grass/forb mixes. The habitat and edges attract wildlife.

Grass waterways–Areas that are planted to permanent grass cover to prevent erosion in areas where water concentrates in ag fields following rainfall events. Prevents erosion, save valuable soil, and provide great habitat.

Field windbreaks and field borders–Areas planted in trees and/or permanent grass cover that provide habitat along fields. These can be from 5 to 50 yards in width.

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