Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are large-scale industrial feeding operations that house large numbers of animals in confined enclosures.  These facilities create significant quantities of waste material that are usually land applied.

In recent years, Schrems West Michigan TU and Michigan TU has become increasingly concerned about the damage that can occur as a result of the misapplication of manure within watersheds supporting coldwater fisheries.  Within our Chapter, this concern became tragically evident in late July, 2006 when a large amount of fecal material contaminated Tyler Creek near Freeport, Michigan (just south of Grand Rapids), resulting in a total loss of the fish population along 4 miles of one of the finest trout streams in southern Michigan.

Since then, other spills of agricultural wastes have occurred in streams throughout Michigan, including two spills that occurred in 2009 along the Black River in Sanilac County and along a tributary of the River Raisin in southern Michigan, both resulting in large fish kills.

According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment, in 2009, there were 223 permitted CAFOs operating within Michigan.  The vast majority of these CAFOs are located throughout the lower half of the lower peninsula.

Based on a review conducted by Michigan TU, almost half (48%) of the CAFOs in Michigan are located within 5 miles of a trout stream.  This is significant, because it means that the CAFO operates and land applies their wastes within the watershed of a trout stream and as such has the potential to adversely affect the health of the coldwater fishery if necessary precautions are not taken.  The CAFO review also showed that of all the local TU chapters in the state, the Schrems Chapter had by far the largest number CAFOs within its geographic boundaries that are operating near trout streams (see Table below).

Number of CAFOs Near Trout Streams Within Local Michigan TU Chapter Boundaries

Michigan TU Local Chapter Within 1 Mile of a Trout Stream Within 5 Miles of a Trout Stream
Kalamazoo Valley 10 35
Perrin Lansing 1 8
Schrems West Michigan 10 73
Paul Young 1 1
Ann Arbor 0 2
Clinton Valley 0 2
Leon Martuch 1 3
Pine River 0 10
Muskegon White River 14 27
Total 37 161

Since the Tyler Creek fish kill, Schrems Chapter has worked with Michigan TU and other partner organizations (Coldwater River Watershed Council, Kalamazoo Valley Chapter, Bob Perrin-Lansing Chapter, and the Oakbrook Chapter (Oakbrook, IL) of TU, and Michigan Sierra Club) to become more actively engaged in CAFO related issues.  To learn more about CAFOs and the work Schrems Chapter and Michigan TU is doing regarding CAFOs, CLICK HERE to visit the Michigan TU CAFO webpage.