I’ve heard this question a few times. It’s a strange acronym. People know that it has something to do with farms and animals, but that’s really all the detail they know. CAFOs pop up in the news a lot, and they have a negative “factory farming” connotation.
So, let’s dig in and figure out what CAFOs really are!
CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Whether or not a farm is a CAFO is determined by three main things:
- The number of animals on the farm.
- How long a group of animals is kept on the farm (45 days or more within any 12-month period).
- Crops, pasture, or other vegetation are not present during the normal growing season on any part of the farm.
The ownership of a farm has nothing to do with whether it is called a CAFO or not. In fact, even most large CAFOs are owned and run by families. The family may have incorporated the farm for tax and legal reasons, so the farm might have a name like “John’s Cattle Farm, Inc.” Even though the farm is incorporated, John and his family are still the owners and managers of the farm.
A medium CAFO includes farms that have:
- 200-699 mature dairy cows
- 300-999 veal calves
- 300-999 cattle other than mature dairy cows or veal calves
- 750-2,499 swine (pigs) weighing over 55 pounds
- 3,000-9,999 swine (pigs) weighing under 55 pounds
- 150-499 horses
- 3,000-9,999 sheep or lambs (baby sheep)
- 16,500-54,999 turkeys
- 9,000-29,999 laying hens or broilers (with a liquid manure handling system)
- 37,500-124,999 chickens other than laying hens (with a solid manure handling system
- 25,000-81,999 laying hens (with a solid manure handling system)
- 1,500-4,999 ducks (with a liquid manure handling system)
- 10,000-29,999 ducks (with a solid manure handling system)
A large CAFO include farms that have more than:
- 700 mature dairy cows
- 1,000 veal calves
- 1,000 cattle other than mature dairy cows or veal calves
- 2,500 swine (pigs) over 55 pounds
- 10,000 swine (pigs) under 55 pounds
- 500 horses
- 10,000 sheep or lambs (baby sheep)
- 55,000 turkeys
- 30,000 broilers or laying hens (with a liquid manure handling system)
- 125,000 chickens other than laying hens (with a solid manure handling system)
- 82,000 laying hens (with a solid manure handling system)
- 5,000 ducks (with a liquid manure handling system)
- 30,000 ducks (with a solid manure handling system)
CAFOs are very highly regulated. The Environmental Protection Agency has a set of regulations for CAFOs. In addition to the EPA regulations, farms in Indiana are also under the jurisdiction of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). IDEM has slightly different definitions (for example, a medium-size CAFO is called a Confined Feeding Operation, or CFO, in Indiana) than the EPA. Farmers must follow all the regulations in place with both the EPA and any state organizations.
Medium-sized CAFOs (and CFOs in Indiana) have slightly less stringent requirements than large-sized CAFOs. The large CAFOs need to follow all the regulations for medium CAFOs, in addition to a few additional regulations.
Don’t worry about giving yourself a headache trying to read the EPA regulations and the IDEM regulations for medium-sized CAFOs and large-sized CAFOs. Next week I’ll give you a summary of the types of things that are required of CAFOs.
What other questions do you have about CAFOs?