Image of Cows

A CAFO is a type of Animal Feeding Operation (AFO) where animals are kept and raised in confinement. CAFOs generate significant quantities of manure, litter and process wastewater that, if not managed properly, can impact surface waters. Due to this potential to impact surface waters, facilities that are defined, or designated by the EPA as "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations" (CAFO) under the EPA CAFO Rule, may be subject to permitting requirements and be required to implement Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMPs). A final rule issued July 18, 2007 extends the deadline for CAFO compliance, establishing February 27, 2009 as the new date for newly defined CAFOs to seek NPDES permit coverage and for permitted CAFOs to develop and implement nutrient management plans (NMPs) as required by EPA’s 2003 CAFO rule.

In Massachusetts, many livestock operations meet the regulatory definition for "Animal Feeding Operation" (AFO) because animals are generally confined for periods of at least 45 days over the course of a year due to the harsh winter conditions.

If any of these AFOs are impacting water resources, they could potentially meet the definition for a CAFO; or they could be designated as a CAFO regardless of size. EPA's CAFO regulations apply to both the production area and the land application area. EPA is the enforcement authority for the CAFO rule in Massachusetts.

In Massachusetts, livestock operations typically would be considered small or medium operations. A dairy operation with between 200 and 699 mature dairy cattle where animal waste is directly impacting a water resource meets the definition for a medium CAFO. A beef operation with 50 cattle that is significantly impacting on a water body could be designated as a CAFO by EPA.

To identify what size livestock operations are considered to be small, medium, or large CAFOs follow this link:

Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) field staff are directly providing outreach and education to AFO operators on both EPA's regulatory CAFO program and the availability of technical and financial assistance programs which can help farmers to pro-actively address any water quality impacts. DAR field staff typically conduct a field analysis of a facility and help identify areas where the farmer might need to address potential water quality impacts. Information on technical assistance and funding opportunities are then provided. Among the recommended funding resources available are the state's Agricultural Environmental Enhancement Program (AEEP) and the federal EQIP program.

Greater details about CAFOs are provided on the CAFO Overview page. Farmers interested in a field visit to discuss the CAFO rule should contact Gerard Kennedy at 617-626-1773 or