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Effects of beef cow winter feeding systems, pen manure and compost on soil nitrogen and phosphorous amounts and distribution, soil density, and crop biomass

Kelln, B., H. Lardner, J. J. Schoenau and T. King. 2012. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 92:183-194


A field experiment was conducted on continuous barley to evaluate the effects of 3 beef cattle winter feeding systems (bale grazing (BG); swath grazing (SG); straw-chaff grazing (STCH)) and pen manure and compost application on soil N and P amounts and distribution, soil density and barley crop biomass. Cattle winter feeding systems were managed during the winter of 2005-2006. Effects of extensive winter feeding system on soil nutrients and soil density were determined in the spring of 2006 after winter feeding. Nitrate nitrogen (NO3-N) amounts at the low slope position in the 0-15 cm depth were 53% higher (P < 0.10) on BG sites than STCH sites. This may be attributed to the larger concentration of feed, thus feed nutrients, in the BG wintering system. Phosphorus amounts on the BG wintering sites at high slope were 34% higher (P < 0.10) than amounts at the same slope on the SG or STCH sites. Soil density was 21% greater (P < 0.10) where cows BG compared to where cows grazed straw-chaff piles, indicating differences in soil strength and resistance to penetration by roots. Soil density decreased on compost and raw manure sites in comparison to where no manure was applied, thus validating the benefits of manure on soil structure. Crop biomass measured on BG sites was consistent with soil nutrients captured, resulting in a 15% greater (P < 0.10) total biomass compared to STCH and SG wintering sites. Soil nutrient and crop biomass distribution was consistent among winter feeding sites with the STCH sites having the most uniform distribution of nutrients and crop biomass, and the BG sites having the least. Managing manure nutrients from winter feeding systems can be beneficial when followed by an annual cropping system.

Key Words

Winter feeding cattle, bale graze, swath graze, straw-chaff graze, nutrient recycling, nitrate-nitrogen, phosphorus