Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Bowling Green, Kentucky » Food Animal Environmental Systems Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #329157

Research Project: Efficient Management and Use of Animal Manure to Protect Human Health and Environmental Quality

Location: Food Animal Environmental Systems Research

Title: Management Can Reduce Contamination Potential of Beef Backgrounding

Author
item Netthisinghe, Annesly - Western Kentucky University
item Cook, Kimberly - Kim
item Gilfillen, Rebecca - Western Kentucky University
item Woosley, Paul - Western Kentucky University

Submitted to: Crop Science Newsletter
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2015
Publication Date: 11/9/2015
Citation: Netthisinghe, A., Cook, K.L., Gilfillen, R., Woosley, P. 2015. Management Can Reduce Contamination Potential of Beef Backgrounding. Crop Science Newsletter. 60(11):16-17.

Interpretive Summary: Producers who want to “background” beef cattle on karst landscapes face great challenges. This is because without proper management, manure-borne contaminants from backgrounding sites can quickly degrade water quality in karst regions. Western Kentucky University and USDA-ARS reported on three-year study that evaluated a contaminant management strategy in a small, beef backgrounding feedlot. After one year of backgrounding, the strategy involved harvesting manure from feeder areas, followed by 12 months of destocking and 12 more months of hay harvesting practices. Short-term hay harvesting, in contrast, only marginally reduced the levels of soil nutrients accumulated during backgrounding. In addition, the management strategy examined in this study stopped further buildup of soil nutrients and reduced the incidence of highly impacted land areas. Overall, the strategy offers short- term solutions for managing contaminants from beef backgrounding. However, the study also suggests that heavily impacted feeder/water areas may require more intensive contaminant management practices.

Technical Abstract: Producers who want to “background” beef cattle on karst landscapes face great challenges. This is because without proper management, manure-borne contaminants from backgrounding sites can quickly degrade water quality in karst regions. Western Kentucky University and USDA-ARS reported on three-year study that evaluated a contaminant management strategy in a small, beef backgrounding feedlot. After one year of backgrounding, the strategy involved harvesting manure from feeder areas, followed by 12 months of destocking and 12 more months of hay harvesting practices.The researchers found that manure harvesting reduced phosphorus by 39%, ammonium-nitrogen by 47%, and nitrate-N by 93% in the feeder area. Likewise, destocking lowered NH4-N by 47%, NO3-N by 76%, zinc by 16%, and populations of nitrifying bacteria in the lounging/grazing area. Short-term hay harvesting, in contrast, only marginally reduced the levels of soil nutrients accumulated during backgrounding. In addition, the management strategy examined in this study stopped further buildup of soil nutrients and reduced the incidence of highly impacted land areas. Overall, the strategy offers short- term solutions for managing contaminants from beef backgrounding. However, the study also suggests that heavily impacted feeder/water areas may require more intensive contaminant management practices.