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A field trial to evaluate the pollution potential to ground and surface waters from woodchip corrals for overwintering livestock outdoors

Vinten, A.J.A., Donnelly, S., Ball, B.C., Crawford, C.E., Ritchie, R.M., Parker, J.P.
Soil use and management 2006 v.22 no.1 pp. 82-94
Enterococcus, Escherichia coli, adsorption, air, ammonia, beef cattle, carbon dioxide, denitrification, dissolved organic carbon, drainage, methane production, models, nitrous oxide, overwintering, pollutants, risk, sand, soil, soil sampling, spatial distribution, stocking rate, vadose zone, water content, wood chips
Outwintering beef cattle on woodchip corrals offers stock management, economic and welfare benefits when compared with overwintering in open fields or indoors. A trial was set up on a loamy sand over sand soil to evaluate the pollution risks from corrals and the effect of design features (size and depth of woodchips, stocking density, and feeding on or off the corral). Plastic-lined drainage trenches at 9-10 m spacing under the woodchips allowed sampling of the leachate. Sampling of the soil to 3.6 m below the corral allowed evaluation of pollutant mitigation during vadose zone transport. Mean corral leachate pollutant concentrations were 443-1056 mg NH₄-N L[superscript [-]1], 372-1078 mg dissolved organic carbon (DOC) L[superscript [-]1], 3-13 mg NO₃-N L[superscript [-]1], 8 [multiplication] 10⁴-1.0 [multiplication] 10⁶Escherichia coli 100 mL[superscript [-]1] and 2.8 [multiplication] 10²-1.4 [multiplication] 10³ faecal enterococci 100 mL[superscript [-]1]. Little influence of design features could be observed. DOC, NH₄ and (in most cases) E. coli and faecal enterococci concentrations decreased 10²-10³ fold when compared with corral leachate during transport to 3.6 m but there were some cores where faecal enterococci concentrations remained high throughout the profile. Travel times of pollutants (39-113 days) were estimated assuming vertical percolation, piston displacement at field moisture content and no adsorption. This allowed decay/die-off kinetics in the soil to be estimated (0.009-0.044 day[superscript [-]1] for DOC, 0.014-0.045 day[superscript [-]1] for E. coli and 0-0.022 day[superscript [-]1] for faecal enterococci). The mean [NO₃-N] in pore water from the soil cores (n = 3 per corral) ranged from 114 ± 52 to 404 ± 54 mg NO₃-N L[superscript [-]1], when compared with 59 ± 15 mg NO₃-N L[superscript [-]1] from a field overwintering area and 47 ± 40 mg NO₃-N L[superscript [-]1] under a permanent feeding area. However, modelling suggested that denitrification losses in the soil profile increased with stocking density so nitrate leaching losses per animal may be smaller under corrals than for other overwintering methods. Nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane fluxes (measured on one occasion from one corral) were 5-110 g N ha[superscript [-]1] day[superscript [-]1], 3-23 kg C ha[superscript [-]1] day[superscript [-]1], and 5-340 g C ha[superscript [-]1] day[superscript [-]1] respectively. Ammonia content of air extracted from above the woodchips was 0.7-3.5 mg NH₄-N m[superscript [-]3].