Inputs and losses by surface runoff and subsurface leaching for pastures managed by continuous or rotational stocking

L. B. Owens, D. J. Barker, S. C. Loerch, M. J. Shipitalo, J. V. Bonta, R. M. Sulc

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7 Scopus citations


Pasture management practices can affect forage quality and production, animal health and production, and surface and groundwater quality. In a 5-yr study conducted at the North Appalachian Experimental Watershed near Coshocton, Ohio, we compared the effects of two contrasting grazing methods on surface and subsurface water quantity and quality. Four pastures, each including a small, instrumented watershed (0.51-1.09 ha) for surface runoffmeasurements and a developed spring for subsurface flow collection, received 112 kg N ha -1 yr -1 and were grazed at similar stocking rates (1.8-1.9 cows ha -1). Two pastures were continuously stocked; two were subdivided so that they were grazed with frequent rotational stocking (5-6 times weekly). In the preceding 5 yr, these pastures received 112 kg N ha -1 yr -1 after several years of 0 N fertilizer and were grazed with weekly rotational stocking. Surface runofflosses of N were minimal. During these two periods, some years had precipitation up to 50% greater than the long-term average, which increased subsurface flow and NO 3-N transport. Average annual NO 3-N transported in subsurface flow from the four watersheds during the two 5-yr periods ranged from 11.3 to 22.7 kg N ha -1, which was similar to or less than the mineral-N received in precipitation. Flow and transport variations were greater among seasons than among watersheds. Flow-weighted seasonal NO 3-N concentrations in subsurface flow did not exceed 7 mg L -1. Variations in NO 3-N leached from pastures were primarily due to variable precipitation rather than the effects of continuous, weekly rotational, or frequent rotational stocking practices. This suggests that there was no difference among these grazing practices in terms of NO 3-N leaching.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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