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Partial or Fully Restricted Cattle Watering Access: Water Quality Considerations

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 32(6): 811-821. (doi: 10.13031/aea.32.11491) @2016
Authors:   Kathryn Bremner, Rob J. Gordon, Jacqueline Powers, Neil Rooney, Ali Madani
Keywords:   Bacteria, Cattle, E. coli, Environmental management, Herd health, TSS, Water quality.


. Fencing cattle from watercourses and providing alternative drinking water sources is recommended for optimizing herd health and decreasing degradation effects on aquatic systems. The challenge is that complete exclusion of livestock from watercourses is often costly and requires considerable oversight.

Two inexpensive access ramps, differing in their degree of accessibility were constructed at fenced-off waterways and evaluated as alternative options for cattle watering. At Site I (Upper Falmouth, Nova Scotia), cattle were allowed a narrowed region of direct access to enter the watercourse via a gradually sloping gravel ramp (controlled access). At Site II (Antigonish, Nova Scotia), an access ramp was constructed such that cattle were prohibited from directly entering the watercourse and only their noses could access the system for drinking (restricted access). Water samples were collected from upstream and downstream locations both before (pre-Beneficial Management Practices - when cattle had direct access to the watercourses) and after the access modification (post-Beneficial Management Practices). Sites were monitored over three grazing seasons which included both before and after site modification for several water quality parameters with an emphasis on ().

At Site I, where controlled access was established, no significant differences (p>0.05) were observed in the concentrations upstream and downstream of the stream access both before (pre-BMP) and after (post-BMP) ramp improvements. In contrast, concentrations declined significantly (p<0.01) downstream of the restricted water access at Site II between pre- and post-BMP. Furthermore mean daily loads were reduced by ~99%. This suggests that when cattle are allowed to drink from but not enter a watercourse, they do not promote degradation of waterways.

Finally, total suspended solid concentrations displayed a qualitatively similar trend to that observed for concentrations. However, other water quality parameters (i.e., nitrogen, phosphorus, pH, and BOD5) were unaffected by access modification at either of the sites.

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