Animal behavior and soil nutrient redistribution in continuously stocked pensacola bahiagrass pastures managed at different intensities
Animal excreta return to pastures plays a major role in nutrient cycling. Improvement in excreta distribution may increase nutrient recovery by pasture plants. Pasture management may modify animal behavior and excreta distribution. This study evaluated the effects of management intensity on animal behavior and soil nutrient concentration in continuously stocked ‘Pensacola’ bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum Flügge) pastures. The three management intensities were: Low (40 kg N ha–1yr–1 and 1.4 animal units [AU, one AU = 500 kg live weight] ha–1 stocking rate [SR]), Moderate (120 kg N ha–1 yr–1 and 2.8 AU ha–1 SR), and High (360 kg N ha–1 yr–1 and 4.2 AU ha–1 SR). Management intensity did not affect animal behavior (P > 0.05), but it did affect soil nutrient concentration (P ≤ 0.10). Surface-soil N, K, and Mg concentrations were greater at the greatest intensity (P ≤ 0.10), but intensity had no effect deeper in the profile (P ≥ 0.10). Soil nutrient concentration after 3 yr was generally greatest (P ≤ 0.10) closer to shade and water and was associated with a greater proportional time spent and return of excreta by cattle. Increasing air temperature and temperature-humidity index increased time spent under shade and affected patterns of excreta return (P ≤ 0.10). Efforts to increase uniformity of excreta distribution, e.g., movement of portable shade and water troughs, are likely to have greatest impact in warm-climate areas or during warm seasons in temperate zones.