Design, Hydrologic Performance, and Effluent Characteristics Of A Woodchip Heavy-Use Area With Subsurface Drainage For Wintering Beef Cattle

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Benefits to cattle welfare and pasture condition from wintering or confining animals on woodchip heavy use areas have been reported elsewhere in the world, but no known installations of this Best Management Practice have occurred in the United States.  Furthermore, increasing environmental concern and regulatory scrutiny of winter feeding areas and other heavy use areas demand improved management of nutrient-laden runoff.  A pilot study was initiated to evaluate the environmental impact of such a woodchip heavy use area as a winter herd management method for a pasture-based beef operation in northern West Virginia.  A dosed vegetative treatment system was installed to treat drainage effluent.  Effluent volume was recorded and nutrient concentrations were monitored during three years of winter stocking.  Measured data and hydrologic performance of this system was used for a comparison to runoff and nutrient loadings from other types of open-lot systems.  While a degree of pollutant reduction and retention occurred during percolation through the woodchip media, low-cost control of effluent from such systems remains a challenge, as in similar open-lot situations.  Woodchip heavy use area and drainage system design specifications are also reported with adjusted design recommendations.  Results indicate what the potential for expanded application of these systems is and offer a baseline for continuing research of this relatively unexplored technology in the region and elsewhere.


Joshua  Faulkner, West Virginia University

John Miller, West Virginia University, Thomas Basden, West Virginia University


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