Effects of Cumulative Cattle Trampling on Soil Bulk Density and Infiltration of Rain Water on an Annual Forage Crop Pasture

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $9,001.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2020
Grant Recipient: Texas Tech University
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Charles West
Texas Tech University


  • Animals: bovine


  • Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: water management
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal abstract:

    Novel crop combinations with small grains for grazing livestock offer cash income alternatives to traditional cropping to address low profitability in crop production in recent years. This is important in water-limited environments where a low-cost summer forage can produce high-quality grazing forages. Some farmers are implementing conservation efforts such as no-till to these small grain livestock systems. The grazing effect by cattle causes trampling of forage and soil compaction. In no-till fields, surface compaction by cattle can hinder stand establishment and diminish forage productivity.

    We propose to quantify the effects of trampling by cattle on soil compaction, infiltration rate, and stand establishment over time. Pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) will be no-till seeded into dry-land cropland in the Texas High Plains. Trampling will be accomplished at high stocking densities after the crop as emerged to 46 cm height in mid-June to compact the soil on four 0.81 ha paddocks. After trampling, once a month, soil data will be collected in each treatment to determine the effects of trampling on remaining living plants, litter cover, and soil recovery from compaction until the end of the summer grazing season, then repeated in a second year. Results will demonstrate the relative ability of no-till pearl millet to provide season-long forage availability and resist increases in soil bulk density to the detriment of water infiltration.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: To quantify effect of brief cattle trampling at high densities on soil bulk density.

    Objective 2: To quantify if cattle have a cumulative effect on soil bulk density, penetrometer readings, and water infiltration in no till systems.

    Objective 3: To determine whether soil bulk density or soil penetrometer readings correlate with infiltration of water into the soil profile.

    Objective 4: To quantify the amount of deferment required for bulk densities to return to acceptable levels.

    Objective 5: To quantify the effects of litter cover and on soil bulk density, penetrometer readings, and water infiltration.

    Objective 6: To detect if cattle trampling, no till, or increased little cover can improve plant available nitrogen matter in the course of two years.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.