Assessing the effects of cattle exclusion practices on water quality in headwater streams in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Maschke, Nancy Jane
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Livestock best management practices (BMPs) such as streamside exclusion fencing are installed to reduce cattle impacts on stream water quality such as increases in bacteria through direct deposition and sediment through trampling. The main objective of this study is to assess the effects of different cattle management strategies on water quality. The project site was located near Keezletown, VA encompassing Cub Run and Mountain Valley Road Tributary streams. During two, one-week studies, eight automatic water samplers took two-hour composites for three periods: baseline, cattle access, and recovery. During the cattle access period, livestock were able to enter the riparian zone normally fenced off. Water samples were analyzed for E.coli, sediment, and nutrients to understand the short-term, high-density, or flash grazing, impact on water quality. Additional weekly grab and storm samples were collected. Results show that cattle do not have significant influence on pollutant concentrations except in stream locations where cattle gathered for an extensive period of time. Approximately three cattle in the stream created an increase in turbidity above baseline concentrations. E.coli and TSS concentrations of the impacted sites returned to baseline within approximately 6 to 20 hours of peak concentrations. Weekly samples show that flash grazing does not have a significant influence on pollutant concentrations over a two-year time frame. Sediment loads from storms and a flash grazing event showed similar patterns. Pollutant concentrations through the permanent exclusion fencing reach tended to decrease for weekly and flash grazing samples.
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