FACTORS INFLUENCING THE AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT BY CATTLE IN STREAMS: IMPLICATIONS FOR TMDL DEVELOPMENT
BIOLOGICAL SYSTEMS ENGINEERING , Master of Science , 2002

Masters, A.L., Vaughan, D.H.

The amount of time cattle spend standing in streams is one input parameter needed by computer models when total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans are being developed. This input parameter is estimated using professionals’ best judgment because experimental data are not available, and estimations are generally inconsistent. The goal of this study was to gain a better estimate of the amount of time cows spend in streams, since this has a significant impact on direct fecal coliform loadings to streams. Significant factors influencing the amount of time cattle spend in streams were identified, and a relationship was developed for predicting the amounts of time cattle spend in streams. Five farms were studied in southwest Virginia from August 2001 through February 2002. Camera surveillance systems were set up on two beef farms and three dairy heifer operations, and cattle activity in streams was recorded during daylight hours. Climatic data, pasture characteristics, feed characteristics, and farm management practices were collected from each site, and their relationships with the amount of time cattle spend in streams were investigated. No significant difference (p=0.82) was found between the amount of time beef cattle and dairy heifers spent in streams. Overall, cows spent an average of 10.12 min day-1cow-1 standing in streams during the observation period. Throughout the study period from August to February, cows spent the highest amount of time in streams during the month of November (14.3 min day- 1cow-1). Feed, climatic, and pasture parameters were found to influence the amount of time cattle spent in streams. These significant parameters were used to develop an empirical equation for predicting cattle presence in streams. This model may not accurately predict the amount of time spent in streams by cows during warmer summer months, since data was collected during fall and winter months. Other limitations may be encountered when using the model to predict the amount of time lactating dairy cows spend in streams when streams are their sole water source, since they have a much higher water requirement than those cows studied.