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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Waste Management

Quantity and Quality of Runoff from a Beef Cattle Feedlot in Southern Alberta


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 3, p. 1088-1097
    Received: June 5, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): millerjj@agr.gc.ca
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  1. Jim J. Miller *a,
  2. Brian P. Handereka,
  3. Bruce W. Beasleya,
  4. Edith C. S. Olsonbd,
  5. L. Jay Yankea,
  6. Francis J. Larneya,
  7. Tim A. McAllistera,
  8. Barry M. Olsonbd,
  9. L. Brent Selingerc,
  10. David S. Chanasykd and
  11. Paul Hasselbacke
  1. a Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, P.O. Box 3000, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 4B1
    b Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 4V6
    d Department of Renewable Resources, General Services Building, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2H1
    c Department of Biological Sciences, 4401 University Drive, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1K 3M4
    e Chinook Regional Health Authority, 960-19th Street South, Lethbridge, AB, Canada T1J 1W5


Southern Alberta, which has a cold climate dominated by strong chinook winds, has the highest density of feedlot cattle in Canada. However, the quantity and quality of runoff from beef cattle (Bos taurus) feedlots in this unique region has not been investigated. Our objectives were to compare runoff quantity (1998–2002) with catch-basin design criteria; determine concentrations of selected inorganic chemical parameters (1998–2000) in runoff in relation to water quality guidelines and the potential implications of irrigating adjacent cropland; and determine if total heterotrophs, total coliforms, and Escherichia coli (1998–2000) persisted in the catch-basin water and soil. Runoff (<0.1 to 42.5 mm) for a 24-h duration that included maximum peak discharge was less than the recommended design criteria of 90 mm based on runoff from 24 h of rainfall with a 30-yr return period. We found that curve numbers between 52 and 96 (mode of 90) were required to match the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service predicted runoff and actual runoff volumes. Total P posed the greatest threat to water quality guidelines, and K posed the greatest threat for exceeding crop fertilizer requirements if catch-basin effluent was used as irrigation water. Water in the catch basin had continually high populations of E. coli throughout the study, with values ranging between log10 2 and log10 8 100 mL−1 In contrast, soil in the catch basin generally had low populations of E. coli that were <log10 2 g−1 wet wt., but at times higher populations between log10 2 and log10 6 g−1 wet wt. were also found.

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