Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia
On-line version ISSN 1806-9290
VENDRAMINI, J.M.B.; SILVEIRA, M.L.A.; DUBEUX JR., J.C.B. and SOLLENBERGER, L.E.. Environmental impacts and nutrient recycling on pastures grazed by cattle. R. Bras. Zootec. [online]. 2007, vol.36, suppl., pp. 139-149. ISSN 1806-9290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1516-35982007001000015.
Grasslands are being replaced by urbanization and more profitable agricultural activities around the world. Producers may be faced with land constraints and need to consider intensification of the remaining grasslands as a means of maintaining overall production on a decreasing land resource. However, intensification of the grazing system is usually associated with greater nutrient inputs, including those from commercial fertilizers and supplement fed to animals. Excessive loading of nutrients in intensive grazing systems via fertilizer and animal wastes can cause nutrient buildup in the soil and subsequent water quality problems. Surface runoff and leaching of nutrients are the two major process affecting water quality. Nitrogen and P represent major nutrient concerns as related to water quality. Increased nitrate concentrations render groundwater unsuitable for drinking and can cause serious health issues for humans. Excessive N and P concentrations may contribute to eutrophication of streams and lakes. Maximizing efficiency of nutrient recycling through the soil-forage-animal system minimizes off-site nutrient transport and decreases production costs by reducing the quantity of commercial fertilizer needed. Management strategies to reduce soil and water contamination include refining the balance of nutrient inputs from feeds and fertilizers as well as accounting for the nutrients recycled through the decomposition of plant litter and animal wastes. Current interest in the development and adoption of efficient and sustainable agriculture systems has led forage researchers to amplify the scope of grasslands research by increasing multidisciplinary efforts. There is an increased interest in quantifying the impacts of forage-animal management strategies on the environment, with the goal of developing economically viable best management practices that result in optimum forage production and profitability, while protecting the environment. Furthermore, these best management practices will supply reliable information for future environmental policies that may be adopted by governmental agencies.
Keywords : cattle; forage; grassland; nutrient cycling; water quality.