Soil Research Soil Research Society
Soil, land care and environmental research

Soil compaction and recovery cycle on a Southland dairy farm: implications for soil monitoring

J. J. Drewry A B , R. J. Paton A and R. M. Monaghan A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A AgResearch, Invermay Agricultural Centre, Private Bag 50034, Mosgiel, New Zealand.

B Corresponding author. Current address: Integrated Catchment Assessment and Management Centre, Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia. Email:

Australian Journal of Soil Research 42(7) 851-856
Submitted: 11 December 2003  Accepted: 18 June 2003   Published: 12 November 2004


This paper quantifies soil compaction and natural recovery of soil physical properties during a 3-year trial on a dairy farm in Southland, New Zealand. The study investigated the magnitude of soil compaction over spring, and natural recovery of soil physical properties over summer and autumn. Changes in soil physical condition were measured while pastures were intermittently grazed by lactating dairy cows, and also over winter when cows were removed from pasture. Soil bulk density at 0–5 cm increased (P < 0.001) during spring by up to 0.20 Mg/m3. During spring 2000, macroporosity (volumetric % of pores >30 μm) at 0–5 cm decreased (P < 0.001) from 13.5 to 7.5%, with similar trends in spring 2002. Many of the soil physical properties showed significant recovery over summer and autumn. Bulk density decreased (P < 0.001) by 0.09 Mg/m3, from December 2001 to May 2002. Soil macroporosity also recovered markedly during summer and autumn. Macroporosity increased (P < 0.001) from 12.5% in December 2001 to 18% in May 2002. Significant changes in soil compaction and recovery were also measured at 5–10 cm depth. For many soil physical properties, recovery over winter was much less than over summer and autumn. Implications of the compaction and recovery cycle are discussed in terms of measurement protocols appropriate to routine monitoring of soil physical condition.

Additional keywords: pugging, hydraulic conductivity, amelioration.


We thank R. P. Littlejohn for statistical analyses, comments and advice, L. C. Smith and B. Henderson for expert field assistance, the farmer for providing access to the farm, and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology for financial support.


Betteridge K, Mackay AD, Shepherd TG, Barker DJ, Budding PJ, Devantier BP, Costall DA (1999) Effect of cattle and sheep treading on surface configuration of a sedimentary hill soil. Australian Journal of Soil Research 37, 743–760.

Braunack MV, Walker J (1985) Recovery of some surface soil properties of ecological interest after sheep grazing in a semi-arid woodland. Australian Journal of Ecology 10, 451–460.

Carter MR (1990) Relative measures of soil bulk density to characterize compaction in tillage studies on fine sandy loams. Canadian Journal of Soil Science 70, 425–433.

Cornforth, IS ,  and  Sinclair, AG (1984). ‘Fertiliser recommendations for pastures and crops in New Zealand.’ (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries: Wellington, New Zealand)

Dexter AR (1991) Amelioration of soil by natural processes. Soil and Tillage Research 20, 87–100.
CrossRef |

Drewry JJ (2003) Dairy grazing strategies to minimise soil pugging and compaction in Waikato. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 65, 99–103.

Drewry JJ, Paton RJ (2000) Effects of cattle treading and natural amelioration on soil physical properties and pasture under dairy farming in Southland, New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 43, 377–386.

Drewry JJ, Cameron KC, Buchan GD (2001) Effect of simulated dairy cow treading on soil physical properties and ryegrass pasture yield. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 44, 181–190.

Drewry JJ, Littlejohn RP, Paton RJ, Singleton PL, Monaghan RM, Smith LC (2004) Dairy pasture responses to soil physical properties. Australian Journal of Soil Research 42, 99–105.
CrossRef |

Elliot AH, Tian YQ, Rutherford JC, Carlson WT (2002) Effect of cattle treading on interrill erosion from hill pasture: modelling concepts and analysis of rainfall simulator data. Australian Journal of Soil Research 40, 963–976.

GenStat Committee (2002). ‘GenStat for Windows.’ 6th edn . (VSN International: Oxford, UK)

Greenwood KL, McKenzie BM (2001) Grazing effects on soil physical properties and the consequences for pastures: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 41, 1231–1250.
CrossRef |

Greenwood KL, MacLeod DA, Hutchinson KJ (1997) Long-term stocking rate effects on soil physical properties. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 37, 413–419.
CrossRef |

Greenwood KL, MacLeod DA, Scott JM, Hutchinson KJ (1998) Changes to soil physical properties after grazing exclusion. Soil Use and Management 14, 19–24.

Hewitt, AE (1998). ‘New Zealand Soil Classification.’ Landcare Research Science Series No. 1. 2nd edn . (Manaaki Whenua Press: Lincoln, NZ)

McDowell RW, Drewry JJ, Carey PL, Paton RJ, Monaghan RM, Condron LM (2003) Influence of soil treading on sediment and phosphorus losses in overland flow. Australian Journal of Soil Research 41, 949–961.
CrossRef |

McLaren, RG ,  and  Cameron, KC (1996). ‘Soil science: sustainable production and environmental protection.’ (Oxford University Press: Auckland, New Zealand)

Menneer J, Ledgard S, McLay C, Silvester W (2001) What impact does dairy cow pugging have on clover N2 fixation and long-term farm production? Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 63, 63–67.

Nguyen ML, Sheath GW, Smith CM, Cooper AB (1998) Impact of cattle treading on hill land 2. Soil physical properties and contaminant runoff. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 41, 279–290.

Perroux KM, White I (1988) Designs for disc permeameters. Soil Science Society of America Journal 52, 1205–1215.

Singleton PL, Addison B (1999) Effects of cattle treading on physical properties of three soils used for dairy farming in the Waikato, North Island, New Zealand. Australian Journal of Soil Research 37, 891–902.

Singleton PL, Boyes M, Addison B (2000) Effect of treading by dairy cattle on topsoil physical conditions for six contrasting soil types in Waikato and Northland, New Zealand, with implications for monitoring. New Zealand Journal of Agricultural Research 43, 559–567.

Tian Y, Singleton PL, Sheath GW, McCall DG, Carlson WT (1998) Modelling animal treading impacts on infiltration rate. Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association 60, 149–152.

Ward G, Greenwood K (2002) Research and experiments in treading and wet soil management in Victoria. ‘Dairy farm soil management’. (Eds LD Currie, P Loganathan) pp. 47–59. (Fertiliser and Lime Research Centre: Massey University, Palmerston North, NZ)

Warren SD, Thurow TL, Blackburn WH, Garza NE (1986) The influence of livestock trampling under intensive rotation grazing on soil hydrologic characteristics. Journal of Range Management 39, 491–495.

Zegwaard KE, Balks MR, Singleton PL (1998) The effect of cattle trampling and pugging on selected soil properties. ‘Proceedings of the New Zealand Soil Science Society Conference’. Gisborne, (New Zealand Soil Science Society: Lincoln, NZ)

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (23)