Just as livestock performance is conditioned by the quality and quantity of feed consumed, the excrements of such feed stuffs, when distributed over the pasture, influence the productivity of the pasture.
Urine and manure are effective sources of fertilizer when added to the soil. Uneven distribution, however, causes varying effects on plant growth. Some spots receive excessive amounts while others suffer from low fertility. Under intensive grazing management, manure is more evenly distributed. In addition, pastures can be dragged to reduce spot grazing.
Cattle defecate 11-12 times daily and urinate 8-11 times daily, with more dung being excreted at night than during the day. Dung pats cover less than 2.95 square feet and urine patches 0.98 to 1.31 square feet. Even though excreta may be beneficial, only a limited area is covered, particularly in open ranges where it is concentrated near sources of salt and water or near shade. Urine deposits will provide concentrated N and K which stimulate grass growth but benefits are governed by rainfall and temperature. Dung provides N, P, Ca, and Mg and is often buried into the soil within 4-5 days by dung beetles. Without the beetles, dung deposits may remain for 3-12 months in warmer climates. Livestock may readily graze urine spots but usually avoid the odor of dung deposits and eventually the less palatable grass plants that have matured there. This justifies dragging (a method of spreading manure) and intensive grazing.
Although most of the pasture is not greatly affected by excrement, managers can use this knowledge in determining traffic lanes, water locations, salt availability, day/night paddocks, and fertilizer needs.