Plant and Soil

, Volume 285, Issue 1–2, pp 135–148 | Cite as

The effects of sheep faeces on soil solution composition

Research article


To elucidate changes occurring in soil solution under sheep faeces we collected faeces from sheep grazing on an improved podzol in Scotland in summer and re-applied it (150 g of fresh weight) to patches, each with an area of 0.018 m2. Faeces and/or intact soil cores (0–50 mm deep) from underneath the patches were sampled at intervals up to 224 days and nutrients measured in the soil solution isolated by centrifugation. The treatment with faeces increased the soil solution concentrations of P, N, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), Ca, Mg and K. The greatest increases occurred at day 56 for P, Ca, Mg and K, day 84 for N, and day 112 for DOC. Most of the P in the faeces applied to the soil was in inorganic form, but organic P made a substantial proportion (nearly 50%) of the P in soil solution at the time of maximum effect. The faecal residue became indistinguishable from the soil between 84 and 112 days following periods of persistent rainfall. The data provides a new insight into the effects of sheep faeces on soil solution composition unperturbed by chemical extraction and a contrast with the effects of sheep urine on soil solution composition.


Dissolved organic carbon Dung Grazing Nutrients Organic nitrogen Organic phosphorus 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarons SR, O’Connor CR, Gourley CJP (2004a) Dung decomposition in temperate dairy pastures. I. Changes in soil chemical properties. Aust J Soil Res 42:107–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Aarons SR, Hosseini HM, Dorling L, Gourley CJP (2004b) Dung decomposition in temperate dairy pastures. II. Contribution to plant-available soil phosphorus. Aust J Soil Res 42:115–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. APHA-AWWA-WPCF (1981) In: Greenberg AE, Connors JJ, Jenkins D (eds) Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater, 15th edn. American Public Health Association, Washington, DC, pp 409–427Google Scholar
  4. Barber SA (1995) Soil nutrient bioavailability: a mechanistic approach 2nd Edition. John Wiley and Sons, New York, 414 ppGoogle Scholar
  5. Barrow NJ (1987) Return of nutrients by animals. In: Snaydon RW (ed) Managed grasslands, analytical studies. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 181–186Google Scholar
  6. Bromfield SM, Jones OL (1970) The effect of sheep on the recycling of phosphorus in hayed-off pastures. Aust J Agr Res 21:699–711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chardon WJ, Oenema O, del Castilho P, Vriesema R, Japenga J, Blaauw D (1997) Organic phosphorus in solutions and leachates from soils treated with animal slurries. J Environ Qual 26:372–378Google Scholar
  8. Dickinson CH, Craig G (1990) Effects of water on the decomposition and release of nutrients from cow pats. New Phytol 115:139–147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Edwards AC, Cresser MS (1992) Freezing and its effect on chemical and biological properties of soil. Adv Soil Sci 18:59–79Google Scholar
  10. Fitzhugh RD, Driscoll CT, Groffman PM, Tierney GL, Fahey TJ, Hardy JP (2001) Effects of soil freezing disturbance on soil solution nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon chemistry in a northern hardwood ecosystem. Biogeochem 56:215–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Floate MJS (1970) Mineralization of nitrogen and phosphorus from organic materials of plant and animal origin and its significance in the nutrient cycle in grazed upland and hill soils. J Brit Grassld Soc 25:295–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. GenStat (2003) Version 7.2. VSN International Ltd, Hemel Hempstead, UKGoogle Scholar
  13. Gershey RM, Mackinnon MD, Williams PJleB, Moore RM (1979) Comparison of three oxidation methods used for the analysis of the dissolved organic carbon in seawater. Mar Chem 7:289–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Guppy CN, Menzies NW, Moody PW, Blamey FPC (2005) Competitive sorption reactions between phosphorus and organic matter in soil: a review. Aust J Soil Res 43:189–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hartikainen H, Yli-Halla M (1996) Solubility of soil phosphorus as influenced by urea. Z Pflanz Bodenk 159:327–332Google Scholar
  16. Haygarth PM, Chapman PJ, Jarvis SC, Smith RV (1998) Phosphorus budgets for two contrasting grassland farming systems in the UK. Soil Use Manage, Suppl 14:160–167Google Scholar
  17. Haynes RJ, Williams PH (1992) Long-term effect of superphosphate on accumulation of soil phosphorus and exchangeable cations on a grazed, irrigated pasture site. Plant Soil 142:123–133Google Scholar
  18. Haynes RJ, Williams PH (1993) Nutrient cycling and soil fertility in the grazed pasture ecosystem. Adv Agron 49:119–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hirschberger P, Bauer T (1994) Influence of earthworms on the disappearance of sheep dung. Pedobiologia 38:475–480Google Scholar
  20. Jones DL, Shannon D, Murphy DV, Farrar J (2004) Role of dissolved organic nitrogen (DON) in soil N cycling in grassland soils. Soil Biol Biochem 36:749–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kalbitz K, Solinger S, Park J-H, Michalzik B, Matzner E. (2000) Controls on the dynamics of the dissolved organic matter in soils: a review. Soil Sci 165:277–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kroon H (1993) Determination of nitrogen in water: comparison of a continuous-flow method with on-line UV digestion with the original Kjeldahl method. Anal Chim Acta 276:287–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. McDowell RW, Stewart I (2005) Phosphorus in fresh and dry dung of grazing dairy cattle, deer, and sheep: sequential fraction and phosphorus-31 nuclear magnetic resonance analyses. J Environ Qual 34:598–607PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. MISR, SAC (1985) Advisory soil analysis and interpretation. Macaulay Institute for Soil Research and Scottish Agricultural Colleges, Bulletin 1Google Scholar
  25. Morton JD, Baird DB (1990) Spatial distribution of dung patches under sheep grazing. New Zeal J Agr Res 33:285–294Google Scholar
  26. Murphy DV, Macdonald AJ, Stockdale EA, Goulding KWT, Fortune S, Gaunt JL, Poulton PR, Wakefield JA, Webster CP, Wilmer WS (2000) Soluble organic nitrogen in agricultural soils. Biol Fert Soils 30:374–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Murphy J, Riley JP (1962) A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphate in natural waters. Anal Chim Acta 27:31–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. National Research Council (U.S.) Subcommittee on Nitrogen Usage in Ruminants (1985) Ruminant nitrogen usage, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC pp 53–56Google Scholar
  29. Nguyen ML, Goh KM (1994) Sulphur cycling and its implications on sulphur fertilizer requirements of grazed grassland ecosystems. Agr Ecosyst Environ 49:173–206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rixon AJ, Zorin M (1978) Transformations of nitrogen and phosphorus in sheep faeces located in saltbush rangeland and on irrigated pasture. Soil Biol Biochem 10:347–354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rowarth JS, Gillingham AG, Tillman RW, Syers JK (1985) Release of phosphorus from sheep faeces on grazed, hill country pastures. New Zeal J Agr Res 28:497–504Google Scholar
  32. Scott RO, Mitchell RL, Purves D, Voss RC (1971) Spectrochemical methods for the analysis of soils plants and other agricultural materials. Consultative Committee for Development of Spectrochemical Work, The Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, Bulletin 2Google Scholar
  33. Searle PL (1984) The Berthelot or indophenol reaction and its use in the analytical chemistry of nitrogen. A review. Analyst 109:549–568CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  34. Shand CA, Coutts G, Hillier S, Lumsdon DG, Chudek A, Eubeler J (2005) Phosphorus composition of sheep feces and changes in the field determined by 31P NMR spectroscopy and XRPD. Environ Sci Technol 39:9205–9210PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shand CA, Williams BL, Dawson LA, Smith S, Young ME (2002) Sheep urine affects soil solution nutrient composition and roots: differences between field and sward box soils and the effects of synthetic and natural sheep urine. Soil Biol Biochem 34:163–171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shand CA, Williams BL, Smith S, Young ME (2000) Temporal changes in C, P and N concentrations in soil solution following application of synthetic sheep urine to a soil under grass. Plant Soil 222:1–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Skalar (1996) San Plus Analyzer, Publication No. 0101022A US, Skalar Analytical BV, The Netherlands. 22 ppGoogle Scholar
  38. Soil Survey of Scotland (1972) The Soils of Glensaugh Farm, Kincardineshire. Report by R. Glentworth, Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, Aberdeen. 8 ppGoogle Scholar
  39. Streeter TC, King RF, Raymond B (2003) Organic nitrogen in soil water from grassland under different land management strategies in the United Kingdom—a neglected N load to upland lakes? Agr Ecosyst Environ 96:155–160Google Scholar
  40. Taylor JA, Hedges DA, Whalley RDB (1985) Effects of fertilizer and grazing sheep on the pasture heterogeneity in a small-scale grazing experiment. Aust J Agr Res 36:315–325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thomsen IK, Schjønning P, Christensen BT (2003) Mineralisation of 15N-labelled sheep manure in soils of different texture and water contents. Biol Fertil Soils 37:295–301Google Scholar
  42. Toor GS, Condron LM, Di HJ, Cameron KC, Cade-Menun BJ (2003) Characterization of organic phosphorus in leachate from a grassland soil. Soil Biol Biochem 35:1317–1323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Watson CJ, Jordan C, Lennox SD, Smith RV, Steen RWJ (2000) Organic nitrogen in drainage water from grassland in Northern Ireland. J Environ Qual 29:1233–1238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. White E (1960) The distribution and subsequent disappearance of sheep dung on Pennine moorland. J Anim Ecol 29:243–250CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Whitehead DC (2000) Nutrient elements in grassland. Soil–plant–animal relationships. CAB International, Wallingford, UK, 369 ppGoogle Scholar
  46. Williams BL, Dawson LA, Grayston SJ, Shand CA (2003) Impact of defoliation on the distribution of 15N-labelled synthetic sheep urine between shoots and roots of Agrostis capillaris and soil N pools. Plant Soil 251:269–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Williams BL, Grayston SJ, Reid EJ (2000) Influence of synthetic sheep urine on the microbial biomass, activity and community structure in two pastures in the Scottish uplands. Plant Soil 225:175–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Williams PH, Haynes RJ (1990) Influence of improved pastures and grazing animals on nutrient cycling within New Zealand soils. New Zeal J Ecol 14:49–57Google Scholar
  49. Williams PH, Haynes RJ (1995) Effect of sheep, deer and cattle dung on herbage production and soil nutrient content. Grass Forage Sci 50: 263–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Williams BL, Shand CA, Sellers S, Young ME (1999) Impact of synthetic sheep urine on N and P in two pastures in the Scottish uplands. Plant Soil 214:93–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Williams B, Warren J (2004) Effects of spatial distribution on the decomposition of sheep faeces in different vegetation types. Agr Ecosyst Environ 103:237–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wolt JD (1994) Soil solution chemistry. Applications to environmental science and agriculture. John Wiley & Sons, NewYork, 345 ppGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Macaulay Land Use Research InstituteEnvironmental Science GroupAberdeenUK

Personalised recommendations