Breaking Soil Compaction in Pastures and Hay Fields

Today’s discussion was about soil compaction in pastures.

Cattle or livestock can cause soil compaction over time, simply by the weight of their body being applied in a small area (their hoof) to the soil.  Compaction is always worse when soils are moist or wet.  Hoof compaction is usually more shallow than compaction caused by equipment; therefore, hay fields usually see more and deeper compaction than strictly grazing pastures.

By the way, does soil type make a difference when it comes to compaction?  Absolutely.  Sandy soils are much less prone to compaction, and research has shown zero yield increase when aeration is practiced on sandy soil.

This first study was conducted in south Texas and shows significant yield increase through different methods of renovation in Coastal Bermudagrass, Kleingrass, and Buffelgrass.

A chart showing an increase in production when using different renovation techniques compared to no renovation.

Renovation study results from South Texas




Publication reference: Hanselka, C. W., Livingston, S. D., Bade, D.  Renovation Practices to Improve Rainfall Effectiveness on Rangeland and Pastures.  Texas Agricultural Extension Service. E-55. August 1993.

Link to publication: Renovation Practices to Improve Rainfall Effectiveness on Pastures



This next study was conducted from 1990-1993 in Caldwell and Hidalgo Counties.  It demonstrates the effectiveness of one type of renovator, a shank-type machine known as the Paratill® Plow.  It loosens deep compaction from 12-18 inches in the soil profile.   Results were as follows:

Chart showing increase in yield after Paratill renovation.

Caldwell County results of Paratill renovation in pasture.




Publication reference: Livingston, S. D., and Bade, D. H.  Paratill® Renovations of Pastures and Hayfields.  Texas Agricultural Extension Service.  L-5154.  January 1996.

Link to publication:  Paratill Renovations of Pastures and Hayfields



Chart showing yield increase after Paratill renovation

Hidalgo County results of Paratill renovation








Additionally, others have been researching the use of cover crops to break soil compaction.  This research is ongoing in the southeastern US and the Midwest.  See this NRCS-sponsored video regarding research from Ohio State University Extension:

The Science of Soil Health: Compaction



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