Soluble salts, nutrients, and pathogenic bacteria in feedlot-pen runoff have the potential to cause pollution of the environment. A 2-yr study (1998-1999) was conducted at a beef cattle (Bos taurus) feedlot in southern Alberta, Canada, to determine the effect of bedding material [barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) straw versus wood chips] and within-pen location on the chemical and bacterial properties of pen-floor runoff. Runoff was generated with a portable rainfall simulator and analyzed for chemical content (nitrogen [N], phosphorus [P], soluble salts, electrical conductivity [EC], sodium adsorption ratio [SAR], dissolved oxygen [DO], and pH) and populations of three groups of bacteria (Escherichia coli, total coliforms, total aerobic heterotrophs at 27 degrees C) in 1998 and 1999. Bedding had a significant (P < or = 0.05) effect on NH4-N concentration and load in 1999, SO4 load in 1998, SO4 concentration and load in 1999, and total coliforms in both years; where these three variables were higher in wood than straw pens. Location had a significant effect on EC and concentrations of total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), Na, K, SO4, and Cl in 1998, and total coliforms in both years. These seven variables were higher at the bedding pack than pen floor location, indicating that bedding packs were major reservoirs of TKN, soluble salts, and total coliforms. Significantly higher dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP), total P, and NH4-N concentrations and loads at the bedding pack location in wood pens in 1998, and a similar trend for TKN concentration in 1999, indicated that this bedding-location treatment was a greater source of nutrients to runoff than the other three bedding-location treatments. Bedding, location, and their interaction may therefore be a potential tool to manage nutrients, soluble salts, and bacteria in feedlot runoff.