On rangelands, uneven or unmanaged livestock distribution can adversely affect plant community composition, riparian function, or displace wildlife. These issues have historic precedents and are still a challenge for those managing rangelands. A thorough understanding of the mechanisms governing livestock distribution can help land and livestock managers avoid or ameliorate many deleterious effects. To that end, this research tested hypotheses that grazing cattle seek nutritionally superior portions of rangeland pastures. Global positioning system (GPS) collars were used to track cattle movement and activity in three, 800+ ha pastures where the spatial distribution of standing crop, crude protein (CP), neutral detergent fiber (NDF), acid detergent fiber (ADF), and forage digestibility (in situ dry matter disappearance (ISDMD)) were mapped in late spring. Four of five analyses implied grazing cattle spatially responded to forage quantity/quality attributes. Analyses indicated cattle favored higher than average CP (P=0.006) and ISDMD (P=0.078), and lower than average NDF (P=0.003) and standing crop (P=0.069) locales. No significant effect (P=0.954) occurred with ADF analyses. Correlations among those variables imply cattle may simultaneously respond to more than one nutritional attribute as they select foraging locales. Stepwise regression, however, relating grazing distribution to geophysical and forage quantity/quality characteristics were extremely poor predictors of where cattle grazed. Listed in order of entry, the model implied elevation above or below stock water, horizontal distance to stock water, forage CP content, and degree of slope were the site specific attributes most associated with cattle distribution. We speculate that cattle interactions with landscape level nutritional dynamics may at least partially explain seasonal changes in distribution and forage use by cattle across the landscape. These findings should help land and livestock managers understand, explain, and manipulate livestock distribution on their holdings.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||USDA-ARS, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, 67826-A Hwy. 205, Burns, OR 97720, USA. email@example.com|
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