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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Manipulating Beef Cattle Distribution with Salt and Water in Large Arid-Land Pastures: a Gps/gis Assessment

item Ganskopp, David

Submitted to: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 25, 2001
Publication Date: August 27, 2001

Interpretive Summary: Several problems associated with beef cattle grazing on rangelands are related to the herd's uneven distribution about the landscape. Some areas are overgrazed and others are not used at all. Water and salt are two of the most frequently used tools for attracting cattle to underused areas, but mixed results have been reported with salt. This study evaluated the effectiveness of salt and water sources for changing beef cattle distribution in 2000+ acre pastures. When water and salt sources were separated, cattle were found near water 354 times and near salt only 38 times. When water was moved 1.3 miles, cattle shifted their area of use about 1 mile and remained near the water. When salt was moved about a mile away from water, cattle shifted their area of use about six-tenths of a mile. They did not stay near salt, however, and began moving back to areas they had used previously. On average cattle traveled 3.6 miles per day and dspent about 10.9 hours grazing and 10.1 hours resting per day. Travel and grazing and resting times did not change when salt or water were moved to different areas. Water is a very effective tool for enticing cattle to unused portions of pastures, but salt placement will not cure serious distribution problems. This information will help ranchers obtain more uniform use of their pastures and forages.

Technical Abstract: Several problems with beef cattle on rangelands are related to their uneven distribution across the landscape. After fencing, water and salt are two of the most frequently used tools for affecting beef cattle travels, but mixed results have been obtained with salt. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of salt and water manipulations for raffecting beef cattle distribution in large (825+ ha) pastures. This was accomplished with the aid of GPS collars on free-ranging cattle. Mean distance of cattle from water (1.16 km) was unaffected by treatment (P>0.79) implying cattle followed movements of water tanks. Distance traveled daily (5.78 km), time devoted to grazing per day (10.95 h), time devoted to resting per day (10.08 h), and the area (325 ha) of minimum convex polygons containing their activities were unaffected by treatment suggesting cattle did not respond when water and salt were separated. Centers of activity for cattle shifted further (P=0.02) when water (1.49 km) was moved than when salt (1.00 km) was relocated. Mean distance of cattle from salt increased (P=0.08) from 1.03 km, when salt and water were together, to 1.73 km when salt and water were separated. Movement of water sources will affect beef cattle distribution, but relocating salt will not rectify serious livestock distribution problems.

Last Modified: 4/21/2015
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