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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Affecting Beef Cattle Distribution in Rangeland Pastures with Salt and Water

Author
item Ganskopp, David

Submitted to: Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: February 20, 2004
Publication Date: June 29, 2004
Citation: Ganskopp, D.C. 2004. Affecting beef cattle distribution in rangeland pastures with salt and water. Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center. Range Field Day Report 2004: Current Forage and Livestock Production Research. Special Report 1052. P. 1-3.

Interpretive Summary: Several problems related to beef cattle grazing on rangelands are associated with a herd's uneven distribution about the landscape. Some areas are overgrazed while 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 utility of salt and water sources for changing beef cattle distribution in 2000+ acre pastures. When water and salt 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 previously used. On average cattle traveled 3.6 miles per day and spent 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 locales. Water is a very effective tool for luring cattle to unused portions of pastures, but salt placement will not correct serious distribution problems. This information will help ranchers obtain more uniform use of their pastures and forages.

Technical Abstract: Many problems related to grazing animals in extensive settings are due to their uneven distribution across the landscape. Water and salt are two of the most frequently used tools for altering cattle distribution in extensive settings. Cattle are attracted to water in arid regions, but mixed results have been obtained with salt or mineral supplements. The goal of this study was to evaluate the value of salt and water manipulations for altering cattle distribution. This was accomplished by fitting cattle with Global Positioning System collars to track their travels and activities. Mean distance of cattle from water (1.16 km) was unaffected by treatments (P=0.79) suggesting that cattle followed movements of water tanks. Distance traveled daily (5.78 km), time devoted to grazing (11.0 h/day), time devoted to resting (10.1 h/day), and the area occupied (325 ha) were unaffected by treatment implying that cattle did not compensate for separated water and salting areas with increased travels or changes in grazing and resting activities. 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 from 1.03 km, when salt and water were together, to 1.73 km (P=0.08) when salt and water were separated. Thus, cattle made less effort to remain near salt. Movement of drinking water to distant points in pastures was the most effective tool for altering cattle distribution. Manipulations of salting stations will not correct serious livestock distribution problems.

Last Modified: 10/22/2014
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