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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Modeling Habitat Preferences of Cattle on Eastern Oregon Rangelands

Authors
item Cruz, Ruben - OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY
item Ganskopp, David
item Vavra, Martin - OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Submitted to: Oregon Agriculture Experiment Station Special Report
Publication Type: Experiment Station
Publication Acceptance Date: April 1, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: In large rangeland pastures, beef cattle frequently use certain portions of a pasture and ignore others. In these instances, valuable forage is wasted in unused areas, and forage plants may be adversely affected in areas where cattle choose to concentrate. This ongoing research is using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies to determine how landscape characteristics influence the distribution patterns of cattle. Landscape features being evaluated include, topography, location of water, roads, types of vegetation, and amounts and quality of forage available. Results suggest that cattle choose to use areas where most of the forage was removed in the previous year. This may allow them to graze on more nutritious forage without having to sort through less nutritious old growth. As expected, cattle avoided the steepest terrain in the pastures, and they typically used areas where slopes averaged 10 percent or less. Foraging activities were not concentrated around water sources, and over 80 percent of livestock foraging occurred more than one half mile away from water tanks. If we want cattle to begin feeding in previously unused portions of a pasture of their own accord, we will need to condition the forages to remove old standing materials. This would most likely require mowing, fire, temporary fencing, or a heavy late-season grazing treatment with high numbers of animals.

Technical Abstract: In large rangeland pastures, beef cattle frequently use certain portions of a pasture and ignore others. In these instances, valuable forage is wasted in unused areas, and forage plants may be adversely affected in areas where cattle choose to concentrate. This ongoing research is using Geographic Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies to determine how landscape characteristics influence the distribution patterns of cattle. Landscape features being evaluated include, topography, location of water, roads, types of vegetation, and amounts and quality of forage available. Results suggest that cattle choose to use areas where most of the forage was removed in the previous year. This may allow them to graze on more nutritious forage without having to sort through less nutritious old growth. As expected, cattle avoided the steepest terrain in the pastures, and they typically used areas where slopes averaged 10 percent or less. Foraging activities were not concentrated around water sources, and over 80 percent of livestock foraging occurred more than one half mile away from water tanks. If we want cattle to begin feeding in previously unused portions of a pasture of their own accord, we will need to condition the forages to remove old standing materials. This would most likely require mowing, fire, temporary fencing, or a heavy late-season grazing treatment with high numbers of animals.

Last Modified: 7/28/2014
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