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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Watershed Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322295

Research Project: Assessment, Conservation and Management of Rangelands in Transition

Location: Watershed Management Research

Title: Cattle use of off-stream water developments across a northeastern Oregon landscape

Author
item Johnson, Douglas - Oregon State University
item Clark, Pat
item Larson, Larry - Oregon State University
item Wilson, Kerry - Oregon State University
item Louhaichi, Mounir - International Center For Agricultural Research In The Dry Areas (ICARDA)
item Freeburg, Tyanne - University Of Idaho
item Williams, John - Oregon State University

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/17/2016
Publication Date: 12/2/2016
Citation: Johnson, D., Clark, P., Larson, L.L., Wilson, K.D., Louhaichi, M., Freeburg, T., Williams, J. 2016. Cattle use of off-stream water developments across a northeastern Oregon landscape. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71(6):494-502. 10.2489/jswc.71.6.494.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2489/jswc.71.6.494

Interpretive Summary: Quantifying the efficacy of off-stream water developments for dispersing range livestock distributions and reducing livestock impact on stream systems has been difficult and a consequent knowledge gap remains. We conducted a 5-year study using GPS-tracking collars to evaluate the relative use of water developments by cattle on 3 extensive study areas in northeastern Oregon, USA. Development location, type, and other characteristics were important as demonstrated by substantial differences observed in the relative use of individual water developments by season and year. Our results suggest off-stream water development is a useful managerial strategy but careful placement is required to improve the likelihood that cattle will find and use these water sources and thus decrease their dependence and use of permanent streams and associated riparian areas.

Technical Abstract: Water developments have been considered a fundamental tool for dispersing livestock distributions and reducing livestock impact on riparian and aquatic habitats associated with perennial streams. Quantifying the efficacy of water development, however, has been difficult. Until recently, it has been challenging to continuously monitor water sources for the timing and intensity of use by rangeland animals. The advent of GPS tracking technology has largely overcome this hurdle and presented new research opportunities. We conducted a 5-year study to evaluate the relative use of water developments by cattle on 3 extensive study areas in northeastern Oregon, USA. Ten randomly-selected beef cows from herds grazing each study area were fitted with GPS collars recording animal positions at 5-min intervals throughout the grazing season. Cattle occupancy in 60-m buffers around water developments was determined monthly and annually. Use of water developments was contrasted with that of riparian zones. Cattle use varied substantially from site-to-site, month-to-month, and year-to-year. In some months, cattle watered exclusively from off-stream developments and in others, cattle watered nearly exclusively from streams. Substantial differences in the relative use of individual water developments were also seen by season and year. Some developments received no use at all during the 5-year course of study while others were visited frequently. Our results suggest off-stream water development is a useful managerial strategy but careful placement is required to improve the likelihood that cattle will find and use these water sources and thus decrease their dependence and use of permanent streams and associated riparian areas.