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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Boise, Idaho » Northwest Watershed Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #322298

Title: Cattle use of perennial streams and associated riparian areas on a northeastern Oregon landscape

item JOHNSON, DOUOGLAS - Oregon State University
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 Clark, Pat
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.E., Larson, L., Wilson, K., Louhaichi, M., Clark, P., Williams, J. 2016. Cattle use of perennial streams and associated riparian areas on a northeastern Oregon landscape. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 71(6):484-493. doi:10.2489/jswc.71.6.484.

Interpretive Summary: Despite years of research and practice in the mountainous western US, strategies employed by producers and resource managers to reduce adverse livestock impact on perennial streams and associated riparian ecosystems is still evolving and requires infusions of new scientific knowledge. We used GPS tracking collars to evaluate stream use by beef cattle on 3 extensive study areas (i.e., USFS grazing allotments) in relation to off-stream water source development and other livestock distribution-management efforts. Degrees of stream use by cattle varied spatially among study areas and pastures with areas as well as temporally among both years and months within years. Clearly, the contextual setting of each grazing area was highly complex, largely unique, and thus required flexible, adaptive management planning rather than simple, rigid, and on-size-fits-all strategies.

Technical Abstract: Stream and riparian health is a major concern for state and federal land management agencies that are charged with oversight of extensive land holdings in the mountain west of the United States. Several federal agencies in the 1980s and 1990s determined that livestock grazing had adversely impacted a majority of federal lands in this region. In response, management was changed on grazing allotments to focus on stream system health. Recent advanced GPS logging capabilities, both accuracy and frequency/duration of logging, coupled with rapidly developing GIS analytical capabilities allowed evaluation of livestock use of streams and riparian zones on mountain rangelands. This study was undertaken to clarify spatiotemporal characteristics of cattle use of perennial streams and associated riparian areas under current USFS management and to suggest managerial strategies with the potential to maintain or improve riverine environments. We initiated a 5-year study in 2008 to evaluate the use by cattle of 30-m and 60-m buffers surrounding permanent streams on 3 extensive study areas in northeastern Oregon. Combined, these study areas cover 43,972 ha within a broader region of 120 km north-south by 50 km east-west. Ten randomly-selected beef cows from herds grazing each site were fitted with GPS collars that recorded position, date, and time at 5-min intervals throughout the grazing season. Nearly 3.75 million cow positions were collected during the study. The relative occupancy of cattle in buffers along both sides of perennial streams was determined on an annual and monthly basis by study area. Relative use of stream/riparian zones varied substantially from site-to-site, month-to-month, and year-to-year. In some months, GPS data indicated cattle were watering nearly exclusively from streams. In other months, stream use was low or nil and watering was from water developments, small springs, seeps, puddles, or other sources. Cattle preferred to access streams at specific locations where streambank slope, the lack of physical obstructions, and solid footing facilitated water access.