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ARS Home » Plains Area » Miles City, Montana » Livestock and Range Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #334603

Title: Forage and weather influence day versus nighttime cow behavior and calf weaning weights on rangeland

item SAWALHAH, MOHAMMED - The Hashemite University
item CIBILS, ANDRES - New Mexico State University
item MALADI, ADITYA - New Mexico State University
item CAO, HUIPING - New Mexico State University
item VANLEEUWEN, DAWN - New Mexico State University
item HOLECHEK, JERRY - New Mexico State University
item BLACK RUBIO, CHRISTINA - The Hashemite University
item WESLEY, ROBERT - Srp_mcginley Ranch
item ENDECOTT, RACHEL - Montana State University
item MULLINIKS, TRAVIS - University Of Tennessee
item Petersen, Mark

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/7/2015
Publication Date: 3/1/2016
Citation: Sawalhah, M.N., Cibils, A.F., Maladi, A., Cao, H., Vanleeuwen, D.M., Holechek, J.L., Black Rubio, C.M., Wesley, R.L., Endecott, R.L., Mulliniks, T.J., Petersen, M.K. 2016. Forage and weather influence day versus nighttime cow behavior and calf weaning weights on rangeland. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 69(2):134-143. doi:10.1016/j.rama.2015.10.007.

Interpretive Summary: Levels of forage allowance associated with moderate stocking rates increased the use of woodland understory forage in this study. Wood-lands appear to play an important role in generating livestock habitat by providing shelter and emergency forage. Excess forage availability in our light stocking rate treatment (high forage allowance) was associated with increased night time activity levels of cows, which appeared to have detrimental effects on calf WWs. Our results suggest that in rangeland environments, a dam’s spatial behaviors are of consequence to its steer calf’s WW and therefore could affect the economics of rangeland-based cow-calf operations. Light stocking rates at this site appear to have promoted less desirable foraging behavior patterns in dams, which apparently resulted in decreased productivity.

Technical Abstract: We determined the effects of two forage allowance levels (LOW vs. HIGH) and weather conditions on day- and nighttime movement patterns of young rangeland-raised cows. We also investigated whether calf weaning weights (WW, n = 42) were significantly related to their dams' post-calving movement patterns. GPS data were collected over four years by recording 5-min interval locations of 52 crossbred cows grazing a 146 ha woodland/grassland pasture for 20 days. The pasture was stocked moderately in 2004 (73 AUMs) and 2005 (78 AUMs) and lightly in 2006 (34 AUMs) and 2007 (32 AUMs). Estimated forage allowance was low in 2004 and 2005 (347 and 438 kg herbage . cow-1, respectively), and high in 2006 and 2007 (1104 and 1884 kg of herbage . cow-1, respectively). We calculated distance traveled, path sinuosity, woodland preference, and area explored for each cow during 24 h (D+N), daytime (DAY), and nighttime (PRE dawn and POST sunset) periods. Cows in LOW traveled farther than counterparts in HIGH during D+N and DAY (P < 0.01) periods but traveled shorter or similar distances during POST (P=0.05) and PRE (P=0.29) nighttime periods, respectively. Cows in LOW exhibited more sinuous movement paths than cows in HIGH during DAY, PRE, and POST periods (P = 0.01). Cows in LOW explored larger areas and spent more time in woodlands than counterparts in HIGH (P < 0.01). Weather factors associated with thermal comfort affected daily variation in both day- and nighttime movement patterns of cows. Calf WW were positively correlated (P<0.01) with post-calving distance traveled by the dam during DAY, area explored by cows during D+N, and a dam's woodland preference but were negatively correlated (P<0.01) with nighttime distance travelled and path sinuosity of dams. Moderate stocking rates (LOW treatment) induced behaviors that resulted in higher woodland preference and heavier calf WW.