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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357640

Research Project: Management Technologies for Conservation of Western Rangelands

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Seasonal divergence iof landscape use by heritage and conventional cattle on desert rangeland

Author
item Spiegal, Sheri
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item Cibils, Andres - New Mexico State University
item James, Darren
item Peinetti, Raul - Universidad Nacional De La Pampa
item Browning, Dawn
item Romig, Kirsten
item Gonzalez, Alfredo
item Lyons, Andrew - University Of California
item Bestelmeyer, Brandon

Submitted to: Rangeland Ecology and Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/25/2019
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The genetic lineage of Raramuri Criollo traces back to a group of cattle that Christopher Columbus brought to the New World on his second journey in 1493. For the past 500 years they have been relegated to harsh environments of the Copper Canyon in northern Mexico with little cross breeding with traditional beef breeds. Researchers at the Jornada Experimental Range and New Mexico State University are exploring the hypothesis that the heritage cattle have traits and adaptations that make them suitable to sustainable production in arid environments, including their bloodlines, frame sizes, and their many generations in harsh conditions. In this study we used GPS collars to track the movements of the heritage cattle, and compare them with movements of Angus x Hereford, a cattle type used widely in the region. We compared the types over four seasons defined based on forage greenness. As predicted based on past research, Raramuri Criollo covered more ground than Angus x Hereford during seasons with low forage availability (Pre-greenup, Drydown), but the spatial coverage of the two types converged during more productive seasons (Greenup 1, Greenup 2). Angus x Hereford allotted more daily time to resting, with the difference most pronounced during Drydown. Angus x Hereford had twice as many hotspots of use (locations with multiple visits of long duration). Compared with Angus x Hereford, Raramuri Criollo more strongly preferred the Bare/Forbs ecological state and avoided the Shrubland ecological state - with timing that possibly signals an ability of the heritage cattle to utilize nutritious forbs on open ground despite summer heat. Results are consistent with predictions that compared with conventional cattle, Raramuri Criollo have greater daily mobility and wider spatial distribution during dry seasons. Although not directly measured, results also suggest that the heritage breed has superior heat tolerance and lower impact on desirable natural resources. These findings provide evidence that Raramuri Criollo can support sustainable livestock production in the Chihuahuan Desert, but direct measurements of profitability and environmental effects are needed before adoption can be recommended widely.

Technical Abstract: Adopting livestock with heritage genetics may improve chances for achieving both agriculture and conservation goals on rangelands with harsh, challenging conditions. In the Chihuahuan Desert, preliminary evidence suggests that heritage Raramuri Criollo exploit a greater variety of range resources than conventional cattle. Accordingly, adopting Raramuri Criollo may help sustain vegetation and soils as well as agricultural production. We used GPS collars to track Angus x Hereford and Raramuri Criollo cows in a 1535-ha pasture in southern New Mexico in June - December 2008. As predicted based on past research, home range sizes of Raramuri Criollo exceeded those of Angus x Hereford during seasons with low forage availability - by 31.4 ± 6.5 ha during Pregreenup and 17.2 ± 6.5 ha during Drydown - but sizes converged during more productive seasons (Greenup 1, Greenup 2). Angus x Hereford allotted more daily time to resting, with the difference most pronounced during Drydown (71.1 ± 21.1 min day-1). Angus x Hereford had twice as many hotspots of use (locations with multiple visits of long duration), with seasonal timing and location corresponding with distribution patterns known to impact desirable natural resources. Raramuri Criollo more strongly preferred the Bare/Forbs ecological state and avoided the Shrubland ecological state - with timing that possibly signals an ability to utilize nutritious forbs on open ground despite summer heat. Results are consistent with predictions that compared with conventional cattle, Raramuri Criollo have greater daily mobility and wider spatial distribution during dry seasons. Although not directly measured, results also suggest that the heritage breed has superior heat tolerance and lower impact on desirable natural resources. These findings provide evidence that Raramuri Criollo can support sustainable livestock production in the Chihuahuan Desert, but direct measurements of profitability and environmental effects are needed before adoption can be recommended widely.