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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #381570

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Movement, activity, and landscape use patterns of heritage and commercial beef cows grazing Chihuahuan Desert rangeland

Author
item NYAMURYEKUNG'E, S. - New Mexico State University
item CIBILS, A.F. - New Mexico State University
item Estell, Richard - Rick
item VANLEEUWEN, D. - New Mexico State University
item Spiegal, Sheri
item STEELE, CAITRIANA - New Mexico State University
item Gonzalez, Alfredo
item MCINTOSH, M - New Mexico State University
item GONG, Q - New Mexico State University
item CAO, H - New Mexico State University

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/2/2021
Publication Date: 1/3/2022
Citation: Nyamuryekung'E, S., Cibils, A., Estell, R.E., Vanleeuwen, D., Spiegal, S.A., Steele, C., Gonzalez, A.L., McIntosh, M.M., Gong, Q., Cao, H. 2022. Movement, activity, and landscape use patterns of heritage and commercial beef cows grazing Chihuahuan Desert rangeland. Journal of Arid Environments. 199:Article 104704. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2021.104704.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaridenv.2021.104704

Interpretive Summary: Raramuri Criollo (RC) are a biotype of heritage cattle that descended from cattle introduced into the Western Hemisphere from Spain about 500 years ago. These cattle spread over much of North America until the late 1800s, when European breeds became popular and displaced these cattle except in some isolated and less productive areas. The Jornada introduced RC cattle from the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua, México almost two decades ago. Our objective was to compare foraging behavior (movement, activity, distribution, and pasture use) of mature Raramuri Criollo and Angus Hereford crossbred (AH) cows grazing Chihuahuan Desert rangeland during summer and winter in a three year study. Raramuri Criollo cows traveled farther at greater velocity, spent less time resting, spent more time grazing and traveling, and explored larger areas and demonstrated lower herd cohesion than AH cows. During winter, RC cows exhibited lower patch residence times, a foraging strategy linked with lighter environmental footprint. RC cows showed higher avoidance of areas farther from water during the dormant season and a higher preference for high shrub density in summer. During dormancy, AH cows showed a strong preference for black grama patches, and higher avoidance of patches with high density of other grasses. Differences in foraging behavior documented in this study suggest that RC cattle may exert a lighter footprint on desert rangeland compared to commonly raised commercial beef cattle.

Technical Abstract: The objective of this study was to compare foraging behavior of mature Raramuri Criollo (RC, 32 heritage breed) and Angus Hereford crossbred (AH, commercial breed) cows grazing Chihuahuan Desert rangeland during summer and winter in three consecutive years. Movement, activity, and spatial distribution variables were calculated from 10-min interval GPS positions of 5 to 11 randomly selected cows of each breed. Thirteen pasture pixel attributes were used to analyze grazing utilization and selection patterns of both breeds. Statistical mixed models were used to determine the effects of breed and season on all foraging response variables. Spatial regression analysis was used to examine resource utilization. Compared to AH, RC cows traveled farther at higher velocity rates, spent less time resting, more time grazing and traveling, explored larger areas as individuals, and exhibited lower herd cohesion. The RC herd explored more grazing patches (30-m pixel) overall and exhibited lower patch residence times in winter, a foraging strategy linked with lighter environmental footprint. During summer, similar pixel variables explained re-visitation rates of cows of both breeds. Both breeds avoided areas far from water, but RC cows showed higher avoidance of pixels farther out from a drinker during the dormant season. RC cows appeared to exhibit a keener ability to select patches with differing surface temperature and greenness compared to AH counterparts. RC cows showed higher preference for pixels with high shrub density than AH counterparts in summer. During the dormant season, AH cows exhibited a strong preference for black grama patches, a species with high ecological value, and higher avoidance of patches with high density of other grasses. Differences in foraging behavior documented in this study support the hypothesis that RC cattle could impose a lighter footprint on desert rangeland relative to commonly raised commercial beef cattle.