The University of Arizona

Pasture characteristics affecting spatial distribution of utilization by cattle in mixed brush communities.

M.K. Owens, K.L. Launchbaugh, J.W. Holloway

Abstract


Utilization patterns of cattle were related to pasture characteristics in a nonrandom and complex manner. Six mixed brush pastures on the Rio Grande Plains (244-356 ha) that were topographically flat and homogeneous in soil type and range sites were studied. Two experiments were conducted: the first experiment was conducted when green forage was abundant and the second under conditions of little vegetative regrowth. A total of 340 random points were characterized for amount, frequency, and greenness of both grasses and forbs, brush and shade tree density, and distance to nearest fence, road, and water. These are variables that can be altered with management practices. When green forage was abundant, factor analysis identified 5 orthogonal factors (green herbage availability, grass quantity, brush abundance, remoteness from roads, and water availability) which accounted for 70% of the communal variation. Six factors (brush abundance, grass quantity, green forb frequency, road location, fence proximity, and water availability) accounted for 70% of the communal variation when herbage was limited. Regression analyses predicting percent utilization from the orthogonal factors indicated that when green forage was abundant, utilization was related largely to green herbage availability, grass quantity, brush abundance, and remoteness (R2 = 0.54, RSD = 0.114). Remoteness, brush abundance, green forb frequency, and water availability were the factors associated with utilization when forage was limited (R2 = 0.45, RSD = 0.152). Green herbage availability was less important under conditions of limited forage. In mixed brush communities, the actual amount of grass, brush abundance, and remoteness were the major factors affecting utilization.

Keywords


consumption patterns;availability;mixed pastures;foraging;environmental factors;grazing behavior;spatial distribution;cattle;plant density;Texas;range management;botanical composition;grazing;grasses;forage

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