The University of Arizona

Range condition influences on Chihuahuan Desert cattle and jackrabbit diets.

A. Daniel, J.L. Holechek, R. Valdez, A. Tembo, L. Saiwana, M. Rusco, M. Cardenas

Abstract


Knowledge of comparative diet selection by cattle and black-tailed jackrabbits (Lepus californicus) would permit better estimation of grazing capacity on Chihuahuan desert ranges. Cattle and black-tailed jackrabbit diets were evaluated seasonally on good and fair condition ranges over a 2-year period. Fecal samples analyzed by the microhistological technique were used to determine diets of both animals. Key forage species in cattle diets were dropseeds (Sporobolus sp.), black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda Torr.), leatherweed croton (Croton pottsii Lam.), and bush muhly (Muhlenbergia porteri Scribn.). Key forage species in jackrabbit diets were honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr.), cactus (Opuntia sp.), dropseed, broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae Pursh.), and black grama. Overall diet botanical composition data showed cattle consumed 58% grass compared to 22% for jackrabbits (P < 0.05). Forb consumption was similar between the 2 animals and averaged about 31%. Shrub consumption averaged 47% and 12% for jackrabbits and cattle, respectively (P < 0.05). Range condition did not influence total grass consumption by either animal. Both animals, however, had lower forb and higher shrub consumption on fair compared to good condition range. Overall dietary overlaps between jackrabbits and cattle were 40 and 42% on good and fair condition ranges, respectively. Poisonous plants contributed up to 14 and 36% of cattle and jackrabbit diets, respectively. Data from this study show little forage competition occurs between cattle and jackrabbits when stocking rates and jackrabbit numbers are moderate. Several plants poisonous and unpalatable to cattle were important jackrabbit foods. These plants were more prevalent on the fair compared to the good condition range.

Keywords


Lepus californicus;stocking rate;diet;cattle;botanical composition;New Mexico;poisonous plants

Full Text:

PDF