The University of Arizona

Observation: cattle diets on excellent and good condition Chihuahuan desert rangelands.

G. Smith, J.L. Holechek, M. Cardenas

Abstract


Information is limited on the influence of range condition on cattle diets in the Chihuahuan desert. Botanical composition of cattle diets on Chihuahuan desert ranges in excellent and good condition was studied by microhistological analysis. Cattle feces were analyzed seasonally from fall 1991 through fall 1992. Excellent condition and good condition ranges supported 86% and 72% of the climax vegetation, respectively. Key species in cattle diets on the excellent condition range were black grama (Bouteloua eripoda Torr.) and threeawns (Aristida spp.). On the good condition range the key species were dropseeds (Sporobolus spp.), threeawns and black grama. Total grass and black grama content of cattle diets were greater on the excellent condition range. Seasonal trends occurred in cattle diets on good condition but not on excellent condition range. Low availability of forbs and shrubs explained the high diets similarities among seasons on the excellent condition range. Cattle on good condition range readily used forbs and shrubs when green grass was unavailable. Nitrogen and phosphorus analyses of fecal samples indicated diets were nutritionally superior on the good compared to the excellent condition range. Our research and other studies show consumption of forbs and shrubs permits cattle to maximize their nutritional welfare when grasses are dormant. The excellent condition range in our study had a different(P<0.05) mean grass standing crop (999 kg/ha) across periods compared to on the good condition range (659 kg/ha). Based on our research and other studies excellent condition Chihuahuan desert range maximizes forage quantity for cattle but good condition range appears better from a nutritional standpoint in the spring and early summer. Our research and other studies indicate Chihuahuan desert ranges dominated by black grama are most effectively used in winter while ranges with a high dropseed component are best suited for use in summer and early fall.

Keywords


Bouteloua eriopoda;Sporobolus;nutrient content;Prosopis glandulosa;arid lands;feces;diet;phosphorus;cattle feeding;nitrogen content;range management;botanical composition;grazing;New Mexico;beef cattle

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