Intake, Reproductive, and Grazing Activity Characteristics of Range Cattle on Semi-arid Rangelands
AuthorKnight, Colt Watson
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractABSTRACT: Study One - Our objective was to characterize mature range cows based on intake and grazing activity. Starting in the early spring of 2013, 4 experiments were conducted. First, mature range cows (n = 137) were fitted with radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and placed in a dry-lot pen equipped with GrowSafe® technology to monitor DMI of alfalfa hay. These data were then used to assign cows a residual feed intake (RFI) value utilizing the National Research Council (NRC) (1996) model to predict intake of beef cattle. Cattle with negative and positive RFI were characterized as low-intake and high-intake, respectively. In addition, the following data were also recorded: weight (kg), age (mo), days pregnant (d), and body condition score (BCS). Second, 30 mature range cattle were selected from the first trial and fitted with pedometers for 7 d to monitor activity with step counts and estimate distance traveled. Third, mature range cows (n = 25) selected from the first trial were fitted with global position system (GPS) collars, and placed on pinyon-juniper rangeland from 20 June 2014 to 17 September 2014. Forth, mature range cows (n = 28) were fitted with GPS collars, and placed on ponderosa pine rangeland from 17 September 2014 to 15 October 2014. Distance traveled, slope, distance from water, elevation data were collected from both GPS trials. Low-intake and high-intake cows consumed 9.3 and 12.2 kg/d, respectively (P < 0.0001). Low-intake cattle became pregnant sooner (P = 0.002) than high-intake cattle (average of 16 d sooner). Cattle age (mo) equaled 90 and 98 for low- and high-intake cows, respectively (P = 0.04). Weight, predicted DMI, and BCS did not differ between groups (P > 0.06). Step counts for low- and high-intake animals were 5839 and 5383 ± 2089, respectively (P = 0.61), and estimated distance traveled was 4.31 and 5.35 ± 1.66 km d⁻¹ for low- and high-intake animals, respectively (P = 0.77). Low-intake cows (6.23 km d⁻¹) traveled farther (P = 0.005) each day than high-intake cows (5.84 km d⁻¹) on pinyon-juniper rangelands, and high-intake cows utilized (P = 0.013) steeper slopes. No differences were detected (P ≥ 0.06) for distance traveled, distance from water, and elevation for cows grazing ponderosa pine rangeland). However, low-intake cattle preferred (P = 0.046) steeper slopes on ponderosa pine rangeland than high-intake cattle. These results indicate that low-intake animals may travel farther on some rangelands and rebreed earlier. Study Two - Commercial grade heifers (n = 173) born and raised on the University of Arizona's V bar V Ranch from 2012 to 2014 were fitted with radio frequency identification tags (RFID) and placed in a drylot equipped with Growsafe® technology (8 bunks) for 60 d in 3 groups based on birth year in order to calculate DMI, residual feed intake (RFI), ADG, G:F, and residual gain (RG). Birth date, birth weight, weaning weight, age at start of trial, initial trial weight, and final trial weights were also recorded. Residual feed intake scores were utilized to place heifers in one of three treatment groups, low-, medium-, and high-intake. Reproductive and calf data were collected on heifers born in 2012. Means for birth date, birth weight, weaning weight, initial weight, final weight, and ADG did not differ among the three treatments. Residual gain for low-, medium-, and high-intake heifers were different (P < 0.05) at 0.07, 0.00, and -0.07 kg d⁻¹, respectively. Low-intake cattle had an improved (P < 0.05) GF ratio of 0.19 when compared to the medium- and high-intake heifers with ratios of 0.15 and 0.13 (P > 0.05), respectively. Differences (P <0. 05) in DMI were detected with low-, medium, and high-intake heifers consuming 5.2, 6.2, and 7.5 kg d⁻¹, respectively. No differences were detected for pregnancy rate, calving rate, percent bred artificial insemination (AI), percent bull calves, calf birth weight, and calf birth date among treatments (P > 0.05).Study Three - Commercially available GPS tracking collars for cattle are cost prohibitive to most researchers. This paper will present a low-cost alternative to those collars (Knight GPS tracking collars), and provide detailed instructions on where to source materials and how to fabricate inexpensive GPS tracking collars. In addition, the two types of collars will be compared in a study where Brangus cattle (n = 8) were each fitted with LOTEK® 3300 and Knight GPS tracking collars for 31 d beginning 14 March 2015 at the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center (CDRRC) 37 km north of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Location, slope, distance from water, distance traveled and elevation were recorded every 10 min. A record of GPS fix rate was logged. No differences were detected (P≥0.369) between collar types for location, slope, or distance from water. However, there was a tendency (P = 0.08) for Knight collars to report a lower estimate for distance traveled at 6171 m d⁻¹ compared to Lotek collars at 7104 m d⁻¹. Fix rate was greater (P≤0.001) for Lotek collars compared to Knight collars at 99.9 and 66.2%, respectively. Study Four - Previously characterized commercial cows (n = 26) were placed into either high (positive RFI) or low intake (negative RFI) groups. On 14 May 2015, 13 high- and 13 low-intake cows were fitted with modified igotU GT-120® GPS logging collars. Cattle were then placed on rangeland for 120 d. The first 30 d period animals transitioned from desert shrubland to pinyon-juniper. From 31 to 60 d, animals grazed pinyon-juniper rangeland. Next, during days 61 to 90, animals transitioned from pinyon-juniper to ponderosa pine, and the last 30 d were spent in ponderosa pine. Time periods will be referred to as month 1, 2, 3, and 4 for days 0 to 30, 31 to 60, 61 to 90, and 91 to 120, respectively. Location, slope, distance from water, elevation, and time spent close to water were recorded every 10 min. No differences were observed in the utilization of elevation or distance traveled, or distance from water (P>0.05). Low intake animals used a higher maximum slope (P < 0.05) during month 3, but slope utilization differences were not detected for other portions of the trial (P > 0.05). Study Five - Hereford sires (n = 35) with 7 or more cow offspring on the University of Arizona V bar V ranch in Rimrock, Arizona were tested at Neogen laboratories in Lincoln, NE for an Igenity Gold genetic profile. Their residual feed intake (RFI), ADG, tenderness, marbling score, milk production percent choice, yield grade, fat thickness, ribeye area, heifer pregnancy rate, stayability, maternal calving ease, birthweight and docility were estimated. Sires were given a genetic RFI score based on their RFI profile and placed into one of three intake groups, low (< 0.5 SD), medium (± 0.5 SD) and high (> 0.5 SD). Performance traits of cow offspring (n = 839) from those sires were also compared based on their sire's intake group. No differences (P > 0.05) were detected among sire intake groups for ADG, tenderness, marbling score, percent choice, yield grade, fat thickness, ribeye area, heifer pregnancy rate, stayability, maternal calving ease, birthweight and docility. Residual feed intake differed among groups (P < 0.05), and high intake cattle had more estimated milk production compared to low intake animals (P < 0.05). Cows from low intake sires were born later in the year (P < 0.05). High intake cattle had a higher (P < 0.05) birthweight and survived longer (P < 0.05) in the herd when compared to low and medium intake cows. Genetic RFI and expected milk production were moderately to highly correlated.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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