• A Case Study Evaluating Economic Implications of Two Grazing Strategies for Cattle Ranches in Northwest Argentina

      Quiroga, R. Emiliano; Blanco, Lisandro J.; Ferrando, Carlos A. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      In the Argentinean Chaco Arido region, cattle production based on cow-calf operations is the principal source of agricultural income, and rangeland is the main forage source for cattle. Traditional grazing strategy (TGS, high stocking rate and continuous grazing) is considered the main cause of current rangeland degradation. Research shows that rangeland and cattle production improvements are possible when using a conservative grazing strategy (CGS, moderate stocking rate and rest rotation grazing). The aim of this research was to compare the effects of TGS and CGS applications on economic results for a cattle ranch in the region. To achieve this objective we used an approach that included estimations of forage and cattle production, and economic results. The study period was 1972/73–1983/84. Results showed that during the study period forage production and herd size were almost doubled with CGS, but maintained with TGS. The difference in net income between CGS and TGS (in Argentinean pesos, ), increased linearly from negative (–2.88 ha-1) to positive (4.48 ha-1) in the first 4 yr, and then was maintained at positive values (averaging 4.48 ha-1). Data suggest that CGS leads to higher productivity and better economic results than TGS in the medium and long terms. 
    • Dietary Selection by Domestic Grazing Ruminants in Temperate Pastures: Current State of Knowledge, Methodologies, and Future Direction

      Soder, Kathy J.; Gregorini, Pablo; Scaglia, Guillermo; Rook, Andrew J. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Ruminants grazing mixed-species pastures face many choices, including when and where to graze and how much herbage to consume. These choices affect not only the nutritional status of the animal, but also sward composition and nutritive value through selective defoliation. Limited research has been conducted in the area of dietary selection and preference, most of which has been limited to simple model systems often involving a choice between only two herbage species. Although these studies have provided a vital tool to allow understanding of the fundamental principles of foraging behavior, in reality, grazing ruminants are faced with more complex situations. Understanding and managing animal preferences in mixed swards and thereby altering dietary selection can result in greater primary (plant) and secondary (animal) productivity. Key issues to improve this understanding include a better linking of behavioral and nutritional studies, a better understanding of the genetic factors influencing diet selection, and the development of more explicit spatial models of foraging behavior that incorporate multiple scales of decision making. This article, as part of a set of synthesis articles, reviews the current state of knowledge and research methodologies related to diet selection of grazing domestic ruminants with particular reference to improved temperate grazing environments, including how well we understand each part of the complex decision-making process a grazing ruminant faces, the links with primary and secondary productivity, and developments in methodologies. Finally, we identify key areas where knowledge is lacking and further research is urgently required. 
    • Do Ruminants Alter Their Preference for Pasture Species in Response to the Synchronization of Delivery and Release of Nutrients?

      Hill, J.; Chapman, D. F.; Cosgrove, G. P.; Parsons, A. J. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      When offered a free choice between different forage species presented in a pasture association, ruminants will choose a mixed diet, even when one dietary component could meet all of their nutritional needs. Thus, preference and selection cannot be explained simply by the common measures of species nutritive or feeding value. The question then arises, what is the nutritional basis of the dietary choices that animals make? The objective of this paper is to review the role of synchronization of forage composition factors and nutrient release patterns on the processes controlling preference in grazing ruminants. The satiety theory is used as a model system to explore outcomes of changing the physico-chemical attributes of forages on grazing behavior of sheep and cattle. The review will examine further the biological basis for the alteration in meal pattern, duration and extent in ruminants offered clover only (relatively high rumen degradable protein content) compared to animals eating only grass (with relatively low rumen degradable protein content), or a mixture of grass and clover. One theory that has been proposed to explain the induction of satiety in grazing ruminants is the rate of release of ammonia from the soluble protein fraction of the forage, and subsequent uptake in the blood. By mixing grass with the clover, the animal is able to increase the duration of the meal potentially reflecting a ‘‘better’’ dietary balance of energy to soluble protein that controls the rate of accumulation of ammonia in rumen fluid. This concept is evaluated in light of recent data from in vitro studies examining digestive efficiency. From this analysis, it is clear that direct, real-time information on the relationships between forage physico-chemical factors, rumen condition, meal initiation and cessation, and dietary switching is needed to further develop propositions about the control of dietary choices of grazing ruminants. 
    • Influence of Abrams M1A1 Main Battle Tank Disturbance on Tallgrass Prairie Plant Community Structure

      Althoff, Peggy S.; Kirkham, Mary Beth; Todd, Timothy; Thien, Stephen J.; Gipson, Philip S. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      The Department of Defense’s Range and Training Land Assessment program provides information and recommendations to range managers regarding the condition of training lands. This information is used to assist in scheduling training areas and in monitoring the effectiveness of rehabilitation projects. Fort Riley Military Installation is a major training reservation located in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas, within the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. A randomized complete block design composed of three treatments (M1A1 Abrams tank traffic during wet and dry soil conditions, and a nontrafficked control) with three replications was established in each of two soil types, a silty clay loam and a silt loam soil, on Fort Riley in 2003. Disturbance was created by driving the tank for five circuits in a figure-eight pattern during either during wet or dry soil conditions. Two additional experimental treatments were added during the study: five additional tank passes on one-half of each figure eight in 2004 and burning in 2006. Two areas, a curve and straightaway, within each traffic intensity (and later, burn treatment) subplot were designated for sampling. Aboveground biomass, species composition, and ground cover were measured during each growing season. Recovery of grass and total aboveground biomass in silty clay loam soil was delayed for curve areas and following disturbance in wet soil conditions, respectively. Species composition and ground cover continued to exhibit significant disturbance effects in 2007, with greatest damage observed for repeated traffic under wet soil conditions. Fire effects on vegetation were variable and generally greater for undisturbed control plots than for disturbed areas. The tallgrass prairie typically is considered to be among the most resilient of military training lands, but our research suggests that resiliency is dependent upon soil type and training conditions, and may require longer periods of recovery than previously thought. 
    • Learning and Dietary Choice in Herbivores

      Villalba, Juan J.; Provenza, Frederick D. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Herbivores select diets from an array of plant species that vary in nutrients and plant secondary metabolites (PSM). The outcome is a diet higher in nutrients and lower in PSM than the average available in the environment. Food preferences in herbivores are controlled by dietary cues (i.e., flavor) associatively conditioned by the food’s postingestive actions. The senses of smell, taste, and sight enable animals to discriminate among foods. Postingestive feedback calibrates sensory experiences—like or dislike—in accord with past and present experiences with a food’s utility to the body. Thus, food selection can be viewed as the quest for substances in the external environment that provide a homeostatic benefit to the internal environment. Livestock form preferences for foods that supply needed nutrients and medicines and avoid foods that provide excesses of PSM and nutrients. In order to manifest this plasticity, animals need a variety of foods instead of being constrained to a single food or monoculture. Under natural conditions where diversity of plants is the rule, not the exception, eating a variety of foods is how animals meet their nutrient requirements and cope with—and likely benefit from—PSM in their diets. At certain doses, PSM may provide beneficial effects to herbivores and favor plant persistence and adaptability. If herbivores learn to utilize multiple plants, the costs of consuming PSM on animal production and well-being could be minimized and the benefits of PSM enhanced. Once individuals learn about the contextual benefits of consuming diverse foods, social models (e.g., mothers) could train new generations of herbivores by observational learning. We propose that by combining the concepts of animal learning and food diversity, it will be possible to create sustainable grazing systems with less dependence on fossil fuels and with enhanced benefits for soils, plants, herbivores, and people. 
    • Modeling Bare Ground With Classification Trees in Northern Spain

      Weber, Keith T.; Alados, Concepción L.; Bueno, C. Guillermo; Gokhale, Bhushan; Komac, Benjamin; Pueyo, Yolanda (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Bare ground abundance is an important rangeland health indicator and its detection is a fundamental part of range management. Remote sensing of bare ground might offer solutions for land managers but also presents challenges as modeling in semiarid environments usually involves a high frequency of spectral mixing within pixels. Classification tree analysis (CTA) and maximum likelihood classifiers were used to model bare ground in the semiarid steppes of the middle Ebro valley, Aragon, Spain using Satellite Pour l’Observation de la Terre 4 (SPOT 4) imagery and topographic data such as elevation, slope, aspect, and a morphometric characterization model. A total of 374 sample points of bare-ground fraction from sixteen 500-m transects were used in the classification and validation process. Overall accuracies were 85% (Kappa statistic = 0.70) and 57% (Kappa statistic = 0.13) from the CTA and maximum likelihood classifiers, respectively. Although spectral attributes were essential in bare-ground classification, the topographic and morphometric properties of the landscape were equally critical in this modeling effort. Although the specific layers best suited for each specific model will vary from region to region, this study provided an important insight on both bare-ground modeling and the potential advantages of CTA. 
    • New Approaches and Tools for Grazing Management

      Laca, Emilio A. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Novel concepts and tools to promote progress in grazing science and management need to incorporate heterogeneity and nonlinear scaling of spatially and temporally distributed ecological interactions such as diet selection, defoliation, and plant growth. Traditional grazing management factors are number of animals, species and category of animals, spatial distribution of forage demand, and temporal distribution of forage demand. These traditional methods have been based on a paradigm that is static, assumes equilibrium conditions, and does not consider scaling issues, neither in time nor in space. Three related issues that can contribute to the progress in the understanding and management of grazing systems are spatial heterogeneity, event- driven dynamics, and scaling effects. Spatial heterogeneity of species and defoliation determine pasture stability by modulating competition and response to heterogeneous defoliation. When pasture species are well mixed, livestock are less able to select their preferred diet. When species are separated into larger and more easily identifiable patches, the selected diet approaches the preferred one. Simultaneously, patchiness in pasture components and redistribution of nutrients by grazing can lend global compositional stability to grass-clover pastures. Grazing at high animal density can be studied using the paradigm of event- driven dynamics. Several mechanisms suggest that grazing systems should have allometric spatial and temporal scaling in addition to the well-recognized allometric scaling of food requirements with body mass. Grazing system performance should scale allometrically with pasture size because both resource distribution and animal movements frequently have fractal properties. As pasture size increases, fewer hierarchical levels of grazing behavior are constrained, and the new spatial patterns introduce nonlinearity in the response to pasture size. Operant conditioning of foraging behavior, conditioned aversions, plant spatial pattern, pasture size and shape, timing and duration of grazing periods, and number of animals are discussed as precision tools to manage grazing systems. 
    • Opuntia Forage Production Systems: Status and Prospects for Rangeland Application

      Guevara, J. C.; Suassuna, P.; Felker, P. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      This paper reports recent findings in Opuntia genetics, nutrient fertilization, and cultivation with promise to overcome limitations for Opuntia-based forage production systems. The essentially spineless, fast-growing Opuntia ficus-indica (L.) Mill. has been planted on millions of hectares for forage in tropical areas of Brazil and North Africa. The spiny, cold-hardy Opuntia species have been used for forage in Mexico and the southwestern United States, after the cladodes have been chopped or singed to remove the spines. Due to the recent increases in fuel prices, burning of the spines is more costly. Where only spiny varieties exist, some range animals forage on them without manipulation. As a result, spines frequently penetrate and form lesions on mouth and esophageal tissues, leading to serious health issues. Slow growth and low protein (ca. 5%) of the native Opuntia spiny species on nonfertilized rangeland is an impediment to greater use of Opuntia for forage. The only spineless species adaptable to US Department of Agriculture cold hardiness zones, 8 (i.e., Opuntia ellisiana Griffiths) is relatively slow growing. Full sibling crosses indicate spine heritability is probably single-gene controlled. Interspecific hybrids between the frost-sensitive, fast-growing, and spineless O. ficus-indica with cold-hardy, spiny, slower-growing O. lindheimerii Engelm. have produced spineless progeny, with greater cold hardiness than O. ficus-indica, and greater productivity than cold-hardy, spineless O. ellisiana. Nitrogen limitations on water-use efficiency of Opuntia have been overcome for the 120 million ha of semiarid northeastern Brazil with added nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization. With control of competing vegetation and fertilization, this system has 40 t dry matter ha-1 of 9.2% crude protein forage with 600 mm rainfall in 16 mo. Opuntia ficus-indica plantations were profitable even though a duplication of fertilizer current prices was considered. 
    • Remote Sensing of Spatial and Temporal Vegetation Patterns in Two Grazing Systems

      Blanco, Lisandro J.; Ferrando, Carlos A.; Biurrun, Fernando N. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      One constraint that range scientists must face in grazing studies is the lack of accurate and repeatable techniques for discriminating grazing effects from both temporal variability and spatial heterogeneity of vegetation. Both forms of variability contribute to inconsistent grazing system effects on vegetation response and forage production in semiarid ecosystems. Remote sensing may be an efficient tool for detecting differences in spatial and temporal patterns of grazing impact on vegetation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the spectral data derived from satellite images as a tool for comparing grazing system impacts on spatial and temporal vegetation patterns. We evaluated the effect of two grazing systems, ‘‘Continuous’’ (C) and ‘‘Two-Paddocks Rest-Rotation’’ (TPRR), on vegetation cover from 1996 to 2006 in a semiarid ecosystem of Argentina. We compared grazing effects on vegetation cover using two indices derived from the Normalized Difference of Vegetation Index (NDVI) data from Landsat Thematic Mapper images. We observed a slight advantage in NDVI improvement for the TPRR over the C. Even though, in both grazing systems, an upward vegetation trend occurred only in areas located far from the watering points, TPRR showed higher relative vegetation cover near the watering point than C. We consider this methodology an important step for monitoring vegetation changes and making management decisions in livestock systems of semiarid regions because grazing system impacts may be compared for both spatial and temporal vegetation patterns. However, we think that the key next step is to develop procedures that discriminate between forage and nonforage components. 
    • Root Responses to Short-Lived Pulses of Soil Nutrients and Shoot Defoliation in Seedlings of Three Rangeland Grasses

      Arredondo, José Tulio; Johnson, Douglas A. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Root proliferation is important in determining root foraging capability of rangeland grasses to unpredictable soil-nutrient pulses. However, root proliferation responses are often confounded by the inherent relative growth rate (RGR) of the particular species being compared. Additionally, inherent biomass allocation to roots (R:S ratio) can be associated with root RGR, hence likely influencing root foraging responses. The influence of relative growth rate and biomass allocation patterns on the speed and efficiency of root foraging responses at the critical seeding stage was examined in two important perennial rangeland grasses that occur widely in the Great Basin Region of the United States (Whitmar bluebunch wheatgrass [Pseudoroegneria spicata {Pursh} Löve] and Hycrest crested wheatgrass [Agropyron desertorum {Fisch. ex Link} Schult. 3 A. cristatum L. Gaert.]) as well as in the widespread exotic invasive annual grass, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.). Greenhouse-grown seedlings were exposed to four nutrient regimes: uniform-low, uniform-high, soil-nutrient pulse, soil-nutrient depletion, and to either no clipping or clipping (80% removal of standing shoot biomass). Hycrest was the only species that exhibited root proliferation responses to the short- lived nutrient pulse, and this response occurred through root elongation rather than initiation of lateral root branches. Overall, defoliation inhibited proliferation-based root responses to a larger extent than topological-based root responses. Defoliated plants of Hycrest interrupted root development (topological index did not change) following shoot defoliation compared to undefoliated plants. In contrast, root topological developmental patterns were the same for defoliated and undefoliated plants of Whitmar, whereas cheatgrass exhibited an intermediate response between Whitmar and Hycrest. Our results suggest that inherent biomass allocation to roots contributes to enhanced capabilities of proliferation-based root responses. 
    • Understanding Diet Selection in Temperate Biodiverse Pasture Systems

      Vilalba, Juan J.; Soder, Kathy J.; Laca, Emilio A. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      The first decade of the 21st century has been dominated by unprecedented environmental challenges. These challenges are associated with intense public awareness and interest in constructive environmental solutions. There is increasing interest by both consumers and producers of agricultural products in the development of a more sustainable agriculture system, with less dependence on external finite resources. Biodiverse pasture systems have the potential to serve agriculture in this regard. Thus, a symposium addressing contemporary, interdisciplinary research on plant-herbivore interactions, animal responses, and grazing management in temperate biodiverse pasture systems was sponsored by the American Society of Animal Science at the annual meetings of the society in July 2007. The resulting articles appear in this Special Feature of Rangeland Ecology Management. 
    • Wild Ungulate Herbivory of Willow on Two National Forest Allotments in Wyoming

      Meiman, Paul J.; Thorne, Mark S.; Skinner, Quentin D.; Smith, Michael A.; Dodd, Jerrold L. (Society for Range Management, 2009-09-01)
      Willows (Salix) are important riparian plants and often used to indicate riparian condition. Many herbivores feed on willows, but there is limited information about willow browsing by wildlife except in national parks. This study was conducted to estimate wild ungulate herbivory of willow on two US Forest Service allotments in northern Wyoming and to compare these values to published estimates for national parks. We also compared total annual and seasonal willow utilization by wildlife between sites dominated by willows of different heights. The effects of height category, site, and season on willow utilization were determined with a repeated measures analysis. Four permanent willow utilization transects were established at each of six study sites per allotment on two allotments, in communities supporting planeleaf (Salix planifolia Pursh), Wolf’s (Salix wolfii Bebb), Drummond’s (Salix drummondiana Barratt ex Hook.), or Eastwood’s (Salix eastwoodiae Cock. ex A. Heller) willow. Twenty-five twigs were marked per transect (distributed across 6-12 plants/transect). Lengths of marked twigs were recorded on four dates to estimate willow utilization for winter/spring, summer, and late summer/fall periods. Total annual willow utilization on one allotment (53%) was similar to published estimates for national parks (P 5 0.0864), whereas utilization for the other allotment (58%) was greater (P = 0.0421) than national parks. Seasonal patterns of willow utilization differed among sites within height categories (P < 0.001). Total annual willow utilization by wildlife also varied by site within height category (P = 0.0165) but was not greater for short (43-56%) versus tall (59-63%) willow communities. Wildlife browsing of willow in this study equaled, or exceeded, estimates for national parks, where concern has been expressed about willow community conditions. Generalizations about willow utilization for tall and short willow communities are problematic. Management decisions should be based on site-specific information as opposed to generalizations.