• Livestock Forage Conditioning Among Six Northern Great Basin Grasses

      Ganskopp, Dave; Aguilera, Lisa; Vavra, Martin (Society for Range Management, 2007-01-01)
      Studies of Anderson and Scherzinger’s forage conditioning hypothesis have generated varied results. Our objectives were: 1) to evaluate late summer/early fall forage quality of crested wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum [Fisch. ex Link] J. A. Schultes), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata [Pursh] A. Löve), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey), Thurber’s needlegrass (Achnatherum thurberianum [Piper] Barkworth), and basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus [Scribn. Merr.] A. Löve) from ungrazed paddocks and paddocks grazed at vegetative, boot, and anthesis; and 2) test hypotheses that postgrazing regrowth yields were correlated with soil moisture content when grazing occurred. Crop-year precipitation for 1997 and 1998 was 134% and 205% of average. Crude protein (CP) and in vitro dry matter digestibility (IVDMD) of ungrazed grasses displayed expected declines in quality. Among ungrazed grasses, late summer/ early fall CP was 5.7% in 1997 and 3.6% in 1998; IVDMD was 47% and 41%, respectively. Late summer/early fall forage quality was elevated by vegetative, boot stage, or anthesis grazing. The phenologically youngest regrowth always ranked highest in CP and IVDMD. Among grasses, respective 1997 CP and IVDMD means were 9.0% and 55% for regrowth following anthesis grazing. No regrowth followed anthesis grazing in 1998, but CP and IVDMD means from boot stage treatments were 5.5% and 47%, respectively. With CP measures, a species by treatment interaction occurred in 1997, but species reacted similarly in 1998. Vegetative, boot stage, and anthesis grazing in 1997 caused respective late summer/early fall standing crop reductions of 34%, 42%, and 58%; and 34%, 54%, and 100% reductions in 1998. Forage conditioning responses were lower for bluebunch wheatgrass and crested wheatgrass than other grasses. Soil moisture content was a poor predictor of regrowth yields. Managed cattle grazing can successfully enhance late season forage quality.