• Reducing livestock losses from poisonous plants through grazing management

      Taylor, C. A.; Ralphs, M. H. (Society for Range Management, 1992-01-01)
      Stocking rate, multi-species grazing, and grazing systems are 3 components of grazing management that can be manipulated to minimize losses in animal production due to consumption of poisonous plants. Our study evaluated 3 case studies where either all or some of the above components of grazing management were the experimental treatments. For study 1 the grazing treatments included 3 rates of stocking; a 4-pasture, 3-herd grazing system; and combinations of different kinds of livestock that were measured for 21 years. For study 2 the grazing treatments included 2 rates of stocking, 4 different grazing systems, and combinations of either all sheep or a ratio of 3:2 cattle to sheep (au equivalents) for 11 years. Study 3 measured cattle poisoned by locoweed prior to and following the implementation of a 3-herd, 4-pasture grazing system over 6 years. Sheep death losses to bitterweed (Hymenoxys odorufa DC.) poisoning occurred in 13 of the 21 years on continuously grazed pastures heavily stocked with sheep and only 8 years under both moderate and light stocking rates. Regardless of the stocking rate, death losses were greatest on pastures stocked with sheep only and least with the combination of livestock species on conjunction with a 4-pasture, 3-herd grazing system. Stocking rate, multi-species grazing, or grazing system seemed to have little effect on goat losses due to oak (Quercus spp.) consumption. Cattle and sheep were not affected by sacahuista (Nolina texauo Wats.) in this study; however, their inclusion in the grazing herd reduced goat death losses from 5% with goats only to 2.5 and 1.5% for combinations of cattle and goats and cattle, sheep, and goats, respectively. In study 2 sheep death losses from bitterweed poisoning under continuous yearlong grazing treatments averaged 5.2% vs 3.7% for grazing treatments with some type of grazing system. Death losses were greatest under yearlong continuous grazing stocked at 10.4 ha/auy with 100% sheep and least under yearlong continuous grazing stocked at 15.2 ha/auy with 4% sheep. In study 3 the number of sick calves declined from 20% to about 3% with the implementation of a new grazing system. The reduction in sickness and loss was attributed to the reduction in grazing pressure and the shorter grazing season. It is concluded that for these case studies tactical management decisions such as proper stocking rate, combinations of animal species to be grazed, and grazing system used played an important role in minimizing livestock death losses to poisonous plants.