Botanical Composition of Steer Diets on Mesquite and Mesquite-Free Desert Grassland
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CitationGalt, H. D., Theurer, B., & Martin, S. C. (1982). Botanical composition of steer diets on mesquite and mesquite-free desert grassland. Journal of Range Management, 35(3), 320-325.
PublisherSociety for Range Management
JournalJournal of Range Management
AbstractBotanical composition of cattle diets on mesquite and mesquite-free desert rangeland was determined on a weight basis by a microscope point technique and density constants of species. Pastures consisted primarily of grasses, small amounts of forbs and shrubs, and velvet mesquite (17% crown canopy) on one unit. Dietary composition of plant groups consisted of 67 to 97% grasses, 0 to 4% forbs, and trace to 33% shrubs. Species composition of diets varied by seasons and among animals. Plant preference was not necessarily related to plant availability. Composition of diets was markedly different from composition of pastures. Black grama averaged only 3% of diets, but comprised about one-third of herbage production. Arizona cottontop, which averaged 20% of herbage on pastures, was the most consistently selected species, averaging 34% of the diet. Seasonal preference was shown for certain grasses such as rothrock grama in spring and bush muhly in winter. Highest preference for shrub species was shown in winter and early summer. Overall dietary composition between pastures was much the same, but average herbage production for a 2-year period was 347 kg/ha greater where mesquite had been controlled. Leaves comprised the major plant part of steer diets on both pastures. Leaf content of diets increased from winter to summer while stems decreased for the same periods. Botanical composition of animal diets can be a guide to more efficient use of the range resource by grazing animals.