Left on their own, cattle can overgraze riparian areas and neglect valuable forage on more difficult terrain further from water. Ranchers can, however, manage herds to better utilize rangeland and reduce impacts on stream beds. Researchers from New Mexico State University and Montana State University conducted trials to evaluate the efficacy of low-stress herding and strategic supplement placement to reduce cattle grazing near streams and to correspondingly increase grazing on uplands. Led by Derek Bailey, PhD, director of the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center, the researchers sorted cow-calf pairs into three groups. They allowed a control group to roam freely, herded another group away from streams to upland target areas using low-stress handling and, for a third group, used herding and low-moisture supplement blocks to help hold pairs in the target areas. The researchers used GPS telemetry to track cow movements and monitored stubble height and manure concentrations in riparian and upland areas. They found the herded groups spent less time in riparian areas and more time grazing higher elevations. Using the supplement blocks resulted in greater forage utilization in the target areas within 600 meters of the blocks. They concluded that moving cattle to uplands at midday using low-stress herding is an effective tool to reduce use of riparian areas. Herding cattle to low-moisture blocks can increase grazing of nearby upland forage but may not provide additional reduction in cattle use of riparian areas compared with herding alone. In earlier research, Bailey and his colleagues found that placing low-moisture molasses blocks increased grazing pressure on upland range within 600 meters of the blocks and modified grazing distribution during late summer, autumn and winter. When the supplement is consumed, the researchers recommend placing new supplement in an adjoining under-grazed area. They also suggest exposing cattle to the supplement before placing it on under-grazed rangeland.
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