Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

Use of livestock to improve the quality of elk winter range forage in northeastern Oregon Public Deposited

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https://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6h440z45b

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  • The effects of late spring defoliation on the winter forage quality of bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum [Pursh] Scribn. & Smith), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer) and elk sedge (Carex geyeri Boott) and the response of wintering Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni Bailey) to changes in winter range forage quality were examined. The study included two experiments; a hand clipping experiment conducted on bluebunch wheatgrass and a sheep grazing experiment conducted on bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, and elk sedge. Four treatments were applied to bluebunch wheatgrass in the clipping experiment: 1) the entire basal area of individual plants was clipped to a 7.6 cm stubble height during the mid boot phenological stage, 2) one-half the basal area of individual plants was clipped to a 7.6 cm stubble height during the mid boot stage, 3) the entire basal area of individual plants was clipped to a 7.6 cm stubble height during the inflorescence emergence stage, and 4) plants were left unclipped as a control. In early November, forage samples from each of the three clipping treatments exhibited increases in percent crude protein and percent in vitro dry matter digestibility compared to the unclipped control treatment. Clipping the entire basal area of bluebunch wheatgrass plants to a 7.6 cm stubble height during the mid boot or inflorescence emergence stage was more detrimental to plant vigor than clipping one-half the plant basal area during the mid boot stage or leaving the plants unclipped. There was some evidence that clipping one-half the plant basal area during the mid boot stage may improve plant vigor compared to no clipping. Differences in crude protein, in vitro dry matter digestibility, and dry matter yield from winter forage samples of bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue and elk sedge were detected between plots grazed by domestic sheep during the boot stage of bluebunch wheatgrass and plots where sheep grazing was excluded. No differences in winter elk utilization of bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, or elk sedge were detected between the late spring sheep grazing treatment and sheep exclusion treatment. Plot occupancy by wintering elk was similar between plots grazed by sheep and plots where sheep grazing was excluded. Although, wintering elk did not appear to respond to the livestock grazing treatment, results from this study suggest small improvements in the winter forage quality of perennial grasses such as bluebunch wheatgrass can result following late spring defoliation. Forage conditioning treatments which produce even small improvements in forage quality may be important to the nutritional status of wintering elk.
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