Food habits and diet quality of deer and cattle and herbage production of a sagebrush-grassland range Public Deposited

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  • Research was conducted on the Keating rangelands in north-eastern Oregon to determine the food habits of deer and cattle and similarity of their diets, and to estimate deer and cattle months of grazing on both a quantitative and nutritional basis. Data were collected during the winters of 1978-1979, 1979-1980 and during the spring and fall of 1979 and 1980. In the Crystal Palace, Tucker Creek and Spring Creek study areas, field fecal collections were made and the microhistological method was used in the laboratory to determine the food habits of both deer and cattle. Similarity indices were calculated comparing food habits of both deer and cattle. In delineated plant communities, available herbaceous forage was estimated within 0.5m² circular plots employing a double sampling technique, and available browse was estimated employing a multiple linear regression technique. Subsamples of available forage were analyzed for in vitro dry matter digestibility and crude protein. An extensive literature review was conducted to determine nitrogen (N) and metabolizable energy (ME) requirements of both deer and cattle. Cattle and deer months of grazing were calculated for each plant community on a quantitative (i.e., forage biomass) and nutritional (i.e., metabolizable energy and nitrogen) basis employing the resources available following relationships: number supported = resources available/resources required. Management recommendations were made based on data collected in this study. Grass was the most dominant forage consumed by cattle, while deer consumed both grass and browse. Forbs were not an important dietary constituent for either cattle or deer. During the early winter period of 1978-1979, browse and grass averaged 57.4 percent and 1.6 percent of the deer diets, respectively. However, during the late winter period of 1978-1979, browse and grass averaged 40.2 percent and 31.5 percent of the deer diets, respectively. During the 1979-1980 winter, browse and grass averaged 35.4 percent and 51.9 percent of the deer diets, respectively. The predominant grass and browse consumed by deer was Sandberg's bluegrass and big sagebrush, respectively. During the spring period, crested wheatgrass, cheatgrass and Sandberg's bluegrass averaged 21.8, 29.1 and 19.5 percent of cattle diets, respectively. During the fall period,.cheatgrass and Sandberg's bluegrass averaged 30.4 and 24.9 percent of cattle diets, respectively. Diet similarity ranged from 27.1 percent to 52.8 percent while the average spring overlap for both years was 37 percent and the average fall overlap was 50 percent. Most of the dietary overlap occurred on Sandberg's bluegrass. The literature review revealed that on a forage biomass basis a cow-calf pair in spring required 14 kg/day, while a dry pregnant cow in the fall required 10 kg/day. On an energy and nitrogen basis, a nursing cow required 26.6 Meal/day of ME and 206 g of N, while a dry pregnant cow required 10.0 Meal/day of ME and 94.5 g of N. On a forage biomass basis, a wintering adult deer required .9 kg of forage per day while a fawn required .6 kg per day. Considering the length of the winter period, the energy obtained by catabolism of fat, and the energy and nitrogen required in gesta tion, I determined that during the early and late winter periods of 1978-1979 deer required 1.81 and 1.80 Meal/day of ME and during the 1979-1980 winter, they required 1.73 Meal/day of ME. The literature also revealed that a wintering deer required 12.9 g of N per day. Quantitative forage analysis showed that depending upon study area and pasture on a kg/ha basis the predominant grasses available to cattle were crested wheatgrass, Sandberg's bluegrass and cheatgrass. Determination of available browse biomass was made employing a multiple linear regression model for mountain big sagebrush (log y = -6.37 + .9337 log H + 1.49 log W₂), and a simple linear regression model for gray rabbitbrush (log y = -3.70 + 1.81 log W) and basin big sagebrush (log y = -3.84 + .9870 log A). Depending upon study area and plant community, quantitative analysis of the forage showed that big sagebrush and Sandberg's bluegrass were the dominant species available to deer. Early spring grazed pastures could carry more AUMS on a nutritional basis than on a quantitative basis. Pastures sampled in late spring showed that total AUMS on a forage quantity basis exceeded those on a nutritional basis. During the fall on an old-growth (i.e., previous year's growth) and fall growth basis, total AUMS based on N generally exceeded those based on ME or forage quantity, except in the crested wheatgrass-dominated pasture where more AUMS were calculated on a quantity basis than on a nutritional basis. On a fall-growth-only basis, more AUMS were calculated on a nutritional basis than on a quantity basis. Generally, the least number of AUMS could be carried on the medusahead communities while the most AUMS could be carried on the crested wheatgrass seedings. Deer months calculated for the two winters across the three study areas showed more deer months per plant community were calculated on a forage quantity basis than on an ME or N basis. However, an exception to this trend occurred in the grassland com munities where more deer months were calculated on an N basis than on an ME or forage quantity basis. Generally, the most deer months were calculated for the basin big sagebrush communities while the least number of deer months were calculated on the medusahead communities.
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