|Research technician, Robin Weinmeister, records the position of a Tarentaise cow during an early morning scan sample. This cow was also tracked with a GPS collar, which recorded her position at 10-minute intervals.|
Select adapted animals for seed stock or replacements.
Results from this project show that cattle breeds developed in mountainous terrain utilize rugged rangeland more evenly than breeds developed in more gentle terrain. Ranchers in mountainous rangeland area may be able to alleviate some of their grazing distribution problems by incorporating breeds such Tarentaise and Salers that were developed in rugged terrain into their breeding programs. Two breeds developed in different parts of Europe as well as their crosses were observed at the Thackeray Ranch during this first part of this study. Tarentaise cattle developed in the French Alps consistently climbed higher and used higher elevations (greater vertical distance to water) than Herefords that were developed in more gentle terrain in England . On average, Tarentaise cows used terrain that was 32 feet higher than Hereford cows. This may not seem that great of a difference until you consider that 32 feet of vertical distance could make the difference between grazing upland slopes and grazing riparian areas or sensitive coulee bottoms.
In addition to their use of rough topography, these breeds are also known for favorable maternal characteristics. In hot desert rangeland, ranchers may want to use breeds with Brahman breeding so that the cattle are adapted to hot, dry climates and more willing to travel far from water
Daughters of the Hereford, Tarentaise and Hereford x Tarentaise cows were evaluated in a later part this study. Sires of these daughters were Angus, Charolais, Piedmontese and Salers bulls. Cows sired by Piedmontese and Charolais bulls were observed farther horizontally from water in foothill pastures than cows sired by Angus bulls [8, 9]. Using an index of terrain use, Piedmontese-sired cows tended to use more rugged terrain than Angus-sired cows. Piedmontese cattle were developed in the foothills of the Italian Alps, while Angus cattle were developed in eastern Scotland. These differences in sire breeds are especially surprising considering that only half of the cow’s genotype was contributed by the bull.
Other research has shown that calves learn where to graze from their mothers . Anecdotal information suggests that problems may arise when cattle developed in gentle terrain or irrigated pastures are released into arid or rugged rangeland. In such situations, cattle may not venture far from water or up steep slopes. When purchasing female replacements, producers should try to find animals that were raised in terrain and vegetation that is similar to what they will be grazing.