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University of Wyoming Extension

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Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-5124

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University of Wyoming Extension

 

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Dietary Composition and Conflicts of Livestock and Wildlife on Rangeland cover

Dietary Composition and Conflicts of Livestock and Wildlife on Rangeland

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Publication #: B-1260
Date Published: 12/05/2014

Publication Author(s):
J. Derek Scasta

Description:
The interaction of livestock and wildlife on rangeland is an issue of concern for both ranchers, wildlife managers, and the general public.  More recently, the interest in the ecological impacts and well-being of wild horses on western rangelands has raised additional concerns.  In particular, the competition for food resources can help guide decisions for grazing timing, duration, and location.  The preferential selection of grasses (including grasslikes such as sedges and rushes), forbs and shrubs by livestock and wildlife is largely influenced by animal physiology and morphology; specifically the type of digestive system and size and shape of the mouth features.  Wild horses and cattle both strongly select for grasses with annual diets comprised of 82% and 74% respectively.  On average horses and cattle diets are about 10% forbs.  Horse diets average 8% shrubs and cattle diets average 14% shrubs.  Elk diets consist of 47% grass, 30% shrub and 23% forb and domestic sheep diets consist of 42% grass, 38% forb.  Mule deer and pronghorn have very selective mouth features and strongly select for shrubs.  Diet composition of mule deer and pronghorn is on average 72% and 58% shrubs respectively.  Pronghorn diets are on average 34% forbs and mule deer diets are on average 22% forbs.  Mule deer and pronghorn diets are typically less than 10% grass.  Understanding the dietary composition of wildlife and livestock on western rangelands is critical for understanding how to balance livestock production with wildlife conservation.  It is important to realize that dietary conflict between these animal species can be high or low depending on several factors:  1) These animals may or may not occupy the same areas during the same times of the year.  This will depend on resource needs of wildlife and management decisions of livestock producers.  2) The relative availability of grasses, forbs and shrubs may fluctuate and vary with moisture availability, season of the year, and ecological site.   ) Past management may also influence the relative availability of grasses, forbs and shrubs and may enhance or limit the resource selection options of animals.


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University of Wyoming Extension

Department #3354

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-5124

Email: glen@uwyo.edu

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