Explorations of heritage vs conventional cattle in a changing climate

TitleExplorations of heritage vs conventional cattle in a changing climate
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsMcIntosh MM, Macon L., Redd M., Cibils AF, Estell RE, Nyamuryekung'e S., Utsumi S.A., Gonzalez A.L, Cox A., Duff G., Schallner J., Spiegal S.
Conference NameExplorations of heritage vs conventional cattle in a changing climate
Date Published2/8/2022
ARIS Log Number392976
Keywordscattle, changing climate, explorations, heritage vs conventional

Multiple lines of evidence suggest that heritage Raramuri Criollo (RC) cattle, a biotype with over 400 years of naturalization in the harsh landscapes of the Mexican Copper Canyon, could offer producers a novel means of meeting sustainability and production goals on southwestern rangelands in the face of a rapidly dwindling forage supply and a hotter, drier climate. Compared to conventional breeds (e.g. Angus), RC cows and steers have been documented traveling farther per day and exploring larger areas over multiple seasons, ecosystems (Chihuahuan Desert, California chaparral, and Colorado Plateau), and physiological states. Likewise, RC cows have a lighter body weight and tend toward more even grazing distribution and fewer re-visitation rates during critical periods of the year when rangelands are most vulnerable to overgrazing - suggesting a potentially lighter footprint on soils and vegetation. Raramuri Criollo cows, compared to conventional counterparts, express a unique “follower” mothering style, which allows cows more freedom for daily exploration. Rararmuri Criollo also tend to exhibit better heat tolerance by maintaining/regulating internal temperatures, possibly because of body size, hair length, hide color, and behavioral tendencies. Use of RC genetics may present production opportunities related to reduced supplemental feed inputs and potentially lower overhead costs compared to conventional counterparts, while still producing marketable crossbred calves that wean and finish at saleable weights with acceptable carcass traits. This assemblage of studies suggests that RC genetics could be well suited to emerging climate change driven conditions on southwestern ranches because of their unique foraging behaviors and physiology, different resource requirements, and theoretical ability to produce more pounds of weaned beef per pound of cow vs conventional biotypes. Future work will seek to determine what role RC cattle might serve in mitigating climate change impacts and how they could fit into niche and conventional beef production systems.