The use of heritage cattle breeds as a mitigation strategy for solving new challenges imposed by climate change in Chihuahuan Desert rangelands of the southwestern United States

TitleThe use of heritage cattle breeds as a mitigation strategy for solving new challenges imposed by climate change in Chihuahuan Desert rangelands of the southwestern United States
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsNyamuryekung'e S., Cibils AF, Estell RE, Utsumi S.A, McIntosh MM, Spiegal SA
Conference Name5th Rangeland Conference, Rangeland Society of Tanzania. April, 2022, Morogoro, Tanzania
Date Published8/10/2022
ARIS Log Number392610
Abstract

The study’s objective involves a compilation of four publications comparing conventional (Angus X Hereford; AH) vs. heritage (Raramuri Criollo; RC) breeds foraging habits, heat tolerance, and cow-calf interactions using telemetry devices under the context of a future mitigation strategy of climate change. AH and RC cows grazed separately in two adjacent pastures in a crossover design during summer and winter for three consecutive years. Rectal fecal samples were collected twice in each cow’s deployment to analyze diet composition. A subgroup of individuals in each herd was fitted with sensors to track their location (GPS collars), body temperature (iButton loggers), and cow-calf contact events (Proximity loggers). RC cows traveled farther, spent less time resting, more time grazing, and explored larger areas than their AH counterparts. RC cows showed a higher preference for patches with high shrub density and avoided areas with a high density of black grama during winter, consistent with the fDNA analysis on diet composition. During summer, RC cows maintained a lower body temperature than their AH counterparts, providing additional evidence for the differences observed in foraging patterns. RC calves appeared to impose fewer constraints on their dams’ movement and activity patterns. Nursing RC dams covered a daily grazing area almost three times larger than their AH counterparts. Differences in foraging strategies documented in this study provide support for the hypothesis that Raramuri Criollo (heritage breed) cattle are better equipped to cope with hotter and drier climates and better able to use forage resources that are becoming increasingly variable in space and time.