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Habitat use and behaviour of free range cattle on forested range in central B.C.

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Title: Habitat use and behaviour of free range cattle on forested range in central B.C.
Author: Liggins, Lavona Aletha
Degree Master of Science - MSc
Program Animal Science
Copyright Date: 1999
Abstract: Cattle use, activities, and social organisation were investigated among habitat types in the Robinson Unit, Williams Lake Forest District during the 1996 and 1997 grazing seasons (15 May to 15 October). Habitat types were defined by vegetative associations and included Meadow, Wet Edge, Dry Edge, Clearcut, Forest, and Other. The numbers of insects, forage biomass and quality, and natural mineral levels were compared among these habitat types. In addition I used correspondence analysis to identify habitat variables associated with individual cattle activities. Cattle concentrated in open habitats: Meadow, Wet Edge, Dry Edge, and Clearcut. During early morning foraging, cattle were often in riparian areas, while at other times they used non-riparian areas. Cattle use of edges (Wet and Dry) accounted for > 50% of observed use. At no time did cattle use Clearcut to the extent expected. Cattle did not perform activities with the same frequency in all habitat types, nor did calves and adult females perform activities with the same frequency. Insect abundance, forage biomass and quality, and minerals differed among habitat types. Differences in biomass and minerals appeared to be associated with cattle habitat use. In some areas, the soil surface contained mineral (exchangeable cation) levels higher than those recorded for natural mineral licks. Three ecological regimes were found to be of primary importance in correspondence analysis: moisture, shrub density, and climate. Grazing was associated with variables reflecting soil moisture and Browsing with moderate shrub/tree densities and cooler temperatures. Lying and Standing were associated with shade, high visibility, dry substrates, and proximity to roads. Variables not associated with specific cattle activities included: aspect, climate, poor visibility, obstacles, and moderate distances to roads and salt blocks. I recommend that future research include: using identified variables as attractants for cattle, increasing cattle use of clearcuts and working with foresters to minimise damage to tree seedlings, investigating the role of trails and spatial memory in cattle distribution, and the relationship between salt blocks, cattle, and natural minerals. Managers should incorporate the importance of forage density, cattle use of edges, and anti-predator and grouping behaviours into daily management.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/9344
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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