- Author: Lauren Hallett
- Author: Katharine Suding
Over the last few years Californians have grappled with how to manage lands during times of both drought and plentiful rainfall. At SFREC and on Central Valley rangelands, one question is whether management that promotes high forage in wet years alters ecosystem resilience in dry years. For example, promoting highly productive grasses is a common goal. While drought years can negatively affect productive grasses, less productive species, particularly forbs like filaree, do relatively well in drought years due to decreased competition. Over the last several years the Suding lab and SFREC crew have been building ever-larger drought manipulations to test how different management practices, and associated species mixes, affect forage across good and bad rainfall years.
In the first iteration of this project, we looked at how grazing practices and rainfall interact to affect forage over dry and wet years. We hypothesized that grazing practices that maintained a diverse mix of grasses and forbs would promote more stable forage across wet and dry conditions. To test this, we first varied grazing intensity over four years within a pasture to describe how grazing alters grass and forb abundances (Figure 1a). Second, we implemented rainout shelters and irrigation over three years to create “dry” and “wet” plots within areas of different grazing histories (Figure 1b). We found that moderate grazing practices maintained a diverse mix of grass and forb species. This mixture better maintained vegetation cover and biomass across rainfall conditions compared to low-grazed areas dominated only by grasses (Figure 2) (Hallett, Stein, Suding conditionally accepted, Oecologia).
In the second iteration of this project, we are exploring how rainfall timing alters grassland diversity and forage production. We hypothesized that early-season drought will alter which species recruit that year, with higher forb abundance in dry falls and higher grass abundance in wet years, whereas late-season drought would reduce overall production. To test this, we have implemented large shelters with roofs that are pulled in place to create early-season, late-season and continuous drought as well as a control (Figure 3). We are finding that periodic early-season drought helps to maintain forb diversity in California rangelands. Working with Dr. Whendee Silver, we are also testing the effect of rainfall timing on nutrient cycling and greenhouse gas emissions. We are finding that previous-season rainfall as well as current season alters greenhouse gas emissions, which may be important for managing rangelands for multiple ecosystem services going into the future.
- Author: Nikolai Schweitzer
The Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center in Browns Valley, CA utilizes 130 acres of summer irrigated pasture for cattle grazing. SFREC's irrigation water is supplied by a local water district via pipelines and open ditch distribution sources. The irrigation delivery system applies water through sprinklers, open ditches, and gated pipes. Each irrigated pasture at SFREC is managed for 1) Forage Production, 2) Water Quality, and 3) Soil Quality.
SFREC staff measures forage production in 15 enclosed cages throughout five different irrigated pastures. The treatments within each cage include leaving 4-6 inches of residual grass and measuring Total Forage Production (TFP). Guidelines for general irrigation and pasture management production based on past and current research recommend leaving 4 to 6 inches of residue/grass growth after each grazing period. The basis of this recommendation is to increase forage production (by leaving increased amounts of foliar surface area), improve root development, decrease weeds, cause less stress for forage grasses and increase water infiltration. Total Forage Production is measured by clipping the grass all the way to the ground. This center project is measuring the two treatments (4-6 inches & TFP) on their respective pounds/acre production. Each month (from April through October) forage is clipped from each cage, dried, and weighed (pounds/acre). After the samples are clipped, each enclosed area is leveled to its prescriptive treatment.
During the last two years of field sampling on irrigated pasture at SFREC, there was an increase in forage diversity in the Total Forage Production subplot. Clovers, birdsfoot trefoil, and filaree became increasingly abundant due to the increased sunlight and less crowding from competitive grasses. While the increase in clover and other forbes growth lends to an increase in forage quality, there is an overall decrease in forage production per acre in the TFP treatments when compared to the treatments with 4-6 inches of residual grass.
Numerous other factors can potentially impact irrigated pasture forage growth. Fertilization (rates, composition, timing), irrigation (frequency, amount, duration), grazing (stocking density, class/age of animal), species composition, physical structures (water location, loafing areas, rubbing zones, mineral location), soil properties, aspect, and slope, are other important components to manage or consider.
- Author: Megan G Osbourn
The field day kicked off with a keynote address by Congressman, John Garamendi (CA-3), who spoke with students about the roles they will be able to pursue within agriculture and food productution as they chart out their future careers. Garamendi encouraged his audience to think outside of the box when it comes to creating solutions to the many challenges agriculture will face in years to come.
Following this address the students rotated through five hands-on learning demonstrations developed by UC researchers that explored major topics in beef cattle and rangeland management. Dr. Nancy Martin, DVM, discussed health issues in beef cattle with Dr. John Angelos from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine following up by highlighting his research in the development of a vaccine for pink eye in cattle. UCCE Farm Advisor, Jeff Stackhouse discussed the use of technology in managing livestock and wildlife, while Dr. Roberto Sainz of the UC Davis Department of Animal Science explored the ruminant digestive system. Roger Ingram, UCCE Advisor in Placer/Nevada/Yuba & Sutter counties demonstrated principles related to dryland and irrigated pasture management. Students had the opportunity to evaluate soil properties, classify rangeland plants and observe beef cattle grazing behavior.
This event was made possible by the following Sponsors: PG&E, Yuba-Sutter Farm Bureau, California Beef Council and Farm Credit West. We are grateful for this generous support. The time donated by FFA leaders and UC staff was instrumental in making the third year of this annual event a major success and a great opportunity for students to interact with ongoing research led by the University of California.
- Author: Rebecca Swanson, CSU, Chico Undergraduate Research Assistant
- Author: Kasey DeAtley, Assistant Professor of Animal and Range Science
Researchers in the College of Agriculture at CSU, Chico in collaboration with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Chico, CA), UC Cooperative Extension agents, Glenn Nader and Josh Davy, and the Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC) are working to determine the effect of supplementing nursing cows with either WBG or molasses tubs on cow body condition, reproduction, and calf performance.
The third and final supplement study will begin this November at SFREC; however, preliminary results indicate that WBG is an efficient source of protein for cows grazing winter annual rangeland. In addition to investigating this important nutritional interaction, this collaboration has provided an excellent outdoor classroom for Chico State students pursuing a degree in animal science and land resource management. Students are able to gain hands-on research experience by helping to collect animal performance data as well as vegetation samples from the pastures where the cows are grazing.
- Author: Shae McElroy
The horse world undoubtedly includes a wide variety of associations, disciplines, breeds, and types of horse owners. In the Sierra Foothills, horse ownership is just as diverse. You will find everything ranging from competition, breeding and pleasure horses, to the simple family pet, each of which encompasses a wide-range of breeds. Regardless of what type of horse owner you are, there is certainly never a shortage of opinions or advice related to how to best care for your horse. At the end of the day, the most important action is to evaluate what is best for each individual horse and to take responsibility as a horse owner.
The Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center does not currently deal in equine health and research, although there are horses housed on-site to assist in the day to day cattle ranching activities. Our goal is to simply provide helpful information relative to the surrounding community. The series listed and portrayed below focuses on the most basic needs of every horse – regardless of breed, discipline, or region. If you have any questions about these basic needs or any other compelling questions related to your specific horse, please call your local equine veterinarian.
Water is essential to your horse's overall health and well-being. A singular horse requires 5-15 gallons of water per day, so every horse should have access to clean, fresh water at all times. Your horse's water consumption can vary depending upon environmental temperature, diet, or level of exercise. It is important to pay special attention to your horse's drinking habits and note any changes. If your horse is a poor drinker or a heavy sweater, access to fresh, clean water alone may not be enough. Adding an over-the-counter, daily electrolyte supplement is a smart way to replace salt and the other minerals lost in sweat, and to help encourage your horse to drink. If your horse still isn't drinking enough water, contact your equine veterinarian for recommendations or other advice.
Horses are known as “trickle feeders,” meaning they constantly take in food throughout the day. If it were up to your horses, they would spend roughly 17-20 hours every day grazing on forage. Due to the scarcity of land with quality pasture, few domesticated horses have that luxury, so as owners we must compensate for their nutritional needs to the best of our abilities. Forage is the basis of an equine diet. This can include pasture, grass hay, legumes (ex. alfalfa), and/or beet pulp. These forages provide the essential proteins, carbohydrates, and fats every horse needs. Horses should consume 1.5%-3% of their body weight per day - with at least half of that being forage. That is 15-20 pounds of forage per day for an average-sized horse. Grain is not usually a necessary part of a horse's diet, but can be used as a supplement if needed or for horses expelling a lot of energy who may need an elevated calorie intake.
A horse's gastrointestinal system is very sensitive and drastic changes can cause colic. According to the UC Davis Equine Center's Equine Welfare Report, "colic" is a term that indicates clinical signs of pain in the abdominal cavity. It is not a specific disease, but rather a combination of signs that signal abdominal pain in the horse. You should take this into consideration when changing any part of your horse's diet.
Equine dietary requirements can vary by region, age, breed, and level of activity. Talk to your equine veterinarian or equine nutritionist to make sure your horse is getting the nutrients he needs.
Horses are a much hardier species then they are often given credit for. They can regulate their own body temperatures, allowing them to cope with both heat and cold. However, the availability of shelter can give them the opportunity to escape extreme conditions, such as heat, wind, precipitation, etc. Depending on the climate and/or season, the appropriate type of shelter can range from a stand of shade trees to a three-sided open barn or even an enclosed barn stall. The main consideration in a pasture setting is whether there is an adequate amount of shelter for the total number of horses housed in the pasture. For safety reasons it is very important that any shelter structure is sturdy and secure enough to withstand the elements.
While water, feed, and shelter encompass the most basic needs the horse, the following five guidelines are important as well and should not be forgone.
Exercise is an important part of a horse's life and is essential for horses that are stabled. The amount and type of necessary exercise is dependent upon the breed of horse, the amount of activity they are prone to, and the conditions in which they are kept. Daily exercise can help prevent digestive issues (colic), and will stimulate improvement in a horse's physical and mental fitness. Different forms of exercise can include pasture turnouts, lunging, and riding.
Horses are herd animals and as such, require some sort of companionship. Research has shown that horses develop a complex social network within a herd. Separation or isolation from herd mates can cause severe stress and/or undesirable personality traits. While they typically prefer their own species, horses have been known to bond with other companion animals as well. Balancing personality types in a pasture or turnout scenario can be a challenge, but overall it is beneficial for your horse to be able to socialize and interact as part of a herd.
Fence related lacerations and injuries are some of the most common afflictions equine veterinarians see. Even in the interest of injury prevention, you'll never be able to prevent every potential incident with your horse. You can, however, choose to enclose them in the safest fence possible. Wood plank, horse panels, and/or non-climb, woven wire with openings spaced two inches wide or smaller are thought to be some of the safest fencing choices for horses, but this does not limit you to other options that might be more fitting for your particular situation. You should always be aware of your fence's weak spots, and repair anything that looks like it could cause any sort of injury to your horse. In many horse fencing scenarios, barbed wire is not typically and ideal option.
Like fingernails or toenails on a human, a horse's hooves grow continuously and require regular care. The proper care of a horse's hooves is the key to keeping them comfortable and sound. Generally, horses require hoof care every 5-8 weeks depending on their hoof growth and activity. There are some horses that can go barefoot, while others may need specialized shoes or boots. Either way, you should schedule regular visits from a qualified farrier who can determine the proper care for your particular horse.
VACCINATIONS & HEALTH CARE
It is recommended that horses see a licensed equine veterinarian once each year for a wellness exam. During this exam your veterinarian will check your horse's teeth and evaluate their overall health and nutritional program. They will also be able to give you advice on parasite control (deworming). As a general rule of thumb horses should be dewormed at least two times per year, and possibly more if they are a moderate to high worm shedder. An annual exam is also a good opportunity for your horse to receive the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) core vaccines:
➢ Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis
➢ West Nile Virus
Maintaining a good relationship with your equine veterinarian allows for open communication which will benefit both you and your horse. If you have any questions regarding a parasite control schedule or core vaccinations, call your local equine veterinarian.
One thing you can be certain of as a horse owner is that you will never stop learning. Please allow these basic guidelines to help you have good conversations with your local veterinarian, farrier, other horse care professionals, as well as fellow horse owners.
Disclosure: If you have any questions about the proper care for your horse, you should always contact your local equine veterinarian or a local equine health center.