Contrary to popular ranching beliefs, only water is an effective tool in attracting grazing cattle to new areas, according to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture study. Ranchers traditionally used both salt and water to change the grazing patterns of their herds and to draw the animals away from overgrazed pasture. But USDA rangeland scientist Dave Ganskopp, in a research project conducted at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center in Burns, found that cows are willing to travel farther to reach water.
The cattle distribution research was conducted using global-positioning collars, attached to about a dozen cattle, that track the animals’ movements via satellites. The GPS system not only monitors where the herd roams, but also keeps track of what the animals are doing (sleeping, eating, etc.) through their head movements. Uneven grazing is a major problem in the West. The animals in the test currently do not frequent about 30 percent of the cattle-friendly grassland used in the experiment.