Resolving Cattle Diet

Texas A&M’s Grazer Animal Nutrition Lab sent us 10 cattle fecal samples to test out for diet analyses. The samples were collected from cattle in the southern Great Plains in late January, early February.

The animals’ diets were all different. The KS animal on lespedeza hay showed 98% of the sequences as Lespedeza. [That’s a relief.]

One Texas animal on range showed over 60% of its diet was juniper.

Another animal from NM was more balanced, with most of its diet coming from Bouteloua, cool-season grasses, juniper, and pine.  Here’s a pie-chart of the major components of that animal’s diet.

Cattle pie chart

As we looked across the 10 samples, we definitely had the ability to define the major constituents of the animals’ diets.

In some cases, knowing what a large proportion of their intake were coming from juniper and pine would be important for ranchers as ingestion of these plants can cause reproductive problems. In other cases, what we saw the cattle eating helps pinpoint critical resources during the winter or drought.

Hopefully, as we move forward, we can track the diets of cattle over space and time and be able to provide information that provide economic return to ranchers, but allow for better conservation of grasslands and rangelands.