Crested Wheatgrass for Spring Grazing in Northern New Mexico
Journal of range management
Highlight Seeding crested wheafgrass (Agropyron desertorum (F&h.) Schulf.) has been an exciting and noteworthy development in northern New Mexico. Private ranchers and land-managing agencies have enthusiastically adopted the practice, and for good reasons. Crested wheafgrass is productive and relaiivelv easy fo esfablish on northern New Mexico rangelands. It appears fo be long-lived, despite being af fhe southern limiis of iis range of adaptability. If regrows with summer rains, and reproduces
... ns, and reproduces well from seed. Ifs big selling point, however, is ifs ability fo furnish succulent, nutritious forage well ahead of native ranges in early spring, at the very time it is mosf needed by cows and ewes io maintain a flow of milk for their young. More than 100,000 acres of brush-infested range, mostly big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.), have been cleared and seeded to crested wheatgrass in northern New Mexico. An additional 225,000 acres are judged suitable for seeding. These acreages of seeded and seedable range have a particular value in providing a balanced ranch operation on many ranges. They help bridge the gap between the winter and summer. Forage often is critically short during May and June, before the advent of the usual summer rains. Characteristically early spring l Forest Service, U.S.D.A., central headquarters maintained at Fort Collins, in cooperation with Colorado State University; research reported here conducted in cooperation with New Mexico State University, AZbuquerque. growth makes crested wheatgrass uniquely suited to furnish green forage during these months. Seeded stands of crested wheatgrass at elevations of 7,000 to 8,500 ft already furnish a substantial part of the spring and early summer grazing that formerly was obtained from too early use of native ranges at higher elevations. As a result, these native ranges, which are of considerable value for summer grazing, are being given a chance to improve and become more productive. Crested Wheafgrass for Caffle To determine how intensively to graze crested wheatgrass range in the spring, cattle were grazed at different intensities for a month-long spring season for 7 years at one site and for 4 years at another site. Cows and calves utilized the grass an average of 41, 55, and 69% at the first site, and yearlings 34, 56, and 77% at the other site. The advantages of crested wheatgrass for spring cattle grazing are shown by comparing daily weight gains from crested wheatgrass with those from native range. Average daily gains (in pounds) for the test periods were as follows: cows Calves Yearlings Native range 1.21 1.16 1.50 Crested wheatgrass 3.23 2.18 1.98 Of most significance are the extra gains put on the calves, which usually are the marketable product in northern New Mexico. In any year, the daily gain per head for calves was similar at all grazing intensities. Yearlings too made good gains. No real differences in daily gains of yearlings were found between grazing intensities, but the results were considered inconclusive. Daily gains of cows were inversely related to intensity of grazing. On the average of the 7 years, the COWS gained 55% more per day during the spring grazing period under the lightest grazing than under the heaviest. In a cow-calf operation, the condition of the COW is important. However, the least gain on the cows on the most heavily grazed pasture during 7 years of study was an average daily gain of 1.85 lb. This seems adequate for breeding animals.