Training Livestock to Leave Streams and Use Uplands

Cattle can damage streams and surrounding vegetation (riparian areas) by over-grazing riparian vegetation, breaking down banks, decreasing water quality, which can reduce fish populations and wildlife numbers. Suggested solutions to this problem have traditionally ranged from the cost prohibitive - constructing fences along waterways – to the extreme – removing livestock completely from rangelands. Using the principles of livestock behavior offers a third, often more cost-effective solution: Using riders to train animals to leave riparian areas and graze on uplands. Changing Preferences By understanding that behavior is a result of consequences, a rider can change habitat preferences of livestock from shady riparian areas to nutritious uplands. The negative consequence of being pushed away from the stream banks, combined with the positive consequences of arriving at upland sites with adequate forage and supplements, changes the behavior of a herd over time. If moves normally coincide with a decrease of nutritious forage in one location and an abundance of forage in the new location, cattle learn to move because good things happen when they change locations. Both research and anecdotal evidence demonstrate that calves learn from their mothers to eat particular foods at particular locations, and are more likely to use those same areas and eat those same foods as adults. Thus, calves that learn to prefer foods on upland sites prefer to graze in upland sites as

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