Social facilitation influences cattle to graze locoweed.

Author: 
Ralphs, M.H.
Graham, D.
James, L.F.
Publisher: 
Rangeland Ecology & Management / Journal of Range Management Archives
Publication Year: 
1994
Description: 
Many ranchers claim that if a cow starts eating locoweed, she will teach others to eat it. Three grazing trials were conducted to evaluate the role of social facilitation in starting cattle to graze locoweed. The first trial was conducted near Gladstone, N.M., using mature cows grazing woolly locoweed (Astragalus mollissimus var. mollissimus Torr). The second trial was conducted on the Raft River Mountains in northwestern Utah, using yearling cattle grazing white locoweed (Oxytropis sericea Nutt). The third trial was conducted to determine if aversion-conditioned yearling cattle would consume white locoweed when placed with cattle that were eating locoweed (loco-eaters). Cattle conditioned to eat locoweed and naive animals in trials 1 and 2 first grazed in separate pastures to evaluate their initial acceptance of locoweed. The groups in the respective trials then were placed together to evaluate the influence of social facilitation on locoweed consumption. Locoweed consumption was quantified by bite count. Naive cattle in trials 1 and 2 sampled small quantities of locoweed while grazing separately. However, they greatly increased locoweed consumption when placed with the loco-eaters. Aversion-conditioned cattle in trial 3 did not consume locoweed while grazing separately. When placed with loco-eaters, they gradually increased consumption of white locoweed, in contrast to the immediate acceptance of locoweed by naive cattle in trials 1 and 2. The aversion extinguished and averted animals eventually accepted white locoweed at levels comparable to loco-eaters. Results of this study demonstrate that social facilitation can cause cattle to start eating locoweed.
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
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Rangeland Ecology & Management (formerly the Journal of Range Management) serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of facts, ideas, and philosophies pertaining to the study, management, ecology, and use of rangelands and their resources. The journal is peer-reviewed and provides international exchange of scholarly research and information among persons interested in rangelands. The Global Rangelands collection includes REM content up to 5 years from the current year. More recent content is available by subscription from BioOne and the Society for Range Management, and may be available at your local university library.
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