Off-stream watering systems and partial barriers as a strategy to maximize cattle production and minimize time spent in the riparian area.

Rawluk, A.A., Crow, G.H., Legesse, G., Veira, D.M., Bullock, P.R., González, L.A., Dubois, M., and Ominski, K.H. (2014). "Off-stream watering systems and partial barriers as a strategy to maximize cattle production and minimize time spent in the riparian area.", Animals, 4(4), pp. 670-692. doi : 10.3390/ani4040670  Access to full text

Abstract

A study was conducted in 2009 at two locations in Manitoba (Killarney and Souris), Canada to determine the impact of off-stream waterers (OSW) with or without natural barriers on (i) amount of time cattle spent in the 10 m buffer created within the riparian area, referred to as the riparian polygon (RP), (ii) watering location (OSW or stream), and (iii) animal performance measured as weight gain. This study was divided into three 28-day periods over the grazing season. At each location, the pasture—which ranged from 21.0 ha to 39.2 ha in size—was divided into three treatments: no OSW nor barriers (1CONT), OSW with barriers along the stream bank to deter cattle from watering at the stream (2BARR), and OSW without barriers (3NOBARR). Cattle in 2BARR spent less time in the RP in Periods 1 (p = 0.0002), 2 (p = 0.1116), and 3 (p < 0.0001) at the Killarney site compared to cattle in 3NOBARR at the same site. Cattle in 2BARR at the Souris site spent more time in the RP in Period 1 (p < 0.0001) and less time in Period 2 (p = 0.0002) compared to cattle in 3NOBARR. Cattle did use the OSW, but not exclusively, as watering at the stream was still observed. The observed inconsistency in the effectiveness of the natural barriers on deterring cattle from the riparian area between periods and locations may be partly attributable to the environmental conditions present during this field trial as well as difference in pasture size and the ability of the established barriers to deter cattle from using the stream as a water source. Treatment had no significant effect (p > 0.05) on cow and calf weights averaged over the summer period. These results indicate that the presence of an OSW does not create significant differences in animal performance when used in extensive pasture scenarios such as those studied within the present study. Whereas the barriers did not consistently discourage watering at the stream, the results provide some indication of the efficacy of the OSW as well as the natural barriers on deterring cattle from the riparian area.

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