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Sustainable grazing focus of Sierra foothill station


By: UC Davis

April 22, 2010 - Cattle grazing, oak woodlands and clean water are not incompatible and are often even complementary, according to articles in the April-June 2010 issue of the California Agriculture journal.

Research conducted for a half-century at the UC Sierra Foothill Research and Extension Center (SFREC) has found that maintaining and restoring oak habitat on rangeland is critical to ensuring clean water statewide; that certain wildlife species, such as the reclusive black rail, thrive in irrigated pastures; and that cattle stocking rates can be managed to minimize watershed impacts.

In honor of the center's 50th anniversary (celebrated on April 7), the current issue of California Agriculture journal features seven peer-reviewed articles of current, cutting-edge agricultural and natural resources research. It also includes an historical overview of the past 50 years at SFREC, maps, a timeline and an editorial by Art Craigmill, SFREC director, and Kenneth Tate, UC Cooperative Extension rangeland watershed specialist at UC Davis. The entire issue can be viewed and downloaded: http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/

"Research at SFREC will become more critical in coming years, as climate changes and competition increases for limited natural resources," Craigmill and Tate wrote.

About 57 million of California's 101 million acres are grazed by cattle, and half of that grazing land is in private hands. At the same time, more than two-thirds of the state's drinking-water supply passes through or is stored in oak woodlands, much of which is grazed.

Located 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, SFREC's 5,700 acres provide an optimal location to study relationships among cattle grazing, oak woodlands and water quality, as well as other factors. The center is one of nine research and extension centers operated statewide by the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources in a variety of growing conditions and ecosystems.

The collection of long-term datasets is a hallmark of research at SFREC. One of the center's watersheds, Schubert, was instrumented in the late 1970s to collect detailed plant, soil, weather and water data. "Continuous monitoring by UC scientists and staff since that time now provides a unique 30-year record that scientists use to address contemporary questions about water quality and distribution, soil properties and plant communities," Craigmill and Tate wrote.

Articles in the April-June 2010 issue of California Agriculture include:

* A review of 25 years of oak woodland research at SFREC, which has resulted in oak-regeneration protocols that are utilized throughout California.
* Historical research aimed at restoring spring-run chinook salmon habitat on the lower Yuba River below Englebright Dam.
* Soil research that connects soil hydrology and stream water chemistry, with the finding that soil types and water-carrying capacity vary significantly over short distances.
* An extensive survey of the threatened black rail in irrigation-fed wetlands of the Sierra Nevada foothills, including an inventory of plant types present where rails were detected.
* A review of an integrated cattle identification system developed at SFREC that tracks animals from conception to carcass, providing invaluable data on genetics, breeding and meat quality.
* A study of forage intake and output among cattle fed on typical annual rangelands, which allows managers to more accurately estimate the animals' nutritional needs.
* Research on the use of progesterone implants to improve the breeding readiness of beef heifers, as well as the accuracy of methods used to determine pubertal status.

California Agriculture is the University of California's peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources.


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