Las Coloraditas Grazing Research and Demonstration Area

Native rangelands are important for food, water, and wildlife habitats. Among other things, rangeland health and productivity are dependent upon properly adjusting cattle numbers to align with available forage. The South Texas Sand Sheet experiences frequent drought, which reduces available forage and complicates cattle grazing management and wildlife conservation efforts.

The East Foundation has initiated an operational-scale project aimed at getting a better picture of the relationships among cattle grazing (two different densities under continuous verses rotational situations), forage availability and plant responses, and wildlife populations in the Sand Sheet. This project is the largest grazing study ever performed in Texas, encompassing more than 18,000 acres of native rangelands.

Key project design features include:

  • Average pasture sizes of 4,600 acres, which will allow for outcomes to be applied at the ranch-scale
  • Two cattle stocking densities, representing moderate and high grazing intensities that are common to the region
  • Rotational and continuous grazing will be applied, producing outcomes that will allow cattle raisers and ranch operators to determine which performs better in achieving their objectives
  • Long-term – at least 10 years – in duration, which will capture common oscillations in rainfall patterns and corresponding responses outlined below

Key responses to be monitored throughout the study include:

  • Cattle performance and economics
  • Forage production and use, as well as changes in wildlife habitat and plant communities
  • Wildlife populations, including birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians; a significant effort is being directed at assessing bobwhite quail and white-tailed deer population responses through aerial surveys

During 2014, cattle were removed from the Las Coloraditas site to rest the rangelands. This action, coupled with a period of above average rainfall, resulted in a 98% increase in available grass from late 2013 to mid-2014. Cattle outfitted with electronic individual animal identification will be reintroduced to the site early in 2016, when the study will officially begin. The above responses will be monitored for at least 10 years.

A considerable amount of infrastructure improvements, such as new cross fencing and cattle working pens, have made this one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art research and demonstration project possible. All of this is aimed at producing outcomes that are important to the South Texas rancher, charged with feeding a growing United States population, and benefitting future land management.

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