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Utah News

Satellites help cattle maintain a healthy diet

Cow Grazing
IlJa Tulit
/
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Healthy Cow

The Agriculture Research Service has found that utilizing and combining satellite images of rangelands over time, gives scientist the opportunity to analyze cattle forage quality and how it changes over time.

With climate patterns increasingly trending towards earlier spring green-up, higher temperatures and drier weather during the summer months, it is critical to determine the best times for grazing cattle, in order to synch the timing of grazing with high quality forage. Lauren Porensky, Research Ecologist explains.

“There are more and more remote sensing tools out there that will tell you how much forage grew last year or predict how much forage might grow this year or even tell you how green the forage might be at a given time. And those are powerful and useful, but what we noticed is that those aren’t really linking the remote sensing data with production relevant things that ranchers care about like diet quality and animal weight gain.”

This can be essential information to know when understanding the quality and quantity of forage that cattle are grazing. Based in Eastern Colorado, this is the first study to link predicted cattle weight straight from satellite imagery.

“Because we have these long-term data sets we started trying to think about how we can connect those remote sensing metrics to fine scale within season data we have on forage quality and weight gain. All of those will help ranchers figure out how much forage is out there, how good is it and what does it mean for my livestock and adaptive decision making,” said Porensky.

The study, published December 6, 2021, is in the online journal of Ecological Applications.