Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resources

Department name when degree awarded

Range Science


Christopher A. Call


A series of experiments was conducted to: 1) investigate how feeding cattle with different amounts of different-sized seeds affects seed passage rate through the digestive tract, and the germinability of passed seeds; 2) examine how the location of seeds in dungpats of different thicknesses influences seedling emergence , development, and survival in cattle dungpats; and 3) characterize seedling emergence in naturally and artificially deposited cattle dungpats . Three perennial , cool-season grasses, bluebunch wheatgrass [Psuedoroegneria spicata (Pursh) A. Love], Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda Presl.), and 'Hycrest' crested wheatgrass [Agropyron desertorum (Fisch. ex Link) X A. cristatum (L.) Gaert.], were used as representative revegetation species for the Intermountain West region.

When cattle were fed 60,000, 30,000, 15,000, and 7,500 seeds of bluebunch wheatgrass and Sandberg bluegrass, the recovery of passed seeds for both species declined as seed feeding levels decreased from 60,000 to 7,500 seeds per animal and as time after seed ingestion increased from 1 to 4 days. Sandberg bluegrass seeds had greater germinability than bluebunch wheatgrass seeds at all seed feeding levels and collection dates.

In complementary greenhouse studies, artificially prepared cattle dungpats (20 cm diameter) with different thicknesses (1, 2, and 4 cm) were placed on a sandy loam soil (initially at field capacity) in large plastic containers. Pre-germinated seeds of blue bunch wheatgrass, Sandberg bluegrass, and/or Hycrest crested wheatgrass were planted separately in the center and periphery of dungpats at heights (from bottom of dungpats) of 0.5 cm for 1-cm-thick dungpats, 0.5 and 1.5 cm for 2-cm-thick dungpats , and 0.5, 2.0, and 3.5 cm for 4-cm -thick dungpats. Half of the dungpat treatments received no supplemental water while the other half received additional water simulating a wet spring . After 60 days, seedling emergence, development , and survival for all species were greatest at the 0.5 cm planting height , regardless of dungpat thickness , and greatest in 1 cm-thick dungpats , regardless of planting height. Seedling emergence , development , and survival were greatest for Hycrest crested wheatgrass, followed by bluebunch wheatgrass and Sandberg bluegrass.

In a field study, cattle dung containing passed seeds of blue bunch wheatgrass, Hycrest crested wheatgrass, and Sandberg bluegrass was formed into artificial dungpats (2 kg in mass) with thicknesses of 1, 2, and 4 cm, and respective diameters of 40, 28, and 20 cm, and deposited on bare soil. Cattle also deposited natural dungpats varying in mass, thickness, and diameter. Seedling emergence for all species decreased as artificial dungpat thickness increased from 1 to 4 cm, and was lowest in natural dungpats. Seedling emergence for all dungpat types was greatest for Hycrest crested wheatgrass, followed by Sandberg bluegrass and bluebunch wheatgrass.

These studies indicate that: 1) cattle should be fed about 60,000 seeds ( of these grass species) per animal to pass sufficient germinable seed to establish at least one seedling in a dungpat; and 2) seedling emergence, development, and survival in cattle dungpats are greatly influenced by plant species (seeds) ingested, thickness of dungpats, seed location in dungpats, and moisture content of the soil underlying dungpats.