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Dr. Bohnert is a Ruminant Nutritionist and Extension Beef Cattle Specialist with Oregon State University stationed at the Eastern Oregon Agriculture Research Center in Burns, OR. His research is focused on nutritional management strategies to improve the sustainability of beef production in the Intermountain West. In addition, he is involved with research focused on livestock grazing management and livestock/wildlife interactions. Current research includes studies concerning grazing distribution and behavior of beef cows in riparian/forested ecosystems, Interspace/undercanopy foraging patterns of horses in sage-grouse habitat, and timing and intensity of cattle grazing on sagebrush obligate avian habitat.
Beef cattle production is an important segment of Oregon's economy and is a way of life for many Oregonians, especially in the eastern half of the state where approximately 70% of Oregon's 550,000 beef cows are located. In Oregon, sale of cattle and calves generated over $700 million and was the number two agriculture commodity in 2016.
The majority of beef production is dependent on three broad categories of land. These are 1) sagebrush-bunchgrass communities, 2) coniferous forests, and 3) native flood meadows. Sagebrush-bunchgrass range is the largest class of acreage in eastern Oregon and has been traditionally used for spring and summer grazing while coniferous forests provide livestock with green forage when sagebrush-bunchgrass range is mature and dry. The vast majority of sagebrush-bunchgrass and coniferous forest rangeland is publicly owned. In contrast, most native flood meadows are privately owned and used as home range for cattle operations. Also, flood meadows are the primary source of winter feed (hay or rake-bunch) for cattle. Therefore, many beef cattle producers work within a forage system that revolves around the annual production cycle of native hay meadows.
Native flood meadows (about 350,000 acres in eastern Oregon) are traditionally harvested for hay from July to early August, depending on water availability. In addition, cattle are brought to the meadows from summer range in order to wean calves, winter the cow herd, and calve. As a result, beef cattle routinely spend half of the year on native flood meadows grazing residual forage or being fed hay harvested from the meadows. Mature cows often require 1.5 to 2.0 tons of harvested forage during the winter feeding period. The resulting winter feed costs are extensive, often ranging from $150 to 300 per cow per year. These winter feed costs represent a major obstacle to intermountain beef cattle producers and threatens the future of beef production in this area.
Dr. Bohnert's research program is designed to provide management alternatives to Oregon's beef cattle producers that are economically viable while maintaining acceptable levels of production. In addition, his program helps develop tools that can be used in assisting beef producers when developing nutritional management plans.