Using livestock as seed dispersal agents may be an effective method for increasing species diversity on degraded and previously seeded rangelands. We quantified seed passage and recovery rates, and post-passage germinability of Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt. ssp. wyomingensis Beetle & Young), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides [Raf.] Swezey), and gooseberry globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossulariaefolia [H. & A.] Rydb.) by feeding Holstein heifers seeds of each species at 3 levels (15,000; 30,000; and 60,000 seeds) over a period of 3 weeks. One-kg fecal samples were collected 1, 2, 3, and 4 days after seed ingestion. Undamaged seeds were extracted from the samples and tested for germinability. Globemallow had the highest percentage of recovered, undamaged seed, followed by squirreltail and sagebrush. Globemallow and sagebrush seed passage was highest on Day 1, after which seed numbers dropped sharply. Squirreltail passage and recovery were more consistent through time, with higher seed recovery at lower seed feeding levels. Post-passage germinability was highest for squirreltail and globemallow on Day 1. Sagebrush germination was negligible. Differences in physical seed properties (size, shape, and seed coat) likely influenced interspecies variation in passage, recovery, and germinability. Globemallow and squirreltail seeds may be suited for livestock dispersal, but sagebrush seeds are not.
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Vol. 66 • No. 1