The University of Arizona

Effects of grazing management on standing crop dynamics in tallgrass prairie.

D.M. Cassels, R.L. Gillen, F.T. McCollum, K.W. Tate, M.E. Hodges

Abstract


Grazing system and stocking rate effects on forage standing crop of tallgrass prairies in north-central Oklahoma were evaluated from 1989 to 1993. Twelve experimental units, consisting of pastures dominated by big bluestem [Andropogon gerardi Vitman], little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx. Nash], indiangrass [Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash], and switch grass [Panicum virgatum L.], were arranged in a completely randomized design with either a short duration rotation or continuous grazing system and stocking rates ranging from 127 kg animal live-weight/ha to 222 kg live-weight/ha. Yearling steers grazed the units from late April to late September. Herbage standing crop was sampled in July and September. Total, live, and dead standing crops did not differ significantly between the 2 grazing systems in July. Total standing crop was significantly higher in the rotation units in September (3,600 versus 3,020 kg/ha, P < 0 .05). Dead standing crop was also higher in the rotation units in September (1,950 versus 1,570 kg/ha, P < 0 .05). Evidence suggests the difference in standing crop between systems is due, in part, to reduced forage intake by the livestock. Grazing system did not interact with either stocking rate or year. Stocking rate had significant effects on total, live and dead standing crops at both sample dates. The slope of the total standing crop-stocking rate relationship varied over years and ranged from -12 to -36 kg/ha per kg live-weight/ha in July and from -12 to -27 kg/ha per kg live-weight/ha in September. Higher standing crop at the end of the grazing season in the rotation units would mean greater soil protection and higher fuel loading for prescribed burning, and would suggest a lower impact on plant vigor. However, if the higher standing crop is a result of lower forage intake, we would expect livestock weight gains to decline.

Keywords


air temperature;rain;stocking rate;rotational grazing;Oklahoma;grazing intensity;prairies;biomass;grasses;forage

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