The University of Arizona

Livestock grazing effects on forage quality of elk winter range.

P.E. Clark, W.C. Krueger, L.D. Bryant, D.R. Thomas


Carefully-managed livestock grazing has been offered as a tool to improve the forage quality of graminoids on big game winter range. Formal testing of this theory has thus far been done using hand clippers rather than livestock grazing. We report winter standing reproductive culm, crude protein, in vitro dry matter digestibility, and standing crop responses of bluebunch wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum [Pursh] Scribn. &Smith), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis Elmer), and elk sedge (Carex geyeri Boott) to late-spring domestic sheep grazing. The study was conducted in 1993 and 1994 on a big game winter range in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Sheep grazing and exclusion treatments were applied to 20-ha plots at 3 sites on the study area Targeted utilization for grazed plots was 50% graminoid standing crop removal during the boot stage of bluebunch wheatgrass. Grazing did not influence the number of standing reproductive culms per plant in bluebunch wheatgrass. Crude protein and in vitro dry matter digestibility of bluebunch wheatgrass in grazed plots increased by 1.0 and 4.3 percentage points, respectively over ungrazed plots. Grazing reduced the standing crop of bluebunch wheatgrass by 116.9 kg ha-1 DM. Standing Idaho fescue reproductive culms decreased by 0.7 culms plant-1 under grazing. Crude protein of Idaho fescue in grazed plots was 1.3 percentage points greater than in unglazed plots. Crude protein and in vitro dry matter digestibility responses of elk sedge were inconsistent between years and may be related to utilization or growth differences between years. The levels of forage quality improvement in bluebunch wheatgrass and Idaho fescue obtained in this study could benefit the nutritional status of wintering Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni Bailey). More research is needed regarding the effects of grazing on the winter forage quality of elk sedge.



Festuca idahoensis;Pseudoroegneria spicata;carex geyeri;stems;Carex;savannas;Cervus elaphus;rain;stocking rate;Oregon;crude protein;shrubs;sheep;in vitro digestibility;biomass;canopy;grazing;forage

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