The University of Arizona

Grazing intensity impacts on pasture carbon and nitrogen flow.

V.S. Baron, E. Mapfumo, A.C. Dick, M.A. Naeth, E.K. Okine, D.S. Chanasyk

Abstract


There is little information on the impact of grazing intensity on productivity and sustainability of intensively managed pastures in the humid, short-season parkland of the Canadian prairies. Our hypothesis was that above-ground productivity of dry matter, carbon, nitrogen, and in vitro digestible organic matter would be reduced proportionately with increasing grazing intensity. The study was conducted on a Typic Haplustoll at Lacombe, Alberta. Paddocks of meadow bromegrass (Bromus riparius Rhem.), replicated 4 times, were subjected to heavy, medium and light grazing intensities. Measurements and analyses were carried out for 3 years. Yields of dry matter, carbon, nitrogen, and in vitro digestible organic matter before and after grazing were determined and seasonal pools of above ground production, disappearance and residual were calculated. Concentrations of acid and neutral detergent fiber and lignin were also determined before and after grazing. Increasing grazing intensity tended to increase nitrogen and decrease fiber concentrations for available and residual forage. Heavy and medium grazing intensities produced 83 and 90% as much above ground dry matter and 87 and 90% above ground carbon as the light intensity. All disappearance pools were similar among grazing intensities except in vitro digestible organic matter, where heavy was 116% of light. Heavy grazing reduced the contribution of vegetative dry matter, in vitro digestible organic matter, carbon and nitrogen to the residual to 41, 50, 36, and 52% of that for light grazing. Adding estimated fecal-carbon to the residual significantly increased total residual carbon. Estimated fecal-carbon represented 68, 51, and 42% of all carbon inputs to litter for heavy, medium and light grazing, respectively. Grazing intensity did not affect estimated pools of excreted nitrogen, but increased estimated precent of nitrogen excreted as urine.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v55i6_baron


Keywords


urine;Bromus riparius;sward;biogeochemical cycles;controlled grazing;feces composition;Alberta;leaf area index;pastures;grazing intensity;in vitro digestibility;range management;plant litter;beef cattle;forage;dry matter

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