The University of Arizona

Fall grazing affects big game forage on rough fescue grasslands.

J.J. Short, J.E. Knight

Abstract


Prescribed cattle grazing is often used to purposely enhance wildlife habitat. This study investigated the effects of fall cattle (Bos taurus) grazing intensity on elk (Cervus elaphus) and deer (Odocoileus spp.) forage in the following spring and summer. These effects were examined on rough fescue (Festuca scabrella Torr.) range on the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in west central Montana. Cattle were grazed in enclosures during the fall of 1997 and 1998. A randomized complete block design with 5 replications of enclosures per year was used. Grazing levels were 0% removal (control), 50% removal, 70% removal, and 90% removal of herbaceous standing crop. To evaluate elk and deer forage, measurements were obtained in spring and summer on green grass standing crop, green forb standing crop, percent green vegetation, species richness, and plant species composition. There were no differences among grazing levels for plant species composition based on canopy coverage, species richness, and green forb standing crop variables ( P > 0.10). The 50% and 90% treatments reduced green standing crop in spring (P = 0.07) but not in summer (P > 0.10). Grazing treatments increased percent green vegetation (P < 0.01). Fall cattle grazing can be used as a wildlife habitat improvement tool to reduce unpalatable standing dead material. The 70% removal treatment was the most favorable for habitat improvement without degrading the range.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v56i3_short


Keywords


wildlife-livestock relations;Festuca altaica;Cervus elaphus;spring;forbs;rotational grazing;summer;grazing intensity;Odocoileus;cattle;wildlife management;biomass;range management;botanical composition;Montana

Full Text:

PDF